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The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Thursday, September 22, 2016 Geraldine 0 Comments

The Breakdown

General Info:
     Title: The Winner's Curse
     Author: Marie Rutkoski
     Genre: YA, Fantasy 
     Publisher: Farrar, Straux and Girroux
     Publishing Date: March 4th, 2014

          - World-building and politics - so intriguing! 

    Things that could have been better:
         - Characters - just didn't feel real/relatable to me
         - Plot - too coincidental for me to believe in 

Rating: 2.25 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Initial Thoughts

I've heard so many people rave about The Winner's Curse!  Plus, that gorgeous, gorgeous cover was calling to me. So I decided I had to take the plunge and just read it! 

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. 


Kestrel was very difficult for me to understand. I just didn't feel like I connected with her at all - she wasn't relatable. I feel like this was partially due to the writing style, with the use of third person. The third person format really distanced me from Kestrel, and she was just unfathomable to me. 

Arin was even worse than Kestrel. He didn't make sense. In a normal world with consequences - I feel like Arin would never have been kept around in Kestral's household, with how rebellious he was at times. I felt like his purpose was to be the love interest, and it was very difficult for me to suspend my disbelief that he and Kestrel were right for each other. 

Let's talk side-characters now. I honestly didn't get Kestrel's attachment to Jess? It didn't seem like they were honestly that great friends - we get told they are best friends, but the actions in the novel don't support that, with how little we see of Jess. Ronan was really interesting to read about - he seemed like such a nice guy, and if I read the sequel - Ronan will be one of the reasons that I do so! 


The plot wasn't very interesting to me. It all felt contrived, it felt like things just happened for the sake of happening. For example, some plot points felt too convenient - highlight for spoilers. I thought that it was just too convenient that Kestrel happened to come by Arin being auctioned off, and Cheat was just REALLY lucky to engage Kestral into buying Arin. 
That being said, whilst I had problems with the plot - I did love the world-building. It was a familiar world to me, easy to grasp hold of, and I enjoyed learning more about each of the groupings - the Herrani and the Valorian. I especially loved reading about the Valorians, because they had such interesting beliefs/morals - women were allowed and even encouraged to enlist. This is so different to our society, because yes women are encouraged to go to combat in our world, but with Valorians, it seems to be more of an expectation. 

Finally, Rutkoski left us in a good spot for the ending. I'm curious to see how everything plays out in the second book, because the ending involves politics, is all I'm saying. And I'm interested to see how Kestrel will maneuver herself out of the spot she's in. 

Writing Style

The writing style wasn't my favourite. For one, there was the third-person format that hindered the character relatability. I didn't feel like I got to know Kestrel very well - it felt like I only knew superficial things about her, like that she likes music, or that she's bad at combat - not her thoughts, her wishes, her desires. I really feel like this is because of the third-person format. 

Furthermore, it seemed like everything was being dumbed down for readers. Sometimes, I felt like Rutkoski was repeating information previously mentioned. Whilst this is good because it reinforces that this information is important and keeps it fresh in readers' minds - at the same time, I feel like there was too much repetition, and it was almost as if Rutkoski was dumbing things down a bit, and I skim read a lot of The Winner's Curse as a result - just to reduce the amount of time I had to spend reading repetitious material. 

Entertainment Value

I kind of did have to force myself to read this book. I was really excited to start, because I heard so much great stuff about it, but I don't know I just didn't get immersed into the world. Nonetheless, it did keep me occupied, and reading for a couple of hours, although I did have to take a couple of breaks because I just wasn't loving it. 

Final Thoughts

I think an English teacher told me once that in order for a book or a movie or a play to be successful, sometimes there needs to be the suspension of disbelief. With The Winner's Curse, I couldn't suspend my disbelief with the plot and characters, and ultimately I couldn't enjoy the novel. The Winner's Curse, whilst easy to read in a couple of hours (even though I didn't fully enjoy it) is an ultimately forgettable novel to me, with little that distinguishes it from other fantasy books and other characters in separate novels. 


Thoughts in a Phrase 

It's not you, it's me. 

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