book review · bookstagram · young adult

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction, Romance

My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5)

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.” 

Here is the Goodreads synopsis for the first book:

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

I enjoyed reading this one so much that I consumed it in one night! It has been a very long time since I have been so engrossed with a book that I couldn’t put it down to the point that I stayed up til 3am just to finish it.

If you’re like me and really enjoyed For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, this is definitely a read-alike as it deals with the topic of slavery/feuding cultures and the whole “two wrongs don’t make a right” theme.

The only problem I had with this book is that it doesn’t completely execute the concept of the wrongness of slavery well. The Valorians, Kestrel’s people, have enslaved the Herrani, Arin’s people, after conquering their land in a war that happened about 10 years before the events of this story. As seen from the synopsis, Kestrel follows her instinct and buys Arin, but she does little to nothing with this to actually save him. She doesn’t really do anything to give him freedom, although over time, she does learn to sympathize with him.

At some point, later on in the story, Kestrel does experience what it feels like to be held captive, and therefore, better understands Arin’s suffering. Arin, in turn, also learns to understand the wrongness of being a slave owner.

Here’s the problem: no one ever really says that slavery is wrong. Sure, they understand how terrible it is and, at times, give each other crap for it and fight over it. But no one states the fact that slavery shouldn’t exist…AT ALL. Regardless of who attacked whom, who conquered whom, whoever’s getting revenge…it doesn’t matter. Slavery is wrong and no one deserves to be held captive and forced to be made inferior to someone else.

Other than that, I was completely immersed in the romance and political intrigue. The love that burns between Arin and Kestrel just worked for me. Both have done wrong and have skewed views on how to make things better. Rather than forcing me to choose sides, I felt like I was challenged to see how imperfect they both are.

Some people seemed to be turned off by the simple world building, but I liked it because it helped me get through the book faster and it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

Verdict: I love this. I really do. I just recently finished the second book and will do my best to have a review of it up soon! I’m dying to read the third already…AHH!!! Also, these books are definitely on the more brutal and mind-screwing sides, which may appeal to Red Queen or Angelfall fans like myself.

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P.S. How gorgeous is this Winner’s Curse-inspired sticker in my instagram photo?! I am currently a rep for shop owner Catherine (@treehouseofbooks) of Hey Atlas Creative and received this beautiful sticker in my August rep package! You should definitely check out her shop for more stickers, bookmarks, and other wonderful goodies! Make sure to use my rep code SINGPRETTY10 to get 10% off your next order!! 🙂 – I’ll also try to have a review of my first rep package up asap too!

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