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.
Kestrel is the general's daughter and she definitely inherited his strategic mind! She doesn't however have the stomach for bloodshed and so is trying to avoid joining the army. Arin was a pretty interesting character, especially opposite Kestrel. From the other side of the social world, he's Herrani, one of the conquered people and so has been sold into slavery. But not all is at it seems and it turns out Arin also has a pretty clever mind and is part of the underground revolution.
While I did really like the story and the characters, I didn't believe Kestrel and Arin's love. I'm not sure what it was, I just didn't see them together. There was a great world set up, with social difficulties and class systems, and a lovely slow build up that let you explore the characters motivations, but the romance was meh.
Lady Kestrel's engagement to Valoria's crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust ...
While Arin fights to keep his country's freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.
Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner's trilogy.
In book two, there are lots more secrets and political moves, as well as more detail about the development of the world and the war. There was also a different dynamic between Kestrel and Arin, as they have been forced apart.
Both Kestrel and Arin are confused over how things have ended up - even though Kestrel chose to save Arin at the end of the first book, she did it through lying and manipulation. Plus she didn't actually tell Arin her plan so he thinks she has rejected him! Seriously, the lengths Kestrel goes to in order to protect him, even though it hurts him, is frustrating and sweet.
There was also added drama and intrigue with Kestrel's new place in the palace; getting to know the prince and the emperor up close with a little bit terrifying! The emperor really lived up to his reputation of being manipulative and scary!