Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love…

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

4.5/5 Stars

Since I flew through The Winner’s Trilogy in a few days time, I decided to do a review of the entire series for everyone. Don’t worry, no spoilers here! Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, The Winner’s Curse, The Winner’s Crime, and The Winner’s Kiss make up this trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. Full of riveting emotion and painful realities, Kestrel and Arin’s journey through this trilogy is an edge of your seat roller-coaster ride.

Let me start by saying that I went into this series knowing very little about it. I had purchased The Winner’s Curse at my library book sale a year or two back and finally picked it up for the #RockMyTBR challenge. I had heard such good things about the series but it was nothing like what I was expecting and that is entirely for the better. Rutkoski crafts an excellent tale with brilliant worldbuilding, gripping narrative, and intense characters that pulled me in right from the start.

The world of The Winner’s Trilogy is what decidedly pulled me into this story. I was captivated by the depiction of this vast empire. Valoria, a nation built on military might, has already conquered Herran and enslaved its people, but now seeks control of Dacra further east. I loved the contrast between the Valorians who either marry or fight and the Herrani who hold the arts and life in such high regard. Rutkoski pulled from history bits and pieces of the empires we study in school and provided such a wonderful commentary on colonialism, oppression, and barbarism.

Another excellent part of these books was the political intrigue, strategy, and power struggle happening within this empire and its major players. There was a move and counter move for each occasion and the use of the mind was intense and well thought out. I love how the game Bite and Sting took such a prominent role in how the characters connected, made their decisions, and really represented the bigger picture.

Let’s not forget the characters though who truly were the heart of this story and why I became so invested with the outcome. Kestrel has a brilliant mind for strategy that far outweighs her talent with weapons and a passion for music which makes her relationship with her father, General Trajan, even more difficult. Arin has his past constantly weighing down on him as he tries to bring about a new world. The bond formed between these two is at moments tentative and then at others crushing with such a deep understanding of each other.

Even the side characters added such depth to the narrative. The impact of General Trajan’s absence from his daughter while he’s at war and his insistence that she join the military weighs heavy on Kestrel’s heart. The introduction of Roshar who is dealing with his own monsters adds some much needed humor but also a friend and confidant for Arin. Even the Emperor, Verek, Risha, and the rest play important roles. I mean what’s a game without pieces to move around, right?

Overall I absolutely loved The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski! It was a whirlwind of emotion, passion and pain fused together to create an intense story of war, empire, and survival. Each book got progressively better, building on the story and characters to come to an extremely satisfying conclusion. I would definitely recommend these books to anyone and don’t be fooled by those pretty dresses on the cover. War’s a dark and bloody business after all…

So, have you read The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski? Still waiting to get your hands on The Winner’s Kiss? Was anyone surprised by the intensity and depth of this series? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!


4 thoughts on “Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

  1. I must say this trilogy never really intrigued me that much, but I’m a sucker for world building and now I WANT TO KNOW MORE. I love series reviews, especially when I know nothing about them. Keep it up! 🙂


    • I figured since I read them in such quick succession, it was the perfect time for a series review. And yeah I’d never really thought much of these books before I actually picked them up. I’m glad I did though!


  2. YESSS I LOVED IT SO MUCH I COULD CRY WITH LOVE BASICALLY. *shrieks* I just read The Winner’s Kiss and I couldn’t be happier. :’) I get so freake din finales?! But it didn’t let me down at all. And Roshar might just be my most favourite thing in existence hehe. And I also adore how political it was! Like so many books just focus on the protagonist’s own private quest/goal, whatever, but I loooved how this did the politics of the entire empire. IT WAS EXCITING AND UNIQUE AND AFJDKAD I LOVED.
    Okay okay I’ll stop fangirling now. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fangirl away!!!! From not expecting much to falling head over heels in love with this series was quite the feat. Everything about the finale felt right and Roshar just kept getting better and better. All the love for these!


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