Book Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner’s Curse, The Winner’s Crime, The Winner’s Kiss

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Genre: YA, Romance, Fantasy

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: 2014, 2015, 2016
Hardcover: 355, 402, 484 pages

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.

Would I recommend this book:


As I write this, I am struggling to pull my thoughts together and be…coherent.  There is so much that I want to say about this series that I can’t possibly say all at once without overwhelming you.  I have so many feelings that I can’t describe either. Ugh.

Rutkoski’s writing is seamless and intelligent.  She weaves together romance, fantasy and politics in such an expert manner that I can’t express how impossibly challenging this is.  I’ve read some stories that can’t seem to get the formula right but she did. Meaning, the author either slaps the two lovers together and it becomes the main focus of the story while, at the same time, the author also wishes for us to see all the other issues going on around them and it just becomes this frustrating blob. So, I am praising Rutkoski for her awesome world-building. She’s organized things so smoothly.

Now, as I go forward with this review, I don’t believe I will be giving away anything that wouldn’t already be known if you’ve read the summaries for the second and third book.  For the majority of this review, I will be concentrating on the first book.  No worries.

The beginning of this series is The Winner’s Curse.  Now…what can I say to interest you in reading this series?

In short, the winner’s curse is a concept that states the winner will tend to overpay.

Kestrel was born under the wrong star.  She is a privileged young woman who becomes restless when realizing all her prosperity comes at an unforgivable price.  Her father is the general of the empire and urges for her to take part in a war she doesn’t believe in.  Unfortunately, she could not kill even if she wanted to.  Yet, regardless of her lack of physical strength, she overcomes this with her incredible tenacity and wit and bravery.  But, of course, there is a fragility in her that we will come to know…  And because of the gentle aspects of her that we come to admire later, she purchases a slave, Arin, at an auction.  This sets her off on a course that will put everything she once held dear at stake.  And it will take everything she has to prevent a war from breaking.

The first book is a little rocky in the world-building aspect, however, it is self-contained.  First books to a series usually are, I feel, so this is a minor problem that can be easily over-looked.  It’s not exactly inspired by any period in time but you can see hints of our world in theirs from the political pieces involved.  The world is incredibly imaginative and undeniably thrilling.  If you are not a fantasy lover, this book may be easier for you to slip into than others as it’s not very heavy-handed.  The language I felt was intuitive, and its structure and storytelling clever as it is not as fast-paced as we are use to with many novels.

Now, what has me SOARING for this book is the romance involved. I LOVE it when a story doesn’t have that instalove between the main pairing. You have no idea how much I appreciate it when the author takes his/her time with their characters.  The journey these two will travel will be tragic, making the end all the more sweeter.  It is subtle and slow-blooming at the start of their relationship, which to me is all the more poignant because their love should not have been born.  They develop a deep yearning for one another, and if you can understand a love where you dare not think about, then you can understand them.  But, please, watch over their story.

I will not say much about Arin because I feel that may spoil the story for you.  He is someone that I wish for you to discover on your own.

Frankly speaking, by the end of each book, you will feel breathless and light-headed.  I’ve read so many reviews where they couldn’t put the books down and read it all in one sitting.  You will turn the pages of this book because there will be twists and turns, events that will have you wanting to throw the book across the room and cry, and just break your heart.

But the pain is exquisite.

I love love love love loved this story.  It is hard for me to see anyone who wouldn’t swoon over it, but I do hope you love it too.  I think it’s a timeless tale that will have you reading it over and over again, I don’t doubt.


Favorite Section: 

I loved absolutely everything… It’s hard to pick out just one.  But this section, from The Winner’s Kiss, hits close to home with me due to recent events in my life.

Kestrel thought that maybe she had been wrong, and Risha had been wrong, about forgiveness, that it was neither mud nor stone, but resembled more the drifting white spores.  They came loose from the trees when they were ready.  Soft to the touch, but made to be let go, so that they could find a place to plant and grow.

 5/5 Stars


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