The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
They were never meant to be together. As a general's daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can't help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other.
Set in a new world, The Winner's Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

 

I used to adore fantasy novels set in worlds like this one, but this is the first I've been able to really get into in a while. Though romance is what drives this book, the characters are very convincing and intriguing.

 

This book is set in a historical age where two houses seem to have been warring for a while. The Valorians overthrew the Herrani about ten years ago, but kept the Herrani as slaves. I found the houses to be intriguing--more so the Valorians who had a rather distinct personality and a lot of pride.

 

The beginning felt a little plotted, but later we see how it actually was plotted and as such became forgivable. There were quite a few intricacies working together under the plot, and I enjoyed how this wasn't a simple romance with a girl falling for her slave, but instead was much more complex.

 

I was a little confused as to how the city fit into the empire as this could raise a few plot holes in regards to the ending--I'd have liked to see more world building as the houses themselves were so fascinating.

 

I ship Arin and Kestrel so so hard, but it was quite apparent that no relationship could form easily between them. I admire the author for keeping this book plot oriented and not letting romance make it unbelievable.

 

It was also great that Kestrel was expected to be a soldier. I mean, what? She's not supposed to be a princess? Brilliant! Though I do love my fantasy books where girls disguise themselves as boys to train as knights, it was very refreshing to see a society where gender is irrelevant.

 

I feel like reading the second might hurt my soul as the final book hasn't been released yet, but there's no way I'm waiting to see what happens next!