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I find that when reading a novel, it is very easy to become complacent. Even the best of written text can grind you into a rhythmic lull – you need not actively think, but you can allow yourself to wander with the novel. This was not the case with The Winners Curse; the first book in the Winner’s Trilogy, by Marie Rutkoski.
The Winner’s Curse tells the tales of Kestrel, the general’s daughter, and Arin, a beautiful young slave bought by her. They live in a society that demands that everyone must enlist in the military, or, if you’re a female, get married. Kestrel does not wish to do either, despite having many eligible, and not-very-eligible bachelors up for the asking. Arin is the one she wants, and she can’t have him.
Arin, however, has his own secrets, of treachery toward his masters, and plans to gain freedom for his people, the Herrani. It’s a thrilling, fast-paced read that leaves you breathless, but admittedly, slightly confused at the complexity. You cannot relax while reading The Winner’s Curse, you need to be thinking of the different relationships, status changes of the characters and ideas that are presented, so unlike the New Zealand culture. Rutkoski herself said that she based the book off the Greco-Roman period ‘after Rome had conquered Greece and enslaved its population’, which is indeed what happens in this thrilling novel.
Despite being a slightly challenging read, it flowed brilliantly, and all presented ideas were clear and logical. It was a simply stunning read, and I am very excited to read the next two installments.
All in all, The Winner’s Curse is a wonderful read and is well worth challenging your mind with. However, if I had to fault something, it would have to be the confusing nature of the final scenes – read it, and see what I mean.
Despite that, I am proud to call myself a fan of the Winner’s Trilogy.
Reviewed by Jessica Rayner
Supplied as part of the Allen & Unwin Ambassador Programme
The Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing