The Price of Winning

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Macmillan | Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Pages: 368 pages
Source & Format: Borrowed from Kelly; ARC
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
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.

Thoughts on The Winner's Curse
I almost didn't write a review for The Winner's Curse because it's already gotten so much buzz, and I'm not sure if I can even do it justice. But I do want to put my two cents in and tell you something very important: for me, this book absolutely surpassed all of my expectations for it.

This is a book that is getting a lot of hype in the blog world. I remember the first time I saw the cover and thought, "Oh, that's a beautiful book!" But it wasn't really on my radar - even after that moment of cover love. I'm not sure if it's because I don't gravitate towards fantasy or because I didn't really take the time to read the summary. What I do know is that within a short period of time, four bloggers whose opinions I really value gave this book FIVE STARS. Here's a sample of what they had to say and how they sold me on reading it:
  • Lauren from Love is Not a Triangle: "When I started reading, I was worried the story wouldn't be as compelling as its set up. Instead, it exceeded my expectations. If you love fantasy, intrigue, political maneuvering, romance, or good books in general, this one is for you." (Review)
  • Asheley from Into the Hall of Books: "Best book I've read in a very long time? OH YES. OH YES, ABSOLUTELY. Without a doubt. I am absolutely, firmly against the hype machine but I believe that this book will deserve whatever hype it receives. And I don't say that lightly, people." (Review)
  • Jen from The Flyleaf Review: "You have heard all the hype about this book, right? And we all know what a dangerous thing that hype machine can be. But in this case? TOTALLY legitimate. Just wait until you guys get the chance to read this book. Just you wait." (Teaser)
  • Kelly from Belle of the Literati: "The Winner's Curse is a book that didn't let me move, get up, drink, or eat for the roughly 5 hours it took me to read it. I could NOT put it down. It is a fantastic world of high fantasy that is written beautifully and will have your emotions wound around its finger almost instantly. This book has amazing juxtaposition of love and brutality, pride and compassion, loyalty to family and the morality of doing the right thing. It is a plot that will have your heart racing, swooning, and stopping at multiple points." (Teaser)
YOU'RE BASICALLY DYING TO HAVE YOUR HANDS ON THIS BOOK NOW, RIGHT? I know, I know. I'm sorry to get you all hot and bothered in anticipation for The Winner's Curse. Maybe you're thinking that I still haven't really told you what I thought about this book. Well, let me try to give it a shot.

5 Reasons I'm So Obsessed With This Book

1. The Place.
Y'all, this world is amazing. I sometimes struggle with fantasy novels because I feel disconnected from the world. As a reader, I don't want to spend pages and pages on world building, which often seems to happen in fantasy... but I also don't want to feel like I'm struggling to understand the setting. It's so frustrating when you aren't able to at least somewhat picture where a book is taking place. Thankfully, I didn't have that problem at all in The Winner's Curse. It's a fantasy novel, but I still found the world to be really recognizable. At times, it reminded me of Greek or Roman culture - there's a historical flair to the way this society is set up that immediately made it easer for me to get immersed in the novel.

2. The People.
I'm a major character reader. It's often one of the most important things for me while I'm reading. I don't have to like the characters, but I do need to feel invested in their story. And holy cow, I was completely head over heels for the characters in this book. There are two POVs in The Winner's Curse - Kestrel (female) and Arin (male). Each character's voice was so distinct from the other that I never struggled to place who was speaking. Both captured my heart and my attention, and I found myself completely in love with these two people. Even better? There are also some secondary characters that I suspect will get even more fleshed out in the rest of the series.

