The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The winners curse

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. (Goodreads)

This is another book that I have had on my TBR list for quite some time (a recurring problem for sure) but overtime I read the premise, I always seemed put off, so I never bothered to actively search for a copy. When Amazon, then, put it onto my recommended for me list, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a shot – What is there to lose… other than a few Euro’s – but that’s beside the point. I really should have picked up this book earlier!

You want to know what I liked the most about this book? Women were held in equal ability to men when it came to the opportunity to join the military. A lot of dystopian young adult books feature women who rebel against the norm and join the military dressed up as a man or they learn to fight and defend themselves even though they are not allowed to. What bugged me about this fact was that our main character, Kestrel, was being bugged by her father, General Trajan, to join the military – almost like a family trait. What also bugged me about this book was the fact that women had until they were 20 to decide whether they wanted to enlist or marry, and if they went out of the house, they had to have an escort with them. A bit demeaning – don’t you think?

The Valorians defeated the Herrani in a war many years ago, which has left the rest of the Herrani population enslaved. Kestrel, however, doesn’t like having slaves or the treatment of the Herrani, so when she accidentally ends up in an auction and she feels compelled to buy the man that the auctioneer is selling off, Kestrel and her friend, Jess, are both equally shocked. I personally don’t see what she saw in Arin, he bugged me to death, but at the same time, there was something about him that I just didn’t trust. Of course, it didn’t take long for it to come out that he is a rebel spy, and then things got interesting!

What I liked about Kestrel is the fact that she was strong enough to do what she wanted, even if it meant that society would gossip about it. She didn’t follow a lot of the fashion trends and she was, in general a strong character – just not in the ways we would expect as the daughter of the general. She had a mind for strategy and often used it to get herself out of sticky situations. As someone who was always taught, from a very young age by my father, to get around a problem, I admired her skill in this particular instance. Even I could take a couple of lessons from her and I learned like a pro!

I feel like, for a nation who is described to be able to withstand anything and who is portrayed to be a very strong nation, the Valorians succumbed way too easily to the Herrani. I feel like there should have been more of a fight on the night of the rebellion – even if it was a bit sneaky from the slaves from the offset.

Kestrel bugged me toward the end! How could she even feel the way she was feeling after everything that Arin had done to her and her friends and her people?? She was BETRAYED!! Does she not understand this concept?!? I felt like, if she was stood in front of me, I probably would have slapped some sense into her. She nearly lost her best friend because of him and his people – just why?? I feel like I am going to go into rant mode, so I should probably quit while I am ahead.

I mostly enjoyed this book and I really should have picked it up earlier. I am looking forward to buying the next instalment. I gave this book 4/5 stars.

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