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Review #59 // The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski

While stuck in a crowd at the market, Kestrel and her friend Jess find themselves at the slave auction. Kestrel buys Arin on an impulse, sparking more than just the romance between the slave and his master.

Why this book?: I had bought it a few years ago when I trusted everyone’s opinions on books. I decided I either needed to read it, or get it off my shelves.


Stupid is the new smart

For a character that is supposed to be extremely smart for her upbringing, Kestrel is one blunder after another. Her character felt more like Rutkoski chose choice attributes to throw into one character, but didn’t really consider how they would mesh with the character she had crafted within the world. You’re told one thing about Kestrel, and you receive another. Literally, I could not believe how oblivious this character was, for how many chances she was given to finish the problem before it started.

With how little both characters were developed, there was literally no connection between Arin and Kestrel. Arin was a generic “love interest” with a oh-so-scandalous addition of being Kestrel’s slave. Never once (out of what I read) was Kestrel’s power over Arin addressed. I felt uncomfortable with their relationship, especially because of how forced it felt. With how it was a master-slave relationship, the forced feeling really didn’t sit well with me, and I really couldn’t handle the characters because of this.

Everything about the world building was just standard, generic world-building for a half-assed YA fantasy novel. It’s the trademark of an author striving to make it big, but without wanting to put any effort into it. No intended offense, but this side of the book is important, and Rutkoski just completely skipped out on it, instead focusing on a romance that really had no basis. The world-building was completely non-existent, and what little details we were given were frankly . . . unnerving. Concerning?

What…did I just read?

I literally cannot believe I read so much of this book. I was ready to drop it at page 5, but you know, I had already spent my money on it. So I read up to about 150.

This book literally normalizes slavery. Slavery was never challenged, and they treat it like its normal and okay and that there’s literally nothing wrong with it. I don’t care that I didn’t read all of it, and that I couldn’t know what happens in the later books or at the end, but I don’t care. Something like this should be challenged. Early. If not, it will (and HAS) hurt people.

I hadn’t heard much about this book from reviewers. I only saw star ratings on Goodreads, or other people just raving about it, without giving any reason as to why it was good. So, me being my young self, I bought it. Now, with trying to clean my shelves, I picked this one up.


In fact, check out The BookAvid’s review HERE. It explains it much better than I did, and from the perspective of a POC.

If any other POC would like to have their reviewed linked here that shares similar experiences as Jen’s, then please email/link me below, and I’ll add it.

Final Rating: ★☆☆☆☆


The Winner’s Curse was not only a plain and generic disappointment, but also fairly insensitive and gross. No thank you.

Would I Recommend?

HA. No.

Additional Information:

Published: March 4, 2014

Publisher: Square Fish

Page Count: 355

Genre: Fantasy/YA/Romance

Synopsis: via Goodreads

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
They were never meant to be together. As a general’s daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can’t help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other.

Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

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