Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Firstly, thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: April 17 - 20 2014
Release Date: April 10th 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My rating: 

"Kestrel lives the lavish lifestyle of a Valorian General’s only daughter, and such riches come at a cost for Valoria’s captives – and for her. As the Herrani face death or slavery, Kestrel’s destiny is shaped by her father. He gives her two choices: join his army or get married. Desperate to realise her own future and knowing that it will invite scandal, she pays a small fortune for a handsome Herrani blacksmith at a slave auction. Arin not only plays Kestrel’s power games, he understands what she needs and soon she is torn between loyalty to her people and her feelings for him. But Arin is not all he seems and Kestrel will learn that the price she paid for him is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The first novel in a stunning new trilogy, The Winner’s Curse is a story of romance, rumours and rebellion, where dirty secrets and careless alliances can be deadly – and everything is at stake."


“She shouldn’t have been tempted.”

Was it the sheer amount of stellar reviews that set my expectations sky-rocketing? Or perhaps that gorgeous cover – don’t judge me, you do it too – or maybe that intriguing blurb and enigmatic title? It was possibly an amalgamation of all these factors that made me want to love this book. I wanted to love this book so much. I wanted to adore it and scream it to the world like everybody else I know who has read and loved this. Instead, I felt a great sense of “meh” after the last page… And whilst reading too…

Kestrel is the daughter of the famous General Tarjan, they are a race known as the Valorians who have taken over the Herran peninsula and its people. The Valorians are a growing empire and Kestrel’s father is a famed soldier who has seized many pieces of land for the empire. Valorian law gives women the choice to either marry by the time they’re 20, or enlist in the military but Kestrel desires neither of these. Her eccentric ways induce in her a need for freedom. Her eccentric ways also result in her impulsively buying an extremely overpriced slave, and hence she is labelled as having “the winner’s curse”.

“You are the daughter of the most fabled general in Valorian history.”

Kestrel is a fantastic female protagonist. I found no flaws with her character and she was the highlight of the book. A strategist at heart, she looks at things pragmatically and has the ability to see through lies – not by magic, but with her sharp mind to observe and perceive nuances in people’s actions. I loved her inner turmoil to always try to do what’s right for the people she cares about. She also had a strong sense of justice which I admired and complemented her take on honour. A strong and resilient character, her patience and determination were something I wish I had.

“I see things quite clearly.”

As secondary characters go, I found the ensemble to be unsurprising. The best friend who only seemingly cares about fashion, the father with expectations, the male that is the ideal type for marriage but whose feelings Kestrel seems to be oblivious to. They were all… nice… but that was about it. I found nothing spectacularly different about their personalities that set them apart from other stories of this calibre.

I had a huge problem with Arin. Boy has problems. Major problems. He was so shrouded, and not in a good way. Whereas Kestrel’s emotions were practically bared, I only seemed to glimpse the surface of Arin. And he kept changing! Surly one moment and so sweet the next, his expressions could have meant anything but their meaning was never implied properly. I mean, was that the point in keeping his feelings a mystery because I couldn’t read him at all and I just wanted to shake him. There just wasn’t enough: enough of his facial expressions to gauge anything, enough of actions at all to know his intentions. I really needed more from him to be a real protagonist.

That being said the romance was a whole load of meh. What with Kestrel’s strategizing, logical mind and Arin’s apparent impassiveness I was trying to see how it was possible the romance even blossomed. Where was the passion, the intimacy… the bond?! Can’t for the life of me see what attracted Kestel to Arin, it seems she was just mystified by him and liked that he was the only one that was blatantly honest with her… when he felt like talking.

“People’s feelings were hard to know for certain.”

The Winner’s Curse really would have been better written from first person POV. I felt that it practically was because it seemed we only ever got Kestrel’s thoughts and emotions. Arin was a hell lot of tell and not enough show. But I guess it was necessary to show Arin’s secret. Which leads me on to the next point, the plot itself was my biggest disappointment. Maybe being written in first POV and keeping Arin’s secret, a well… secret… and revealing it to the reader through Kestrel’s observations would have made the plot suspenseful. I was sitting there waiting for something ground-breaking to happen. I was waiting to be shocked, stunned and on the edge of my seat in suspense. I wanted my heart beat to increase and climb and plummet but instead it was a steady 80bpm. I really did like that ending though!

Rutkoski is a really good writer. But her world lacked the detail I craved in a fantasy novel. There is no denying she writes really well, evident in the way she makes Kestrel’s strategizing so relatable. Her style is sophisticated and definitely one of the better YA authors out there with her dialogue and grasp on language/syntax.

Obviously, this wasn’t for me but from the amount of amazing reviews it’s highly likely most other people will like it. I was one of the few black sheep in this situation.



  1. Sorry you didn't like this one, especially since it seems that almost everyone loves this one. This book is on the top of my TBR, it will be one of my next reads for sure. However, I'm a bit nervous to read it, because I really want to love it and most of the books I want to love I end up hating. So, I'm a bit nervous.
    Great review!!

    1. Well I was definitely one of the few black sheep in this case, even the really critical bloggers seemed to like this.

      I hope you do end up enjoying it. I think I just went into this with the wrong kind of expectations.

  2. I honestly think it was how everyone over-hyped it. My expectations were too high! I completely agree w/your review. While I liked Kestrel, the romance and Arin were meh and I couldn't really see his appeal. Plus, it dragged so much for the 1st half. Def not as amazing as I was hoping.

    1. Even with all the hype lots of people still loved it so idk. I guess it depends on the person. The whole book pretty much dragged but yeah definitely that first half.

  3. This has a beautiful cover, but it doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy. If only you could plant a better romance into the story--because honestly, it annoys me now when I read characters that get together for seemingly no reason, and more so when the guy is a douche and the girl just overlooks it. Anyway, I think I'll skip this one and stick to enjoying the cover.

    1. Haha! Idk so many people enjoyed this you might as well? I was one of the few black sheep. I just really didn't like Arin.