The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

16069030Rating: 3 stars

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Most fantasy novels have magic or some type of supernatural creatures, so it was slightly disappointing to discover the only thing making it fantasy was the setting and cultures. It had a historical feel since the world lacked technology. The Valorians were similar to Ancient Romans since they never stopped trying to expand their empire. They believed themselves to be superior to other races, so they enslaved them when possible.

Kestrel was a Valorian, born to the general. There were high expectations for her since the general was one of the most respected citizens in the country. Women were required to either get married or join the military. Her father wanted her to follow in his footsteps and be a warrior, but she didn’t have the desire nor the physical skill. Kestrel didn’t have a deep desire to be married either.

The area Kestrel lived in had been Herrani territory. All of the Herrani people were slaves. They were not happy about their situation and were scheming to get their freedom and territory back. Kestrel didn’t view the Herrani people in the negative way most Valorians did. OTOH she didn’t truly understand their plight either.

Kestrel unexpectedly bought a slave named Arin. It was something she had never done before. They spent time together since he was often her escort. Kestrel and Arin slowly developed a relationship. They were essentially friends with deeper feelings neither of them were willing to admit. Their relationship was complicated. It was unacceptable for Valorians and Herrani to have any kind of personal relationship. They had other issues impeding the possibility of a relationship, but I can’t get into any of that without spoiling some major events.

I liked this, but it wasn’t anything special. The book was told from Kestrel and Arin’s POV, which made it easier to understand their feelings about what was going on in their society and for each other. There was much more to this than romance. Politics were involved, but it wasn’t dense or boring to read about. Not much was going on until the last third or so of the book. Then things took a drastic turn, and Kestrel and Arin were going to have to decide where their loyalties really lie. There was a cliffhanger at the end, and it is going to take the series in different direction. It did have potential, so I’ll read the next one.


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