Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Posted June 30, 2017 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Coyer, Reviews / 16 Comments

Today I’m doing bite-sized reviews of The Winner’s Trilogy. I know I’m late to the game with this series, but it’s nice to catch up a little. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!

Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 4th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 355
Source: My Secret Sister!
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
My rating:
5 Stars

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.


The first book in this series had me hooked from the very beginning! I was incredibly invested in Arin’s and Kestrel’s stories and I loved the themes of war and slavery. This is one of those stories that puts gray morality front and center because Kestrel’s people have enslaved Arin’s. Is it even possible for Arin to feel something for the woman who owns him? And, even if they both feel something romantic, is it just plain wrong? If Arin’s people to fight back, whose side will Kestrel eventually end up on? Can she turn her back on her own people for him? Should she? All of these questions and more were presented, and I loved every single minute of the ride!

I give this one 5/5 Stars.

Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
My rating:
4 Stars

Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.


While I still loved book two in the series, I did feel like it suffered just the tiniest bit from middle book syndrome. The focus of this second installment was much more on war and politics than the romance, and I’ll confess that I missed the interactions between Arin and Kestrel. Also, the pacing felt a little bit slow in places to me. But having said all that, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I felt for Kestrel as she desperately tried to maneuver her way through all the political machinations and keep herself from becoming an unwilling pawn in a war she wanted no part in. Once again, Kestrel was faced with many nearly impossible moral decisions and her loyalties were repeatedly tested. The last quarter of the book was extremely exciting and I was left feeling eager to read the third!

I gave this book 4/5 Stars.

Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #3
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on March 29th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 484
Source: Purchased
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it isn't shown; Violence)
My rating:
4 Stars

Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?


What a stunning finale! This book gave us back the connection between Arin and Kestrel, which was the element I’d been missing in book two, but things are very different between these two due to something that I won’t mention without a spoiler tag (though you learn it relatively early on in the book). View Spoiler » Kestrel’s struggles in this book are heartbreaking, and the war itself is kicked up about a thousand notches in this book. I adored watching Arin and Kestrel find their way back to each other and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen to Arin’s people when everything was said and done. Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning that I loved the comic relief that Roshar lent to the book!

There were only two slight issues that kept me from rating this book 5 stars: First, I felt like that spoiler I mentioned above went on for just a little too long, and it started to feel a bit like a plot device to me. And second (and this is totally just a personal preference), the actual plotting and fighting of battles is typically my least favorite part of this type of book, and this installment had lots of that—though it’s saying something that Rutkoski managed to keep my attention 90% of the time!

In the end, I was very satisfied with this conclusion, and I gave the final book 4/5 Stars.


Overall, I’d say the trilogy gets 4.5/5 stars from me because it gave everything I could ask for in this type of non-magical fantasy. So glad I caught up with the rest of the world on this one!



16 responses to “Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

  1. AHA THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SERIES EVER SO I AM SO GLAD TO HEAR YOU ENJOYED IT! I loved the writing and characters, especially the political intrigue and I often feel so sad because of how underhyped it is but I’m glad to see you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for sharing! <3

  2. It’s cool, it’s better to be late to a series than skip it altogether. And really, this is a series I kind of wished I had got to late so I could binge read all the books together. I loved the dynamic between Kestrel and Arin, that really drove me when reading. The thing I loved most, though, was how Kestrel was this strong woman who was part of a society where strength is prided yet she, instead, uses her brain in battle as she is not the most adept at fighting. I did worry what would happen with Arin’s people in this. They got the short end of the stick and I was really cheering for them. I really want to reread this series now. It’s been too long.

  3. I’m so happy you loved this series as much as I did. Personally I felt like the books got better as we progressed but that may be because I’m fascinated by the whole political manipulations and strategic maneuvering. With the plot twist in the third book I felt like that actually helped with Kestrel’s character arc and gave us a rounded character. We saw more of her vulnerability but that didn’t take away from her intelligence. The romance killed me in this series. Kestrel and Arin went through so much and they deserved their happy ending.

  4. This trilogy is so high on my TBR. And all three books are on my shelf just ready and waiting for me. I feel like I see nothing but rave reviews. I can’t wait to finally pick it up and meet Kestrel and Arin!

  5. I only read the first book because I’m not fond of characters who aren’t that bright and yet the author keeps telling us they are so so smart. Kestrel went about openly flaunting her illicit relationship, endangering herself and her lover. And she her slave publicly scold her as if that wouldn’t draw attention to her. It just wasn’t believable.

  6. I have the first book in this series and I always wondered if it was worth it to get involved in this world. Looks like it is! Maybe I can start reading this summer. We shall see.

    BTW, something is up with commenting on your site. It’s very slow for me to type and leave comments here. Like I just typed those two sentences and I had to wait for them to appear in the comment box slowly. Very weird.

  7. This is yet another series I simply MUST read. Soon. I’m so glad to see your glowing review, Nicole. Makes me even *more* excited to pick this one up and discover its epic story and characters. 🙂

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