Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

March 6, 2015 Review 45 ★★★★

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Source: Purchased
Pages: 368
Release Date: April 10th 2014
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, General, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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.

aliseThe day this book first came out I rushed down to the store to buy it because of all the glowing reviews. Did I read it immediately? Nope. Should I have? Yes! Even though I had a few issues with it, I thoroughly enjoyed THE WINNER’S CURSE.

I immediately fell into the world, reading the majority of the book in one sitting. It really grabs you, the writing flows easily but is descriptive and pretty without being tedious or boring. Speaking of the world, it’s pretty basic. We are told about two cultures that are described but not super fleshed out. Kestrel gets some history lessons that are obviously for the reader’s benefit but I still wished it had been developed further, especially as this is a fantasy. Still, I have to admit I was never bored with the story.

“He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.”

Although I knew to expect a romance going into THE WINNER’S CURSE, I had not prepared for one that would give me so many FEELS. My favorite type of romance depicts the classic slow burning journey, and this book delivered that. When things finally started to get a little more evident (still not in your face) I was downright giddy to see more development.

However, the romance, the strongest point of the book for me, could also be considered its downfall. There’s no doubt this relationship that the characters are slowing moving towards is the backbone of the book. I wanted more fantasy. An underlying plot finally comes into the picture towards the middle/end of the book that obviously sets up the next book so I hope more is done with the sequel.

Kestrel wasn’t my favorite character. I did like her, but I struggled to connect and relate to her and her actions in some situations. We see some of her bravery towards the end of the book and I hope she continues to develop in future books. View Spoiler »

Overall, I liked the book. It has a lot of entertainment value and am excited to see how the sequel compares.

Rating Report
Overall: 3.9

45 Responses to “Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski”

  1. Lucia @Reading Is My Breathing

    I am huge fun of slow burn romance in books so I am looking forward to starting this series. But I also have problems with characters who go back and forth with their feelings… At least now I know what to expect and will be ready :) Great review, Alise!
    Lucia @Reading Is My Breathing recently posted…BLURB LOVE #1

    • Alise

      I usually have a big issue with characters like that too but in this situation I would say her indecisiveness is perfect, it fits in with the plot perfectly. Thank you!

  2. Sharmaine

    Did you just said a slow-paced romance story but with so many feels? This is exactly what I am looking for! Oh my goodness, why am I not reading this already. I hear positive reviews about this book and the second book is all over the blogosphere. These books are on the spotlight. It’s so tempting to read it but I still have other books to read. And I’m currently reading The Sin Eater’s Daughter, which is super slow! The story is dragging, I’m like 20% with the book but I’m already ready to give up. :(
    Sharmaine recently posted…Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secret of the Universe

    • Alise

      Yay, I’m so glad! If you need a book to pick you up after that one I definitely recommend this ;) Thanks for stopping by! :D

  3. Kirsty-Marie

    When I first read it, I hadn’t read much Fantasy, so I loved it, so I guess it depends on how much of it you read on whether you’ll love it or not, but the writing is what had me, haha. BUT THE ROMANCE. YES. I think you’ll enjoy The Winners Crime a lot more, (hopefully!)
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: Unleashed

    • Alise

      Ah yeah, that’s definitely a factor, as I read almost nothing but fantasy xD From what I’ve heard of Crime so far, I know I will! :D

  4. Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts

    *grins* It took me 8 months to get my hands on a copy of this at the library – I just got lucky in December to snag it straight off the shelves with no holds.

    The romance is one of the reasons why I highly enjoyed this book (because I’m tired of all those Romeos & Juliets out there). Fab review with great points, Alise! ^_^
    Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts recently posted…DNF ARC Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas (Sophia is Cheesed)

    • Alise

      Nice! I’ve done that before, had a hold on a book only to walk into the library and see it on the shelf -_-

      Good point! I liked that too. Thank you! :)

    • Alise

      I’m glad! There are so many different elements in this one, I think it has a little something for everyone.

    • Alise

      Yeah, seeing it everywhere is what made me interested too! I’m glad I finally picked it up. Thank you!

  5. Nara

    I definitely think the best thing about this book was the romance! Slow burn romance is so great :D
    I was okay with it dominating the book so much because it’s a trilogy. Plenty of time for world building and character development and things in future books :)
    Nara recently posted…Where Are All the Male Protagonists?

    • Alise

      The slow burn is really great, I agree. That’s too, I think I’ve been reading too many other fantasy books with a focus on politics lately :P

    • Alise

      I think that’s what I’m going to train my brain into now-historical romance rather than fantasy because that fits much better. Thank you! No, I didn’t snag a copy but Bec did and her review will be up soon :)

  6. A Canadian Girl

    I thought the romance developed pretty quickly out of nowhere (though there was an attempt to make it seem slow), but liked the worldbuilding and found the plot entertaining enough that I’m going to give the sequel a try. I’ve heard good things about The Winner’s Crime, Alise :)
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

    • Alise

      Hmm, I can kind of see that. I guess it seemed far from insta-love for me so I was just grateful for that! :P So have I, I’m excited!

