Winner's Trilogy #1
Farrar Straus Giroux
Available March 4th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (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.
The Winner’s Curse is one of those stories we read with great speed, turning the pages as quickly as possible to see how everything plays out, but it’s the hours, days and weeks following the flip of the final page that make us realize just how thoroughly tangled we are in the lives of Kestrel and Arin. Despite the backdrop of war as an empire seeks to expand, this is a quieter tale, the words layered with meaning and heavy with feeling, set in a beautiful arrangement that has the romantic in us smiling wistfully while our hearts simultaneously bleed from a thousand small cuts stealthily delivered as the forbidden and the impossible dance to a dangerous tune.
The romance between Kestrel and Arin is not one of bold gestures and impassioned speeches; not one that has us using and discarding highlighters at an unprecedented pace for all the heartbreakingly gorgeous sentiments given life through words, instead it's one of fragile whispers and haunting possibility. The two of them are would-be lovers standing on opposite sides of a frozen lake, and with every step they take toward the other a crack in the ice beneath their feet widens, forcing them to stay apart and keep their weight distributed rather than give in to temptation, meet in the middle, and risk falling through. Their relationship is one that keeps us up at night, analyzing every small gesture and look given we know them both to be skilled in the art of deception, searching for the truth hiding in and between their lies. Often we see what we want to see rather than what’s actually there, but the beauty of the two of them is that every once in a while, out of the corner of our eyes, we could swear we see love trying to grow underneath the crushing weight of their opposing forces.
What is so intriguing about the story itself above and beyond the romance between Kestrel and Arin is the way Ms. Rutkoski is able to make us root for both sides equally, not wanting to see either group enslave the other but yet understanding the desire to rule as easily as we understand the need to fight back. The tide of power shifts and rolls like water in a roughened sea as this story progresses, and we are swept along with it, as fascinatingly conflicted as both Kestrel and Arin are by the constant flux in our emotional reaction. We can never truly choose a side and so we remain on edge throughout, both anticipating and fearing the moment when a clear winner might emerge and help us finally figure out on which side of the line we stand.
We’re left, not necessarily reeling per se, but with hearts bearing definitive finger-shaped bruises courtesy of the shared grip Arin and Kestrel have on them, their fate something we know we'll learn of only through an epic journey over an extended period of time. The ending of this series is no doubt one worth waiting for though, and this first installment is a book destined for the favorites shelf where it will never have time to collect dust for constantly being taken down and re-read.
*If you didn't get a chance yet, check out Marie's guest post where she talks about Kestrel's father and the research she did for the battle scenes!
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.