The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Review

winners curse

TItle: The Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy #1)

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Genre: Young Adult | Historical/Fantasy

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.

Final Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

AimalReads Review (Spoiler-Free) under the cut:

I was a little bit hesitant going into this book, because I’m not really into the ball gowns, the fancy parties, princess-y thing. And I was pleasantly surprised. It was absolutely fantastic! Because I had such low expectations, it’s safe to say that my mind was sufficiently blown. I feel like the writing could have been a little bit better to make the world richer, to make the characters much more deeper, but I can’t complain about the flaws because it was so well-done!


Pros: The story progressed at a really good, quick, balanced pace. There were sub-plots and there were certain intricacies that might be a little hard to keep track of, but that’s what makes this novel fantastic! The premise was fascinating. The politics and scandals and diplomacies were done right. The world was well set-up, but not in your face. The romance between the protagonists develops at just the right pace, and I really, REALLY enjoyed the story. It was entertaining and it kept me up into the wee hours of the night.

Cons: People going into this expecting a historical fantasy- IT IS NOT. It doesn’t have monsters or magic or superhumans or any of that jazz. It’s just a novel set in a past time in a different setting, but it has zero fantastical elements. I went into it with the mind that it was a fantasy novel, but I really didn’t care that it wasn’t. BUT if you want to pick up a fantasy YA novel, DON’T PICK THIS UP. If you want to read a good book, regardless of the genre, do it.


Pros: I loved the characters. I was a little apprehensive about our female lead, Kestrel, but as the story progressed, I grew to love her. She was smart, strategic and defied all the stereotypes of a “lady.” See, I have this thing. Most people think that a girl who dresses up like a guy, defies womanly qualities, and does the things guys are usually thought to do is a strong female. How about the woman who wears ball-gowns? Who likes her hair neat and braided? Who likes to be clean yet is independent, strong, intelligent and feisty. Is she not a strong female? Of course she is! Kestrel was a great example of this. She doesn’t know how to fight well, but she has the brains that many men wish they had. And I loved it.

Arin. Oh, Arin, Arin, Arin. You know when people say that they have extremely high expectations of men after reading novels? I have encountered very few male protagonists that I can say this about. And Arin is one of them. I am in freaking love. He is strong, brave, defiant, a little obnoxious, protective but not overbearing, and he’s just GAH, he’s amazing. And his chemistry with Kestrel was ugh, I can’t even. They had such an immediate connection but it wasn’t INSTA-love! And I loved watching their bickering, their amusements with each other, their gradual appreciation of each other… oh, it was great. AND THAT ENDING. HOLY FREAKING SHIT. I’m going to stop now because I’m going to start screaming.

Cons: Like I said, I was a little apprehensive about Kestrel at first because I felt that she was too judgmental, too proud. But yes, even though she is that way sometimes, you get over it because that just makes her more real.

Writing Style: 

I really enjoyed Rutkoski’s writing. I thought it was straightforward, strong, entertaining and not overbearing. However, I do wish that her world had been more detailed. I wish the book would have been longer, not because I wanted more of the story, but because I would have really REALLY appreciated more detail regarding the world, the characters, the era, the history. That would have blown my mind.

Would I recommend? Hellz yeah. READ IT READ IT READ IT READ IT.

Would I re-read? Yes, and I probably will before the second one comes out next year! *sobs*


  1. Your post about how they changed this trilogy’s book covers made me pick up The Winner’s Curse, and I’m so glad I did! I finished it last night. Thank you for the awesome recommendation!!

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