The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski, is very loosely a fantasy novel. It reads like historical fiction, with deeply descriptive writing and appealing characters. The main character, Kestrel, is daughter of a high ranking Valorian general, and finds herself caught between his pressures to join the military and her friends’ pressure to marry. In her desire to feel free, Kestrel does some reckless things, like sneaking off into the market to play gambling games against the sailors in port.
On one such outing, Kestrel is caught in the slave market during an auction, and purchases a slave for an outrageously high sum, especially considering that he shows signs of rebellion.
The book focuses mainly on the mental capabilities of Kestrel and the slave she purchases, and their slowly blossoming relationship. Though they begin as enemies, they find kindred spirits in each other, and a tenuous truce develops… or does it?
The Winner’s Curse is easily one of my favorite summer reads so far. Unfortunately, it’s the first in a series, so if you get hooked on the characters, like I did, it will be a while before you can see more of them. Luckily, Rutkoski wraps up the book in a way that makes it feel complete.
There were a few pacing issues I found in this book, with some parts having no action, and some parts having several major plot points a page. However, if you’re willing to look past that, you’ll find richly developed characters with compelling motivations, and a plot that will keep you guessing.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars