Book Talk: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski





book synopsis

The Winner’s Curse is set in completely fictional world where a people called the Valorians conquered the Herrani people who lived there before. They took over their land and turned them into slaves. Kestral, the daughter of a military general, lives a life of great wealth but her only two options as she becomes of age are to be married or enter the military — two things that aren’t exactly what she wants. As she and her friend Jess are out in the market one day she sees an auction taking place for a Herrani boy about her age who seems pretty defiant but Kestral impulsively decides to buy him as soon as the auctioneer says he can sing. As they begin to get to know each other more, Kestral begins to know her feelings for him aren’t something that society will be okay with. In those moments they share, she feels something that ignites her but she has no idea the secrets that lies behind Arin’s  eyes.

good books to read

I finally read The Winner’s Curse — perhaps one of the most talked about books of the season and I have to say, as soon as I closed this book, I had this insatiable need for the next installment. If you like stories where you get lost in the world, The Winner’s Curse will take you far, far away. It took me a little bit to get into, it’s a pretty slow build of the world and characters to start, but the storytelling will just dazzle you when you get into it.

1. OH MY HEART. This romance. The romantical element in Winner’s Curse was brilliant and refreshing. I have always loved forbidden romance type stories but they really need to have some real depth in them and consequences I can feel. This isn’t some predictable kind of love story but this forbidden slow dance that just leaves you breathless and your heart pounding especially at the end. It’s not simple or easy or even really a “romance” but more of these forbidden feelings that are just starting to really be explored before the SHIT HITS THE FAN. Arin is her slave, she bought him herself, but she feels something for him and she experiences these consequences on a small scale as rumors fly about them. I could feel this tension and I loved the slow burn feel to their story. It wasn’t an immediate sort of thing but these great small, scattered moments that were carefully weighed between the two of them. It become even more tense as the reader learns about Arin’s secrets & feelings.  Aching, aching, aching <—— my heart.

2. The writing & storytelling was PERFECTION. I don’t have much to say about it but that. It’s just perfection. Everything is written so brilliantly. And while, initially it took me about 50 pages to really get into it, the way the story is told it’s just so hard not to be absorbed into this new world and its political structure, the character and the romance. And the plot just moved along at a great pace that kept me engaged and at times on the edge of my seat. Marie Rutkoski knows how to tell a good story!

3. Kestral is a fantastic heroine that really stood out to me: So many heroines I read these days are always so much of the ass-kicking variety (which I LOVE) but Kestral was admittedly an awful fighter. But Kestral is SMART. Very strategic and cunning and curious. I also love that she wasn’t really focused on romance but her curiosity is more what initiated her attraction to Arin. There was something in him that she sensed and she wanted to know. I think it’s because they both had this rebellious sort of kindred spirit thing going on but I equally loved Kestral and Arin and who they were and what they fought for.

4. HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTS! This action got quite intense: The story starts a bit slow but like a good chess game the pieces are being moved in a subtle manner until SHIT HAPPENS and oh does it happen. I was gasping for breath when I realized what was going on and what it meant for our heroine and the story and then the action just kept coming at me and was relentless until the very emotional ending. I felt like an emotional piñata — the story just kept beating the hell out of me as all my emotions and FEELS (anger, sadness, shock, betrayal, triumph) exploded out. I was left empty and broken by the end and DYING for book 2 which I think is going to be even thrilling and exciting and political and things between Arin and Kestral will be even more tense.

5. It made me think differently of fantasy as a fantasy newb: As someone who is new to the fantasy genre I was pretty limited in my knowledge to what fantasy was. I was wondering WHERE ARE IS ALL THE MAGIC AND DRAGONS AND THINGS. I saw the completely made up world but I thought fantasy = fantastical elements always but alas after some googling, because I was curious why this had the label of fantasy,  I was schooled on what fantasy is.


book reviewsThe Winner’s Curse is a book that really just has it all — great storytelling, absorbing writing, compelling characters, action, a political structure with much depth and a romance that isn’t predictable or flimsy. It’s a book that has this fantasy newb head over heels and anxious for the next installment because my EMOTIONS are a hot mess over that ending and I’m frazzled all my the various tensions (political, romance, etc). Somebody get me a margarita, stat!



short book reviewThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski


Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?

The Perpetual Page-Turner


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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I am so glad you enjoyed this one! I totally agree that I’d love the next book immediately. The writing and the setting were my favorite parts, but I loved all of it. I need to hurry up and buy the hardcover of this one.

  2. YES!!!!!!!! Now go read The Demon King! =D

  3. I want to read this!!

  4. I’m reading it now 🙂 Still trying to get through the first section, waiting for the “Oh…Gasp!” part…I’m sure it’s coming soon! Thanks for sharing xoxo
    Book Hangovers Blabs Books

  5. YES! I’m so glad you loved it! I got an eARC of this one but I just HAD to buy a hardcover. I might just reread it. This is one of the best YA high fantasies I’ve ever read.

    • The cover is BEAUTIFUL!! Okay so random question being a fantasy newb and all. You say “high fantasy”..what makes something a high fantasy vs a regular fantasy? *feels dumb*

  6. Planning to read this one come summer. Cannot wait.

    • Hope you end up enjoying it! Plus it might be nice to read it while all the hype dies down!

      • Good point – I was drawn to it by its pretty cover then someone I trust recommended it so naturally I bought it at B&N and will definitely read it over these next few months. Sounds like a great YA book! Thanks, Jamie.

  7. Yay! I’m so glad you loved this book too! AND if you go to the series website you can play Bite and Sting! (And unlock a video snippet of Marie reading from the first book.)

  8. This book is SO good. I can’t wait to read the second one!

  9. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year so far. I love the characters, the writing and world building 🙂

  10. I haven’t read this yet, which is a bit surprising since I was obsessing about it last year. I think I’ll be saving for the summer though, when school is out of the way haha!

    I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Your reviews are so much fun to read, as always!

    • Haha I do that a lot with books…am OBSESSED and then take forever to read them. Bookish ADD I tell you!

      And thank you! <3

  11. now i want to read this.

  12. Doing a little happy dance that you read and loved a fantasy book!

  13. This just made to want to read it even more! I can’t wait to get my hands on it. 🙂

  14. I’m happy that you wound up enjoying The Winner’s Curse! I liked it, but it wasn’t my most favorite fantasy novel ever. There are great elements, and I’m hoping that book two draws me in even more.


    I felt like such a moron waiting for THE MAGIC TO HAPPEN. And then it was done and there was no magic. UGH. haha. It made me think a lot about how I perceive fantasy. I was blabbing to this about my coworker for awhile (she reads a lot of fantasy & bought WTC bc I told her about it) so I think if I had gone into it (I didn’t read many reviews just saw a lot of 5-start ratings) not expecting dragons as you put it… maybe I would have gotten into it faster. I kept waiting for the magical shoe to drop. haha.

    But all in all, I’m so glad I read this and would certainly feel comfortable picking up more fantasy if it was like this.