The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Curse

3.96 (105,040 ratings by Goodreads)
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3.96 (105,040 ratings by Goodreads)

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In the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Cassandra Clare comes The Winner's Curse, a brilliant, unputdownable, star-crossed romance from New York Times bestselling author Marie Rutkoski.

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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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 149 x 221 x 31mm | 435g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0374384673
  • 9780374384678
  • 25,643

Review quote

"*[A] spellbinding first book in a trilogy about a pair of star-crossed lovers in a society marred by class warfare....Like any epic page-turner worth its salt, Rutkoski's richly imagined world is full of dynamic repartee, gruesome battle scenes, and shifting alliances. A high-stakes cliffhanger will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next book." --Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"*Rich characterization, exquisite worldbuilding and rock-solid storytelling make this a fantasy of unusual intelligence and depth...Precise details and elegant prose make this world fresh and vivid. The intricate and suspenseful plot, filled with politics, intrigue and even graphic violence, features neither heroes nor villains; every character displays a complex mixture of talents, flaws and motives...Breathtaking, tragic and true." --Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"*A forbidden romance. The romance is heartstoppingly lovely and admittedly steamy . . . but the raising of stakes and the reluctance of the couple to give up their respective cause, even as they confess their love for each other, lends their relationship a complexity not often seen in the genre . . . A last-minute compromise between the lovers secures a sequel, and fans of Kristin Cashore and Robin Lefevers will be pleased to have a new romance to follow." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB, ) STARRED REVIEW

"Every line in The Winner's Curse is beautifully written. The story is masterfully plotted. The characters' dilemmas fascinated me and tore at my heart. This book gave me a rare and special reading experience: I never knew what was going to happen next. I loved it. I want more." --Kristin Cashore, New York Times bestselling author of the Graceling Realm books

"The Winner's Curse is breathtaking, a lyrical triumph in YA fantasy. Marie Rutkoski writes with tremendous power and has created an epic of fearless beauty. This book should not be missed." --Ann Aguirre, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of the Razorland trilogy

"The Winner's Curse is magnificent. Gorgeous writing graces every page, and the story of Kestrel and Arin unfolds with all the complexity and beauty of a sonata. I was completely transfixed by them and their world." --Sarah Beth Durst, author of Conjured
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About Marie Rutkoski

Marie Rutkoski is the author of The Shadow Society and the Kronos Chronicles, which includes The Cabinet of Wonders. She is a professor at Brooklyn College and lives in New York City.
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Rating details

105,040 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 34% (35,969)
4 38% (40,159)
3 19% (20,253)
2 6% (5,874)
1 3% (2,785)

