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Title: The Winners Curse (The Winners Trilogy Book 1)

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Pages: 384

Publisher: Square Fish

Publishers Summary:

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 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.

My Review: 5 Stars

Both The Winners Curse and its follow up The Winners Crime are my absolute favorite reads this year so far.

Why I Love It:

  • A  romance that is slow burning, hesitant, and painful in all the best ways. It is also left largely unfulfilled come the last heart breaking pages. No worries…this is a trilogy. Kestrel and Arin’s story isn’t over yet. Though it gets much more painful in the second book.
  • Culture. The Valorians appropriated much of the Herrani culture as the Romans did with the Greeks. The aesthetic comes from the classical world (please check out the authors amazing pinterest board linked below.) One of my favorite things about the movie Gladiator was Lucia’s amazing gowns and enormous earrings. I like being able to picture the characters in these things. I also really felt for the enslaved Herrani. Unlike the Valorians (who were known for little other than warring), the Herrani were the epitome of culture, music, and craft making. I was captured and sympathized with the shock that must have come after they were conquered and enslaved by  the people who once envied them
  • A heroine that avoids the “Swagger, Snark, and Swords” mode so common in YA fantasy lit. Kestrel is not a great fighter, she is a cunning strategist. I also enjoy her maturity. In some books I wouldn’t need to be told the character was a teenager to know that they were. Here none of the characters seem anything but adult, I never felt that I was reading about an angsty confused teen.
  • Watching Arin’s character slowly reveal itself from an angry closed off man to one trying to save his people while also protecting the woman he loves but has lied to and betrayed (though for completely sympathetic reasons.) Arin is the catalyst that inspires Kestrel to question her version of honor vs. her fathers, her cultures beliefs vs. her own. In The Winners Curse she attempts to right things on an individual level, in The Winners Crime she begins to play a much bigger and more dangerous game to right her world.

I feel like this is the worst review I’ve written…honestly I love this books so much that putting together something coherent for someone that hasn’t read them is hard.

Suffice so say they are beautiful, focused around two equally intelligent, good, and courageous people. There is excitement, sadness, and swoon. I couldn’t predict where things were going and how people would react and I loved that!

Marie Rutkoski has a BEAUTIFUL pinterest board for this series that is full of artifacts that really enhanced my feel for the world…ancient coins, pottery, gowns, Greek and Roman artifacts. Its insanely gorgeous and I couldn’t talk about this series without giving a link to it as well: The Winners Curse Pinterest Board

I think I can write a more coherant review for its follow up The Winners Crime soon. 😉