The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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




Kestrel is the Valorian daughter of a general in a land that was conquered by her peoples while she was young. Her love of music is disfavoured by society, though she practices at night in secret. Kestrel is also an amazing strategist and routinely bests her peers in games of strategy. In her society women are given a choice that they must make before their 20th birthday: marry or enlist in the military. Kestrel wants neither of these options, but she is running out of options.

One day she makes an impulse purchase – a Herrani blacksmith named Arin. Arin and Kestrel seem to have much in common. As they grow closer, everything about Arin may not be as it appears. Arin is a skilled strategist, and despite his position, will befriend Kestrel.

“Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”

This begins an epic slow-burn romance. Kestrel and Arin are obviously enemies. The conqueror and the conquered, but despite everything, they have similar values and interests. They grown closer and have an unlikely friendship that blossoms into the beginnings of romance. Seriously, the whole enemies-to-lovers thing was VERY solidly done.

The world building is interesting, and the writing is solid. There was a lot of feelings and I loved every moment. This was probably the best YA fantasy that I had never heard of before now.

Recommended for:

Dark, brutal retellings of fairytales, slow-burn romance


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