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The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1)

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  35,139 Ratings  ·  5,827 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 355 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Kim I can't speak to the hype, but I can speak to the quality of the book. This is a very, very good YA fantasy. Superb world-building without…moreI can't speak to the hype, but I can speak to the quality of the book. This is a very, very good YA fantasy. Superb world-building without info-dumping. Well-rounded characters and a romance that allows for the hero and heroine to actually get to know one another. Clean, spare writing that at times, especially toward the end, rises to lyrical beauty. Intelligent---I can't emphasize that enough---intelligent plotting and strategy (an essential but often sadly underdeveloped element of any book involving politics). Interesting, thought-provoking nuances of slavery, empires, war, and freedom. And an end that allows for the complexity of the book's cultures and characters and, while setting up for a sequel, also works well as the finish to a standalone volume. Of course, the above may not be your sort of book, but I hope this answer has at least offered a little insight into what kind of book it is.(less)
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra ClareHeir of Fire by Sarah J. MaasThe One by Kiera CassThe Blood of Olympus by Rick RiordanCress by Marissa Meyer
2014 YA Must-Haves
26th out of 311 books — 702 voters
The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiThe Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. MaasPanic by Lauren OliverHalf Bad by Sally  GreenThe Shadow Prince by Bree Despain
March 2014 MG & YA Releases
1st out of 39 books — 72 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steph Sinclair
A year ago when I first heard about The Winner's Curse, it was during the Fierce Reads tour where I had an opportunity to interview a few MacKids authors, including Marie Rutkoski. It was a lot of fun and remains one of my favorite interviews I'd ever conducted. I really enjoyed The Shadow Society, Marie's YA debut novel, and loved her writing style, so I knew I'd be more than eager to check out any of her future works. I asked what she and the other authors where working on and she mentioned Th ...more
Kat O'Keeffe
Apr 05, 2015 Kat O'Keeffe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So glad I picked this one up! I loved the story--especially in the second half, when we started to delve more into politics and war strategies and larger scale conflicts. I also really enjoyed what we saw of the world building, though I do wish we got a little more depth there. The societies of this world are so interesting, I'm really looking forward to exploring that more in the future books. Characters were great, I loved the relationship and shifting dynamic between Kestrel and Arin, and I a ...more
Emily May
There comes, on occasion, those moments in the lives of readers when they find themselves putting a book down, pausing, looking around at all the glowing reviews and five star ratings, and asking themselves the question... did I read the same book?

When it comes to language, dialogue and general storytelling of small events in The Winner's Curse, it's obvious that you are in the hands of a competent writer with a talent for description and a nicely-spun phrase. But this book is so... tame. Wa
Dec 26, 2014 Regan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned-read
ooooooh this was gooooood
Oct 03, 2015 Navessa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Navessa by: Everyone

Very seldom do I give only a single star to books that I've read from cover to cover. Usually I reserve such a low rating for ones with such abominable writing, such shallow, one-dimensional characters, such poorly constructed plots, that I can't bear to finish them.

The writing in this is good. Sure, it's not the kind of prose that sweeps the reader up and transports them fully within the pages, but it gets the job done. The characters are not one-dimensional. In fact, throug
Khanh (the Grinch)
Actual rating: 3.5
“A kestrel is a hunting hawk.”
“Yes. The perfect name for a warrior girl.”
“Well.” His smile was slight, but it was there. “I suppose neither of us is the person we were believed we would become.”
The second half of this book was exceedingly better than the first. The first was plagued with a rather weak, insipid heroine, an asshat of a "slave" who, seriously, did not act like a fucking slave at all, more like the king of a castle. I disagree with slavery (no anyone
Wendy Darling
4.5 stars Love love love love love. If you're a fan of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy or Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars series, you need to get your hands on this one ASAP. It has the feel of a historical fantasy without slotting neatly into either category, as well as a pensive mood and very romantic story.