3. The Plot. 
Ok, so we've established that this book has a fantastic world and some incredible characters. That's already going to make a ton of readers really happy with this story. But what about the people who really need a good plot? Oh, never fear. This book totally delivers on the action and adventure. Kestrel is a general's daughter and has two choices in front of her: join the military or get married. Truthfully, neither option really appeals to her. And then she buys a young slave, Arin, in an auction. Something about his spirit prompts her to make this rash decision... and you won't see the consequences coming. SO MUCH HAPPENS IN THIS STORY. That set up I just described? Those are the first few chapters, and it just sets everything else in motion. I think my stomach was in knots the entire time I was reading, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

4. The Politics.
This ties into the plot and the place, but I still felt like it was worth mentioning as its own point. The political atmosphere plays a really big role in The Winner's Curse. There is a hierarchy within this society, and the two main characters on from the opposite ends of it. The positions they hold in the world influences their perceptions and actions. And those differences contribute to so much of the intrigue and events that take place. I felt like this aspect was really unique and felt like something I don't often see in books. I love when a book feels new and fresh!

5. The Passion.
Oh, the slow burn... It's at the top of my reading wishlist, but it can also make for such heart-wrenching and painful reading. I absolutely adore when two people slowly get to know one another - never imagining it could lead to something more. When friendship blossoms into romance, I turn into the happiest of all readers. I think that there is sometimes more passion in restraint, in going slow, in that careful dance around feelings and emotion. There's a reason some of my very favorite romantic relationships are from Jane Austen's novels! In The Winner's Curse, I found the romance to be even more intense and emotional because of everything standing in the way of it. I just can't even find the words to tell you how much I loved that aspect of this book. Hint: it's a whole lot.


Actually, no, one more thing: I'm sure there will be some readers who don't fall in love with The Winner's Curse. A book cannot be universally loved. But for this reader? I can't wait to get this beauty into my hands for keeps... where it will be cherished and re-read until the end of all time.

So Quotable
"The Winner's Curse is when you come out of top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price."

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


  1. I loved your list of 5 reasons to like The Winner's Curse and the quotes from other bloggers. I can't wait to get my hands on this.

  2. HANNAH!!! You are killing me with this review! I'm so glad to see you loved it so much. I am totally predisposed to love a book like this, but all of these five-star reviews make me SO nervous. There's no question I'm eventually going to buy and read it, but I might have to let it sit pretty for a while until all of my high expectations die down a little bit. Which may never happen, haha!

  3. I am equally obsessed with this book! I was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype but it surpassed ALL of my somewhat low expectations. This is one of the few times I'm stoked there are more books in the series!

  4. I LOVE THIS!!! I love how you break it down and everything you say you KNOW I agree with! The politics, the slow burn, the characters. I too am SO OBSESSED with this book! I cannot wait to see what happens next! AND THE LAST LINE OF THE BOOK!??! I cannot get over it!! Love this hard! :)

  5. This book. I knew nothing about it and then a few weeks ago I saw everyone talking about it on Twitter and giving it 5 stars and even though it's so, so, so not a "me" book I am now so excited to read it. And you just made me more excited!

  6. You definitely make me want to run out and buy this book right now! And then spend all of my rare free time reading it :) I also struggle with feeling disconnected from fantasy worlds in books, but...I'm following your blog ♥

  7. Looks so good! I missed on on the arc, and I'm just biding my time until it comes out in March. Argh! Also, I'm so obsessed with your blog! :)

  8. I could talk FOR SO LONG about this book. I really could. Because it is really one of the better books I've read in AGES. I don't often love political-ness in stories but I found it intriguing in this one and OH SO MUCH ELSE. And what about that cover??? I felt like it played out like a movie, particularly the closer and closer the book got toward the end, and I actually cried at the end of this book because of how much it made me feel things. I can't wait to read the next one and I will certainly re-read! Great thoughts on this one. This one deserves all of the hype.

  9. I happen to be one of those people who just didn't fall for THE WINNER'S CURSE as much as I wanted to. I still liked it, particularly because the story was really well-told and had me curious about what would happen in the next book. Good sign, right? Sadly, I just couldn't find a way to connect with the characters all that much, which is probably why it didn't have as much of an impact on me as it did with other readers. Still, I'm glad to hear you loved it! And I'm hopeful that book two will possibly change my feelings about the series overall -- but we'll have to see.

  10. This book was beyond amazing I was so surprised! Such a subtle yet impressive story I can't wait for the next installment!

  11. I LOVED this book, and I mean, the cover just adds to my love. XD I haven't gotten around to reading the rest of the series yet, but I really need to!


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