I had heard a ton about this series, and it was a daily deal on Kindle last week. I decided to finally give it a try, and I’m so glad I did!
Here’s the description 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.
Let me begin: this book is gorgeously written. Rutkoski’s descriptions are unique and imaginative, full of beautiful imagery that lifts you into the Valorian Empire, like so:
“But she knew her constellations, and the stars were as pure and bright as notes struck from high, white piano keys.”
–The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Seriously, it’s rare that I find a book where I fall in love based on language alone, but this is one of them.
The characters only improved my impressions of Rutkoski and this series. Kestrel is uniquely strong- despite the militance of her society, her strength (and inclination) is for strategy, not violence. Despite her physical strength, she displays a strength of mind and spirit that inspires as you read it. Arin is delightfully complicated (really, they both are, it’s so fun puzzling them out) and so, so strong. I was really glad to find that their relationship was not insta-love, by any stretch, but they are drawn together very quickly because they are so similar in strategy and loyalties. I was so happy to find that they are actually well-suited, as a large portion of this book (and an extremely large part of its sequel, The Winner’s Crime) revolve around their relationship.
The world is so beautiful and unique as well! Valorian and Herrani culture are both really well developed, with cunning, subtle callbacks to ancient Rome and Greece, which I personally love. The politics are so complex and intriguing, and Rutkoski causes them to conflict with personal loyalties so cleverly- it’s a very accurate narrative, I think, of how the events of the plot (which are major spoilers, sorry) affect people on a deeply personal level. Honestly, the entire plot is clever and surprising. It kept me on the edge of my seat.
Overall: Infinity Stars! This definitely goes among my top books because it’s so unique and the characters are so compelling.
Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself in these quotes:
“Arin wondered if she would lift her eyes, but wasn’t worried he would be seen in the garden’s shadows.
He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.”
“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”
“Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not.”
“How much easier everything would be if that were so. But Kestrel wouldn’t let herself consider the truth. She didn’t want to know its shape or see its face.”
“She saw, yet again, that her friend’s compliments were just bits of art and artifice. They were paper swans, cunningly folded so that they could float on the air for a few moments. Nothing more.”
–The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
I’ve already finished The Winner’s Crime, which I will review shortly! Lady Midnight is proving to be fantastic, so expect a review of that soon too!
Has anyone read this series? Thoughts?