Full review on the blog, with a few quotes to give you a feel for the writing:

And we're giving away an amazing prize package (book!
Aug 22, 2015 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may not be a SOLID 5 stars, more like a 4.8, but it's SO CLOSE.
I had heard great things about this book, but not from a ton of people so it wasn't overhyped for me. I didn't really know anything going in and I think that was for the best.
Kestral and Arin are phenomenal characters and the story is really fantastic. It really shines in the second half when things are set in motion and we've got POLITICS and the like.
GAH just SO GOOD. I can't
Clau R.
Dec 31, 2015 Clau R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cover-love, 2015
Al inicio pensé que no me iba a gustar, pero ahora sé que quiero leer el siguiente libro. YA.

Review to come.
Jan 25, 2016 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
*4.5 stars*
Felt a slight disconnect with the main character, but otherwise I loved it!
Jul 13, 2015 Benjaminoftomes rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
really did not get into this at all.
:( I love the cover and formatting but the characters I found very distant
Mar 12, 2014 Mitch rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-just-no
Why do I feel like I just read something out of the Spartacus fanfiction reject pile?

To be perfectly honest, I thought I'd seen the very bottom of bad young adult historical fantasy. Not gonna name names, but even among such esteemed company, The Winner's Curse is a new low. However you want to measure it, plot, setting, character development, Marie Rutkoski's latest book fundamentally fails at being anything other than bland, shallow, cliched, and predictable. Maybe I'm being spoiled by fond me
Aug 17, 2015 Riley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, ya-fantasy
Wow this book exceeded my expectations! I am blown away. I loved Kestrel and Arin. I loved the strong political aspect of the book as well as the connection with music between the characters. Best book I've read so far this year
Jennifer Armentrout
AHHHHHHHH. All the feels. Seriously
Kat Kennedy
Mar 14, 2013 Kat Kennedy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't wait to review and share the absolute amazeballs that is this book!

Steph and I still sit on FaceTime and gush about a couple of the scenes over and over again.

"The God of Lies Loves You..."

I will say the book had a rather slow start but it was worth it for that ending! ... When you are left wondering who really is the bad and good guy, and you have no clue whose side you're on because you are so torn between the two main characters you know that the book was written to perfection. (as oddly as that whole sentence was and sounded)

I'm a huge fan of ya-romance-action novels and this wasn't a book that was dripping with romance, so I didn't truly know i
Ann Aguirre
Okay, so the story of how I read this book needs to be documented. I was on tour with Leigh Bardugo (and other Fierce Read authors), but it was Leigh who kept talking about The Winner's Curse when interviewers would ask us what book we just finished that was amazing. So I listened to this recommendation for a week, and by the time I got home, I was really worked up to read The Winner's Curse.

Since I'm a mature human being, I got on Twitter, and was like, "OMG MARIE RUTKOSKI, WHY DOES LEIGH HAVE
Whitney Atkinson
2.5 stars

I cannot put my finger on what didn't work in this book. The writing was enjoyable, but something about the plot or characters or I don't even know what just lost me. I wasn't necessarily bored, I just didn't care. It may have been because I listened to this on audio, but I could not connect to the story. The characters were meh, the plot was meh, and most of the book was just war plotting, which was so confusing because we got barely any backstory about the different kingdoms or whatev
Destini Mia~ ♕ Sassy Lassie

“Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”

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 n
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) and Netgalley.)

“The winner’s curse is when you come out on top of the bid, but only after paying a steep price.”

This is the second time I’ve read this, and I did like it slightly more this time.

Kestral was quite a hard character to really like, but she did have some clever ideas and cunning tricks to help people when help was needed. It seemed that even when ev
Rachel E. Carter
Update 3/9/15:

I changed my mind on this one. It is a 2.5 star book. Most of it was slow and boring and I did not get the romance. The writing was good and the plot made sense, it was just one of those books I was not invested in. I don't know if I will ever read the sequel.
Pearl Angeli
There are books that despite the high ratings and the enormous hype will never work out for you. This book is an example. I tried so hard to like it, but doing it only made me feel like I'm forcing myself in a relationship where I'm not happy and there's no spark and magic (what an analogy *laughs).

