Release Date - March 4, 2014
Publisher Website - Raincoast/Macmillan
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 355 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received in exchange for an honest review from the publisher**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.What is the true cost of something you've purchased? What if you discovered later that the price you paid was much steeper than anticipated? That is the crux of The Winner's Curse. A painful, beautifully written look at the cost of war, and a delicious star crossed love.
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.
Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
War is a complex thing. This novel showcases that there are always two sides, and perhaps neither side is the villain. Both the Valorians, and Herrani have motivations to their actions. Each side is presented as having faults, and each of them is shown to be ruthless in order to achieve what they want. It was fascinating to see it from this perspective, and see that war can drive anyone to drastic measures for what they believe is right.
These two groups both fascinated me. Getting to read about their cultures, and how each of them progressed, and came to the position we find them in at the beginning of The Winner's Curse immersed me into the story. I fell for the slow paced, detailed plot, and characterization, and the well plotted background to these groups was a big part of that.
The quiet, sweeping way the story unfolds allows us to get to know the characters. It gives them a chance to breathe, and gives the reader a chance to fall in love with them. Marie Rutkoski's writing is beautiful, elegant, and all the more so for it's simplicity. It's the perfect sort of writing for a novel that feels like a fantasy but doesn't have any fantasy elements in it. It captures the essence, and feel this story needs effortlessly.
This novel is filled with wanting. Kestrel and Arin both so desperately want something more that they ache with it. Kestrel wants to believe there is something more than being either a soldier or a wife. Arin wants to believe there is something more for his future than being a slave. They share the desire to strive for more, and are much more similar than perhaps it appears at first glance. It's this commonality that leads to what could be delicious forbidden romance.
The romance is done fantastically. Both Arin and Kestrel are drawn to each other, even though they know it can never happen. They do not want to admit their feelings, and scarcely know what to make of it themselves. It is fraught with secrets, lies, and always the question of loyalty. Each of them is loyal to their people, so it begs the question of how they could ever be loyal to each other.
The last few pages, and especially the last few sentences are as captivating as they are heart crushing. They set up what I anticipated to be a painful sequel for our characters, but also one that more than lives up to this stellar first novel. There is much to build on, and a clear direction for the story to move in, and this has me hopeful that this series will only improve as it continues.
A striking start to a sweeping, epic series. I eagerly anticipate the next installments, and hope that they are just as beautiful, just as crushing, and romantic as this one.