Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Genre: fantasy, romance Age Level: young adult Series: The  Winners Trilogy #1
Genre: fantasy, romance
Age Level: young adult
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Winning what you want may cost you everything you 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.


The Winner’s Curse has a unique feel and premise. The entire book deals with war, power, strategy, and oppression. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the novel and loved the insights and perspectives provided. There are discussion on slavery and the delicate balance between conqueror and conquered. 

The world building is solid and believable. Both the past and present are slowly revealed as the story progresses, uncovering a world steeped in culture but also slavery.

The book is well written and carefully plotted. Almost too carefully. The action builds up slowly and cautiously, reaching its peak at the end of the book. This means that very little happens for the majority of the book. There aren’t even any subplots to add excitement.

The characterization is good, but I barely connected with the characters. I enjoyed Kestrel’s POV because she is both sensitive and strong, intuitive and stubborn. As a strategist, her perspective is unusual and exciting. The romance, which is the focus of the book is mediocre and disappointing.

As a whole, the book is beautiful but boring. It is descriptive and and smart, but lacking action. I’ll be reading the next book because I want to know what will happen next, and in the hopes that it will be more interesting. Fans of fantasy novels with a focus on romance and clever plots should give it a try!

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!


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