March 10, 2014

The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse Marie Rutkoski
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Publisher: Farrar Strous and Giroux
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || ARC; BEA || Bound copy
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

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. (from Goodreads)

The Winner’s Curse was an acceptable series starter. It has the strong potential of a well-written fantasy: the introduction of a new world (complete with social classes, religion and culture), an entire ensemble of characters with motives to discover and a story that draws inspiration from an actual economic phenomenon. With these appealing elements, I expected to fall in love – but sadly, that was not the case.

Let me clarify: I liked The Winner’s Curse. I’m inclined to appreciate most fantasies, really, particularly if the writing is clear and flows as well as it does in this story. It was not at all difficult to find myself immersed, finishing faster than I expected to.

The plot of The Winner’s Curse, too, was a source of interest. I spent a lot of time observing how the “winner’s curse” was integrated into the story, as well as being fascinated by some of the twists that Rutkoski incorporated. While some events are easy to guess at, there were still a few surprising turns that caught me off guard. 

This – the story – is what strongly appealed to me. When I read, I enjoy the remarkable adventures I wind up subjected to. The Winner’s Curse certainly gave me that experience. It ensured that I would be invested enough to finish the novel, as well as piquing my interest in the following installment.

Sadly, even though the story was solidly engaging, my feelings never tipped from like to love because of one story element: the characters. I never formed a connection with either Kestrel or Arin, in spite of the qualities they had that I could appreciate – Kestrel’s strength as a strategist, their genuine shared love of music, Arin’s courage in fighting for what he felt was rightfully his. Because of my detachment, it was difficult to be truly invested in their romance (though I really wanted to be), and in the causes they each believe in and fight for in The Winner’s Curse.

I honestly wish I had been as impressed with The Winner’s Curse the way that many others have been. While the story (especially plot and setting) really grabbed my attention, I just never really clicked with the characters. Still, there’s certainly room for further character development in the next installment. I’m certainly going to check it out (especially after that ending!)


  1. There was a distance to the characters, so I kind of see what you mean, although I loved this book. Glad you enjoyed the world building, at least! :)

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  2. Oh it's so nice to hear your opinion on this one, Alexa! Everyone's either raving about it or dying to read it so I was truly curious what the buzz was all about. I think the synopsis sounds very interesting but finding out that you were detached with the characters is a little upsetting since that's a huge factor for me to read a book. Anyway, I do agree with you that a series starter always has room for improvement with the succeeding books! Lovely review! :)

  3. I think I clicked more with the story and the world than I did with the characters. I've heard that from several others too. I think what made it more of a 4 star book rather than a 5 star (for me... if I did star reviews) was the relationship between Kestrel and Arin. I just didn't "get" it and how it developed into "love." Like there wasn't a whole lot of build up; it just kind of happened and it felt weird. I definitely was hooked by this one and really enjoyed the story, but there was just something missing from the characters for me. Hopefully the next installment will clear that up!

  4. I too had a hard time connecting with the characters. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue reading the series tbh, though the world is quite interesting.

  5. It's a shame that this one didn't live up to the hype for you! I'm glad that you liked it at least though. :) It's always hard to be able to love a story when there's difficulty connecting with the characters. To really get engrossed in a read I feel like you have to click with the characters that's for sure.

    Great review as always!

  6. I'm sorry this didn't live up to your expectations. :( I'm very, very nervous to read it, especially because I have such high hopes for the romance and I don't want to be disappointed.

  7. I can see that! I had a really good time reading it but the more I think about it, the most I realize I didn't actually love the whole thing. I really loved the middle and the end, but I felt like things took a while to develop and there could have been more consideration for the romance.
    Great review!


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