Kestrel is the daughter of the wealthy general in the empire known as Valoria. One day, at a public auction on a whim, she purchases a Herrani slave named Arin. As they get to know each other, they slowly realize that neither is what they seem, and the world they live in is about to drastically change.
Strong heroines are currently at the forefront of young adult fiction: Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior, and now, Kestrel Trajan. Kestrel doesn’t want to be the typical Valorian: being forced to either get married or join the military, going to numerous social gatherings, and looking at the Herrani slaves as just that, slaves. Arin isn’t your typical Herrani slave: obedient, submissive, and quick to obey commands, regardless of what they are. When these two find each other, they realize that their worlds aren’t nearly as different as many would like them to believe. Kestrel and Arin will do anything for those they love, and fight for what they believe in. Their relationship slowly evolves over the course of not only this book, but the entire series. It’s a slow burn that will have you wanting more. The first in a series, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski leaves you wanting more, seeing if Kestrel’s choices are the right ones in a war that’s just beginning. A rarity in not only the young adult genre, but literature in general, the books only get better as the series goes on. Marie Rutkoski does the impossible of making the third and final book in the Winner’s Trilogy well worth your wait.