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


Book Review: Lexicon by Max Barry


Title: Lexicon

Author: Max Barry

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Scifi, Romance

Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: June 18 2013
Hardcover: 390 pages

At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics–at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”, adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Bronte, Eliot, and Lowell–who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.

Would I recommend this book:


The story opens with a needle plunging into Wil’s eye. In the meantime, his kidnappers are asking him: “Would you describe yourself as more of a dog person or a cat person?” and “What is your favorite color?” and et cetera.

Ridiculous but gripping, isn’t it?

The idea of the book is that words have power—simply put—and there are individuals who call themselves “poets” who practice this power. So, basically, these individuals are capable of killing by using specific “words”. How? Words can cause an individual to drop all their defenses and become persuadable. And the reason why these individuals are known as poets is because they are named after famous poets in order to hide their true identity. This is because once a person knows you, they are capable of distinguishing which segment you belong to and which words would best work on you. I bet you’re thinking: If these individuals can’t even trust their own, then that just smells trouble. You bet.

As you well know, we have a dual-narrative: one being Emily’s and the other, being Wil’s. While we have Wil being taken captive because he is the only person to have survived the tragedy at Broken Hill, Australia, we have Emily, a hustler from California who is whisked away into a school in Virginia that teaches special individuals the meaning of words. So, you are being thrown back and forth between the two protagonists, but eventually, their stories collide and intertwine. This is handled very well and you will be satisfied.

Now, I’d rather not say anymore than I already did because I think it would take away some of the magic about going into an amazing story, like this, while blind. I was very taken aback by this back and highly recommend it! 

Romance: Yes.

Favorite Section:

That’s what’s happening if you’re getting all your news from one place. If you stop listening to someone the second you hear a word or phrase you’ve been taught belongs to the enemy, like “environment” or “job creators,” that’s what you’re doing. You might be an intelligent person, but once you let someone else filter the world for you, you have no way to critically analyze what you’re hearing. At best, absolute best case scenario, if they blatantly contradict themselves, you can spot that. But if they take basic care to maintain an internal logical consistency, which they all do, you’ve got nothing. You’ve delegated the ability to make up your mind.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars