Choices for Valorian women are limited. Kestrel can join the military, as her father the general has planned for Kestrel since her childhood, or she can marry. No one would ever guess the path Kestrel truly wants to take. No one could imagine another choice in an empire that glorifies war and enslaves all it conquers.
Kestrel shouldn’t have been tempted at the slave auction. Certainly not by a defiant slave whose every move broadcast contempt and disdain for his surroundings. Even knowing she will pay too much–knowing it will set off a series of disasters even Kestrel can’t fully predict–she buys the slave.
At first Kestrel is too busy hiding her own activities to think much of the new slave. But Arin has his secrets too. As Arin and Kestrel circle each other they will embark on a journey together that will change both them and their countries forever in The Winner’s Curse (2014) by Marie Rutkoski.
The Winner’s Curse is the first book in Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy.
Rutkoski has created a vibrant world with a heroine who is shrewd and pragmatic even as she makes terrible decisions. Kestrel is a brilliant strategist–a skill that shows throughout the novel as she negotiates various obstacles throughout the story.
Secrets and lies are key to both Kestrel and Arin’s characters, creating a story that is as much about what is said as it is about subtext. This novel is brimming with non-verbal communication and other subtle cues that Rutkoski expertly manipulates as a story of love and other–somewhat darker–matters slowly unfolds.
With a fully-realized world and vibrant, flawed characters there is a lot to absorb in The Winner’s Curse. Readers will be rewarded with several surprising revelations and a story that manages to succeed both as a standalone story and as the launching point for a stunning trilogy.
Grounded in the Ancient Roman Empire’s practice of enslaving conquered peoples and all of the ramifications therein, The Winner’s Curse is a rich, meditative story on what freedom truly means and the efforts some will take to procure it. Highly recommended for everyone but especially fans of historical fiction and/or Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series.
Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, A Wizard of Earth Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, And I Darken by Kiersten White
There is also a related short story about Arin up at Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/01/bridge-of-snow-marie-rutkoski
(My schedule is weird this week because of my super awesome interview with Marie Rutkoski which is why this Chick Lit Wednesday review is posting on a Thursday!)
You can also enter my giveaway for the book. Details here: http://wp.me/p6kfM-3dU