Author: Marie Rutkoski
The Winner’s Curse
The Winner’s Crime
The Winner’s Kiss (Expected Pub: 2016)
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Kestrel is the daughter of the general of the Valorian army, who serves the Emperor. She has two choices when she comes of age: marry or enlist. Her father wants nothing more than for her to serve Emperor and country when she turns 20, following in his footsteps. However, Kestrel (unlike many Young Adult heroines) is not a fighter. She’s easily physically outmatched, but she’s a strategically fierce competitor. This battle of minds and her love for music and ability to see truth serves her well, and is what draws Arin to her.
Arin is Herrani. The Herrani were defeated by the Valorians some years ago and now serve the Valorian society as slaves. For reasons she can’t decipher at the time, Kestrel purchases Arin at a slave auction. Arin isn’t a very “good” slave. He’s defiant and a risk-taker. He’s a slave with strategies and secrets of his own.
The first book of the Winner’s Trilogy–The Winner’s Curse—is mostly romance. Kestrel and Arin’s relationship seems doomed from the beginning. How could it be anything other than secret? I appreciate the nature of their relationship. Though there’s an immediate attraction, the relationship is slowly won, as stereotypes and prejudices are broken down. As the story unfolds and Arin’s secrets are revealed, their relationship becomes even more complicated. Both must choose between freedom and family, patriotism and love.
One thing I didn’t like about Winner’s Curse is there’s not a bigger picture of the war-torn world Kestrel and Arin live in. We know that the Valorians rule and the Herrani have never been a threat to that new rule. That’s why the cliffhanger at the end of the book is an important progression in the story—an introduction to the new setting and antagonist of the next book, The Winner’s Crime.
The Winner’s Crime is not like its predecessor—it’s better. It’s much less romance and almost completely suspense and intrigue. The world and war broadens into new territories, and nothing is easy for Kestrel or Arin. It’s almost impossible to see a “happily-ever-after” for them. Between looming threats, secret identities, miscommunication, and their own pride, these two can’t catch a break. And although there is less romance, there is still a lot of angst and wondering if these two will ever get a moment, let alone a lifetime together. I don’t want to say any more as to not give anything away, but the ending to Winner’s Crime makes me so sad to wait another year for the conclusion!!
Would I let my teen read this series?
The Winner’s Trilogy is great Young Adult fantasy. It’s well written with a unique story, has a strong, smart protagonist, and it’s mostly clean. I definitely recommend this series for your teen.
Age recommendation: 14
Sex – Several kisses
Violence – Some sword and knife fighting and deaths; mention of beatings and a slave being punished by getting ears and nose cut off.
My Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Buy: A Winner's Curse on Amazon.com
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.