Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski *Spoiler Free*

Updated: Jun 12, 2018

This book has a lot of great reviews.  People really really seemed to enjoy it, and happily, i seem to be one of those people too.  

What would happen if you found a kindred spirit in your enemy?  What if you could not see them as your enemy until forced by circumstance? 

What would you choose to sacrifice between your dreams for the world and your dreams for yourself.  When you know that you must protect your friends, family, & tribe, would you turn your back on the one person who understand you most?

The world is one in which a foreign military has invaded a rich land, which they now occupy, and have had those native to that land enslaved.  The enslaved had a thriving civilization before occupation, but had no love of war, and as a result, their occupiers live in their former homes and cut roads through their wilderness. 

The story opens up with Kestrel, the general's daughter (seventeen), ending up at a slave auction where Arin, a  slave (nineteen), is brought up on the block.  She instantly feels for him as he silently displays his defiance, showing all the would be buyers that he would be a troublesome slave. 

But once the auctioneer claims he can sing Kestrel rashly begins to bid for him.  As a pianist in a society that values military above all else, she is lonesome in her love of music.  She also bids knowing well that anyone else would plan to work him to death.  Her bid, as the generals daughter, suddenly makes him more desirable and drives the price for him upward.  In the end, Kestrel is the winner, though it takes her some time to come to clear terms with why she did such a thing.

This is the love story of two people who are not simply willing to give up everything they have ever wanted for their lives, their friends and families, and their people, the second they meet someone they might love.  And dam, that is a very tall order.

This book is detail oriented and on the 'slower' side.  It is also very thoughtful.  The characters express their mental anguish, and curiosities, as well as, their desires.  While this might read too slowly for some, i appreciated it. 

I liked how the author broke up the text within chapters to designate a passage of time or a change in POV.  It was not always possible to anticipate where a change in POV would occur & that kept things interesting and emotionally investing for me.  It also minimized that thing i sometimes do where i rush through one chapter simply because i cannot wait to find out what the other character is up to.

I specifically chose to describe the main protagonist, Kestrel, as capable.  The reason being is that throughout the novel she continuously proves that she is capable of being who she must be at that time.  She has so many choices to make and she never shy's away from them. 

She might take her time, she might test the waters, but in the end she decides.  She does sometimes choose to do nothing, but only after weighing the odds.  At the end of the novel she makes two very important and ultimate decisions, proving that she is more than capable of doing what she must. 

This book reminded me of a lot of other things.  The attention to detail regarding social life of high society and the importance of reputation reminded me of a Jane Austen novel.  The lawn party made me think of the lawn party scene from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.  The main characters and pacing of the novel were reminiscent of Gaceling by Kirstin Cashore (who is blurbed on the front cover), but also of Star Crossed by Elizabeth Bunce.  

What this story has to offer you:

  • Very contemplative main characters

  • A forbidden romance

  • Prevalent Military 

  • Military Occupation & Active Campaigns

  • Jane Austen-esq world of socialites

  • A very capable female protagonist

  • A love interest that makes your heart ache

  • A slow burn love story (yep! i am categorizing it thusly! You cant stop me!)

  • A love of music

Read the synopsis on Goodreads:

Final thoughts?  I just want Arin to have the things he wants!  All of the things he wants!  I think Kestrel does too and I am hopeful that this strategic duo will figure it all out in the ultimate end.

Thanks for reading,

A wearily optimistic Amanda

Copyright ⓒ  2018-2020 Amanda Vaughan