The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux BYR | Hardcover, 355 pages
Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

“The Winner’s Curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only by paying a steep price.”

This book is hardly worth reviewing, to be honest. After all, what else could I say that hasn’t been already said? With a barrage of 5-star ratings on Goodreads, would anything I say persuade another reader to read this book? I think not. My opinion is just going to get lost in the void of awestruck reviewers; those who fumbled awkwardly, aimlessly for the right words to say. Oh well. I’m going to try my best to articulate my reading experience, nonetheless.

I’ve never been a devoted fantasy reader; heck, I’m not even a hobbyist reader of the genre. See, I’m not very adept at reconstructing worlds beyond what my feeble imagination could muster. It tends to bring on bouts of headaches and the odd times, nose bleeds. I think this is why I ADORE this book. I mean, sure, it’s a fantasy novel, but the world building is not complicated that you won’t even miss the requisite map on the inside cover normally found in books from this genre.

I’m also wary of the detailed description the authors go through when they describe the people’s wardrobe of the era. It’s not that I’m not interested in it; I just wish there was a subtle way of doing that without having a page dedicated on the outfits alone.

I think the reason why this world is easy to follow is due to the fact that it’s based on one that we’ve read and seen in films before. That is, if you’re into Greco-Roman war, and the politics of the time, then reading this book would be flawlessly easy. The Herrans staged their bid for liberty the way the Greeks delivered the nails to the Trojans’ coffin: in a very covert fashion. They didn’t see it coming.

“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.”

I know what you’re thinking: Great. Just another girl forced to marry or suffer the consequences of her choice, whatever that may be. But you would actually be wrong. The easiest way to appease its readers is if:

a. Kestrel does choose marriage, and only if she marries the man of her choosing.


b. Kestrel chooses service in military, therefore cementing her name in the YA Hall of Fame in the Female Kick-Assery Category.

But no. This girl only ever wanted to play the piano.

Pretty lame, right?

Uhm no. Kestrel is one of those selfless characters who fights for what she wants, and by using what she’s got. She’s one who sees the lies and frauds that people try to perpetrate. She has a heart for the abused (which is how she ended up buying a slave to begin with), and one who will stand up for them even if it meant taking part in a very lopsided duel. She uses her smarts; she uses what she knows about people in order to manipulate the outcome of a dire situation. This girl kicks ass in a very subtle way.

Now, if there’s one thing that’s troubling me about this book, is the potentially messy romance that’s about to unfold in the coming books: [Spoiler alert] she got engaged to the emperor’s son (to save Arin’s people), she’s in love with Arin (the slave), and Ronan remains imprisoned (and we all know this girl cannot resist rooting for the underdog). [End of spoiler]

In a way, this book instantly reminded me of how much I love Finnikin of the Rock. While the latter ripped my heart into slivers of unrecognizable mess, The Winner’s Curse spells a probable doom that I will suffer the same fate. I’m not one to look forward to an impending torture, but I can say with all honesty that I will gladly lay down my defences, and declare, I volunteer!