I had a very hard time liking The Winner's Curse. I found the world-building too tame, vague, and poorly executed. The characters are also underdeveloped. The whole book lacks magic. No questions abou
Jan 11, 2016 Clara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
** 4,5 amazing stars **

I absolutely loved this book ! And it took me completely by surprise because I was actually not expecting much about it since the synopsis never really appealed to me but I decided to let myself convinced by the hype around it and gave it a chance. And thank god I did, because I ended up freaking loving it !!

First, let’s talk about how amazing the characters were.
Kestrel was a fantastic female lead character. She was clever, fierce and brave. I loved how much of a strateg
Review also found at: https://theparanormalpaladin.wordpres...

I have no idea how to classify this. It’s YA, but not fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, steampunk, paranormal, or any of that. If anything, it’s like an alternate history. The people ride horses and carriages and have to send “letters” by hand to relay messages. They have ships and cannons and archers and knives. So it takes place in some generic past, I think? The females wear dresses sort of like the Regency period, I guess? They have bal
Kyla Harris
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Review posted at Ja čitam, a ti?

Tanja: At last! You've all heard and probably read this book by now but as you can see it took us some time to finally follow your steps. But here we are now. You know how they say, better late than never. Glass, would you like to start our discussion?

Glass: I have to admit that I got scared after reading few negative reviews last year, but also because of all hype that followed The Winner's Curse, so I decided to leave it on my TBR pile for a little bit longer. I
Jan 15, 2014 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five reasons you should preorder this book NOW and start counting down the days until it releases in March:

1) A girl buys a boy at a slave auction.

The first thing I heard about The Winner's Curse was that above statement, and it hooked me immediately. When I started reading, I was worried the story wouldn't be as compelling as its set up. Instead, it exceeded my expectations. If you love fantasy, intrigue, political maneuvering, romance, or good books in general, this one is for you.

Kestrel is
Laura Marcela ✎・:*:・
| 4.7 stars |


Oh, my gods.

Muy bien, ésta reseña va a ser un completo desastre, sólo quería decírselos desde ahora.

The Winner's Curse es la historia de un imperio el cual fue gobernado por los Valorian después de ser tomado de las manos de los Herran en una sangrienta y brutal batalla; luego de eso los Herran han sido tratado como esclavos y denigrados a inhumanos estados. Pero la verdadera historia empieza cuando Kestrel, una hermosa joven de 17 años está en el mercado con su mejor amiga Jess; la
Shannon (leaninglights)
4.5 stars

Original read: June 2014 (4 stars)
Reread: February 2016 (4.5 stars)

I liked it better the second time through. The pacing was an issue for me in the first one, but I didn't find that to be the case in this one. I was also able to appreciate the characters more and I just love Kestrel. She's an awesome and intelligent lady. Looking forward to rereading The Winner's Crime next!
Jan 03, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

4 1/2

“Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?”

Because 2016 is almost here, I decided to make my review in the style of one of my favourite things about this time of year.
Holiday cheer? No.
Snow? No (though I wouldn't mind it).
Gifts? Yes.

So what did this book give me? Let's unwrap the review.

Gift number 1: A new favourite female character.

Kestrel is a badass. That doesn't mean that she fights well, is good at killing or wants to be a soldier. Honestly, she is pr
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Marie Rutkoski is the author of the YA novel The Shadow Society and the children's fantasy series The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders, The Celestial Globe and The Jewel of the Kalderash. Her next project is a YA trilogy that begins with The Winner's Curse, which is scheduled to be published in March 2014.

Marie grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the olde
More about Marie Rutkoski...

Other Books in the Series

The Winner's Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)
  • The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)

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“Isn't that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?” 481 likes
“You don't, Kestrel, even though the god of lies loves you.” 210 likes
More quotes…