Anyone who has ever spoken to me for any length of time is well aware that I adore The Winner’s Trilogy. It has quickly become one of my favourites.
Let's begin with a quick, spoiler free synopsis. The trilogy is set in a fictional world where Valoria, a ruthless and somewhat barbaric empire, conquers and enslaves the cultured and art-loving people of Herran. As a history nerd, I was thrilled to discover that this is based on the relationship between ancient Rome and Greece.
The protagonist, Kestrel, is a 17-year-old Valorian girl who purchases Arin, a Herrani slave. While this master-slave dynamic may seem problematic, it isn't because Marie uses it to explore how colonialism and power imbalances may affect relationships.
"The truth can deceive as well as a lie,"
- Marie Rutkoski
Kestrel and Arin are two of my favourite characters of all time, extremely complex and beautifully developed throughout the trilogy. If you enjoy strong female heroines- Kestrel, the daughter of a general, is no exception. While she is not especially talented at combat, her gift lies in battle strategy, the piano, and gambling. She is brilliant and cunning to the point where people fear her. It must be noted that is normal for Valorian women to enlist in the army, in fact, Kestrel’s father encourages her to. Arin is also extremely intelligent, but more emotionally driven. He is originally depicted as Kestrel's polar opposite but they find common ground and grow on each other as the book continues.
The writing is quite flowery, and while I personally enjoy that style, not everyone does. The pace is quite slow throughout the majority of the book, however, it speeds up a great deal and reaches a climax near the end, leaving the reader breathless and cursing Marie for the devastating cliffhanger. Something that I feel could be improved are the side characters - there are very few, and the plot of the book revolves almost exclusively around Kestrel and Arin.
Rascal Rating: 5 stars
Almas Khan is a fifteen year old artist, aspiring author, and avid consumer of dark chocolates. She lives in a small Canadian city where she spends most of her time with her nose in a book, battles the patriarchy, longs for a kitten, and does schoolwork. Find her on Tumblr and @itsalmaskhan.