  7. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    Eeep! I got this one over the holidays from a fellow blogger friend and seeing that you enjoyed this one too (along with EVERYONE else) makes me want to read it, like yesterday! I’m also glad for your warning that the fantasy bits were a bit lacking for you though, because had I gone in NOT knowing, I might have been more bummed out. I know I’m like you when it comes to that hehe ;) I’d be more worried if the romance hadn’t sold you or you had had more issues with this one but as it stands, I’m super excited to catch up and compare notes :D Wonderful review Alise^^ ♥
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: Alanna

    • Alise

      Ooh, awesome! Yeah, you definitely have something to look forward to. I’ve been hearing that most people tend to think of it as a historical romance rather than a fantasy and I agree, I’m wondering if it was an error marketing it as fantasy? Not sure. Yay! Tell me when you start! Thank you! :D

  8. Danielle

    Aww so glad you enjoyed this! I got a copy SIX months before it was pubbed and I still haven’t read it. I think the hype and that gorgeous cover scares me that the inside won’t match up but reading your review puts me at ease and the romance sounds amazing. Lovely review!
    Danielle recently posted…Amour Amour by Krista and Becca Ritchie

    • Alise

      Understandable, I tend to be the same way with books that are hyped up but I’m glad I finally picked this one up. Hope you like it when you get around to reading it :D Thanks!

  9. Faye M.

    You hit it right on the head, Alise! While this book showed a great romance between two star-crossed people, it truly was more romance than fantasy… I was greatly disappointed by that, too, because the world-building remained so vague to me, I was confused how it was labeled High Fantasy when it felt more Low Fantasy. I haven’t read the second book because of this reason… as much as I love Arin and Kestrel, I didn’t want to drown in romance again!
    Faye M. recently posted…Say It With Bubbles: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

    • Alise

      Thank you! Yeah, I don’t think the marketing was the best for this one, as I’ve heard the same about The Winner’s Crime. Maybe they legitimately aren’t fantasy books? Understandable!

  10. Joy @ Thoughts By J

    Must say that I really didn’t like the romance in this one. I wanted more fantasy like you mentioned, and I found the romance to be so forced. BUT, in saying that I’m currently reading The Winner’s Crime and it’s definitely A LOT better. For me anyway :P I hope you enjoy the sequel Alise, lovely review as always xx
    Joy @ Thoughts By J recently posted…Book Review: Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

    • Alise

      Yeah, I can see that. I’m glad you are liking it better in the sequel, I’m definitely looking forward to reading it! Thank you!

  11. Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity

    Yay! I’m glad you liked this one, Alise :D I just finished THE WINNER’S CRIME after waiting so long after that cliffhanger, so you are lucky that you didn’t read this one too early!

    I agree with you about the romance. I knew it was coming from 12483875 miles away, but it still accosted me with feels. I ship them very hard. VERY HARD.

    This actually isn’t a fantasy series, in my opinion! In the two books there has been no mention of magic or any kind of non-real things at all. I think it’s just a made-up era in a historical setting.

    Kestrel wasn’t my FAVOURITE character, but I think she grows a bit in the second book. I definitely get what you mean in that spoiler tab of yours, though.

    Hopefully you like THE WINNER’S CRIME, Alise :D
    Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity recently posted…Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

    • Alise

      Man, am I! I remember reading that ending and going “asdfghjkl!” so I can’t imagine waiting as long as some people did xD

      Right? How did she do it? So good.

      Yeah I’ve gotten that now, but I did notice it was being shelved as Fantasy on Goodreads and in stores so at the time of this review I was pretty confused, ha.

      Hope so too, thanks! :)

  12. Anya

    As I finished Winner’s Crime, I realized that you hit upon my problem with these books that kept me from loving them: none of my favorite fantasy elements! It’s a different world, but otherwise pretty much standard without any magic or critters or anything D:. Definitely still very well written and enjoyable though!
    Anya recently posted…Three Parts Dead Read-Along {Part 1}

    • Alise

      Yeah, I wish they hadn’t been marketed and shelved as fantasy books, I think that put different expectations on it. For sure!

  13. Kelly

    I’m thrilled you enjoyed this for the most part Alise, it’s been one of my favourite fantasy reads. I won’t give anything away, but the issues you had with this one will probably be resolved in book two, where it doesn’t focus on the romance, but character growth. That’s where they both really come into their own. I can’t wait to see what you think of book two Alise, I loved it just as much, if not more than the original. Brilliant review poppet <3
    Kelly recently posted…Every Move by Ellie Marney

    • Alise

      Ooh, sounds good! I’m definitely looking forward to that, especially from Kestrel. Gotta love development. Thanks :D

  14. Asti

    I’m glad you liked this one! I, unfortunately, wasn’t a huge fan of the romance in this story, which is a bit of a shame since it sort of takes center stage in this book. I think that might be my own fault though for not being a romance person in general. Whoops. Like you though, I was hoping for more of the world and if I do decide to read The Winner’s Crime, that’s one of the things I’ll be looking forward to – seeing what we learn about the world after that ending of The Winner’s Curse! Oh, and I totally agree with you on Kestrel. I liked how smart she was and full of mind games, but her back-and-forthness did annoy me. Great review! Hope you enjoy the sequel just as much :)
    Asti recently posted…Bookish Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

    • Alise

      Definitely understandable, if I hadn’t like the couple I would have been really disappointed in the book because like you said, it’s the main focus. I’ve been hearing Crime improves on the issues though if you do decide to read it :P Thanks!

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