Our customer reviews

I wanted to read The Winner's Curse because I am a big fan of forbidden love when written correctly and what is that more than "master" and a slave. I also appreciate when a female lead is strong and Kestrel certainly fills that role. I've also read so many positive reviews from blogger buddies, that I knew I had to give it a read. The world building is nice and it transports me to a different world where women must marry or be a soldier and the in between required escorts among other restrictions. I could picture Kestrel walking down the street to the market with her friend Jess, sweating it out in the slave auction, and playing furiously on the piano or in the stables or blacksmith forge with Arin. I don't know if I am just getting more used to it but the 3rd pov didn't distract me or take away from how much I enjoyed the read. It also gives us a different access to both Arin and Kestrel. The characters of both Arin and Kestrel fascinated me and I really enjoyed their scenes together, working around their chemistry, but also the entire forbiddeness of it all. But neither can resist spending time with the other. Even with the complications of Kestrel officially owning Arin, and then the whole twist of Arin's purpose and how that effects their relationship. Its hard to talk about some of the things that really impacted me, because the twists are serious spoilers and some of it surprised me and others it just hurt to watch all of the heartache and tragedy. The changing dynamics between Arin and Kestrel though was fascinating to watch and how each responded to the changes. I can totally see where both are coming from keeping their secrets and doing things that may seem wrong but just having the other's best interest at heart. Not only is Kestrel dealing with her feelings for her slave, she also has the expectations of her high ranking father. She doesn't want to marry, and she doesn't want to enter the military. But she feels the pressure and wants to please her dad. She has some interest in warfare but not so much sword play and she doesn't want to give up her music. That is one of the things that created the initial combined interests/loves between her and Arin. But she also has no interest in the kind of men courting her. The ending was shocking and full of action and changes, betrayals, secrets that catch up to each other, as well as the feelings for each other that just won't go away and complicates their every decision. I can't wait until the next book and I am so glad that I paid attention to the hype for this book and was finally able to get a chance to read it. Bottom Line: Characters steal the show but still lots of action and a seriously forbidden more
by Brandi Kosiner (Brandi Breathes Books)
The cover for The Winner's Curse is pretty (YES, it is) but it doesn't do the story justice at all. This story is, in a few words, devastating, gripping, and thrilling! I haven't stopped thinking about this book since I finished reading it. I've just been pining away for more! The Winner's Curse is a low fantasy read, ideal for those who like a little bit of political intrigue and a great setting in their books. Reasons to Read: 1. Low fantasy at its best: I love (all) fantasy books and while I prefer high fantasy, The Winner's Curse is a one of the best low fantasy books I've ever read. (Sidenote: I'm putting The Winner's Curse in the low fantasy category because while it's a fictional world, the way the world works is rational and real and doesn't contain magical or impossible elements). There's less suspension of belief for readers, which is fantastic for readers who are less interested by magic. While the world is fictional there are some aspects which reminded me of other historical settings. 2. Oh my, swoons!: Do you like your romance to be epic?! Pick up The Winner's Curse - trust me. While the romance takes centre stage in this story, it also wasn't sappy or ridiculous. I was absolutely swept away by Arin and Kestrel and I couldn't get enough of these two. Most of all I loved how they tried to figure each other out, but still remained their rational thinking. And the tension just dragged on forever! So much tension that just wouldn't go away and it was brilliant. I liked Kestrel so much - she stood out on her own and had a vivid personality. She was such a clever girl, yet she had her own faults and she had to overcome those and work with it. But overall, Kestrel is an incredibly strong heroine. 3. An explosive story: I couldn't get enough of the politics and culture incorporated in The Winner's Curse. I was enthralled by these little details, and I'm dying to know what happens to this world in the next book. The plot development was my absolute favourite part of this book! It is beautifully written and the story is so captivating. I am dreaming about this book, its characters, and its world. I cannot let it go. I'm in love with it too much. The characters are flawed which is good, but this also means they aren't instantly likeable. My appreciation for them only grew over time as the story progressed and I was skeptical of Kestrel, in particular, at first. There were also a couple subplots that didn't seem to influence the main plot; maybe they'll come up in later books, but they didn't seem particularly relevant for this book. The Winner's Curse was one of my favourite books released this year so far. I've rarely felt so invested in a book series before, and I have such high hopes for the next one! The situation Arin and Kestrel are put in is so difficult as they're both forced to question values and beliefs they've held for such a long time - The Winner's Curse is reading for that alone. ARC received from Macmillan for review; no other compensation was more
by Brenna Staats
I know you guys must have seen about 1000 of these reviews so I'll keep it short and sweet . Kestrel is a powerful General's daughter, the very same General who was in charge of leading the raid on Arin's home land that led to Arin loosing everything and becoming a slave. As a woman Kestrel is expected to marry or become a soldier in her father's army, but the only thing Kestrel really wants to do is play the piano. Then she buys Arin on a strange impulse once she hears he can sing and after a rocky start the two find in each other kindred spirits. Unfortunately this is not a happy love story and as tensions run high and a rebellion threatens to destroy everything Kestrel knows she must chose carefully and find a way to play the game without risking it all. The Winner's Curse was a very well written novel about two young people trying to cope in an impossible situation with growing feelings for each other that they both believe to be wrong. The writing in this novel was stunning and the world was very quickly built around our characters in a way that didn't feel like info dumping but also didn't leave you confused as to what was going on. It was all very precise and incredibly well done. However, don't be fooled, this is not a typical epic fantasy about the world, magic and struggles going on. This is very much the tale of two people caught in the centre of the storm trying to figure out how to make it out with their heads and hearts intact. Kestrel is an intelligent and determined young woman who wants nothing more than to be herself. She does not have the same bloodlust that her people pride themselves on and wants nothing to do with slavery or the military. She very much wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to the people she cares about, even though she likes to think of her self as someone who is good at bluffing in a game of Bite & Sting. Arin is a bit more of a mystery and explaining him to you might ruin your experience of reading the novel. I expected a bit more passion and a bit more denial through out the novel but even though the romance is slow burning it isn't denied, there just isn't time in the novel before all hell breaks loose and loyalties are tested. Overall, this is a very promising first novel in a series I'm sure I'm going to more
by Iona
There's so much about this book that is good and generates lots of feels! I really don't want to go into too many details because I'm so tempted to de-brief and release some spoilers. Things that were great... the world building. This world is not set in a specific time period and does not operate in the "real world". The care Rutkoski puts into building up a world with customs, traditions and various languages is intentional and done with precise care. There's are several scenes where the narration describes hidden nooks and crannies within the society where you can visualize the layout of a house, town, etc. The author's notes do reveal that inspiration is drawn from the periods of Rome and Grecian empires. You can see this in the availability of technology, currency/trade and clothing. The characters are pretty awesome too! From swoon-worthy to creepy they're all in there... Kestrel is a strong girl having been raised by her father and a slave caretaker. However, privileged life has left her without basic knowledge such as how to do laundry or sew. What she lacks in blue-collar skills she makes up for in brains, specifically war strategy and gambling, and musicianship. She's firm, strong-willed, but not careless. Measuring every move she makes, she's aware of the consequences and weighs the outcomes. Kestrel is a feminist protagonist dispelling the stereotypes of reckless decision making, stubbornness, and a romantic lush. She knows what is expected of her, how to barter and when to play the right card..err...tile. Arin is handsome, deliberate and basically has all the feels for Kestrel. I think it's funny that the synopsis places Kestrel as the dominate "liker", I definitely think Arin is more obvious in his affections. Arin is also a master in game playing. The beginnings of the "relationship" are more quid pro quo then slave-to-master in nature. Trading a win for a secret and then transitioning into larger odds as the camaraderie develops over time. Yay, no instant love! But, plenty of ahh's, ooo's and swoons. The secondary characters are likable and equally hate-able. Particularly the auctioneer. *shudders* I felt like he was trying to sell me a 1976 Pinto with no A/C in Texas. Creeper! I'm naming him the character I love to hate. Favorite secondary characters would be Ronin, who tries hard to win the affections of Kestrel, and Irex, Kestrel's gambling buddy who hates to lose. About 2/3 through the book I really felt like the storyline was a mix between Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas. However, I can't go into why that is so without giving too much away. The pacing is a bit choppy which periods of movement and then lulls. I expect this in book one of a series since so much is put into the world building, so its worth it to me. Overall, due to the game playing nature of the lead characters the story keeps you on your toes because you never know what truth will be revealed next. And is it the truth? Last but not least, the writing is quote worthy. I think I highlighted more quotes than I ever have before. I also enjoyed a straight narrative versus a point-of-view book. I feel like POV is the trend in YA series and I'm always left wanting more. I need a three-dimensional story versus waiting for a novella to pop up after the fact. (4.5/5)show more
by Meghann
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