Being the daughter of the richest man in the world, Kestrel can get whatever she wants. So, when she’s visiting the market, looking for jewels, and spots a slave that can sing, she jumps at the chance to own him. See, in Valoria, Kestrel’s country, not many people appreciate the art of music. They like war, fighting, and being the best. But Kestrel loves to play music. Her father, the general, does not love that she loves music. He wants her to love war strategy an fighting (neither of which she is actually good at). Going back to the whole war thing, once upon a time, Valoria was the second best. This is not a good thing if you want to be the best. So Valoria decided to take the next logical course of action; enslave and conquer Herran, the country better than them. Herran was a peaceful, art loving country, until they were conquered. The slave Kestrel bought, the singer (who is also a blacksmith), is, as you have probably already realized Herrani. But the slave, named Arin, is no ordinary Herrani, he’s a spy, for the many Herrani who dislike being enslaved, and Kestrel has just unwittingly brought him into the army general’s home. To make matters worse for Kestrel and the Valorians, Kestrel and Arin start to become friends, and both realize that there is more to the other race of humans than imagined. But, as you have probably guessed, ‘friends’ doesn’t cut it, because soon they are something more. Now don’t be judging this book on the romance-y falling in love bit, because I cannot emphasize enough that The Winner’s Curse is not a romance novel. There is a huge difference between a romance novel and a novel with romance. Admittedly, before being persuaded to pick this book up, I was skeptical on the whole romance element, and a bit worried that it might spoil an otherwise brilliant YA fantasy. But I assure you, it does not! Because honest to goodness. Kestrel cares a lot more about her country and it’s best interest more than she cares about a man (she’s very much a feminist). Also, in case you needed another reason to pick up this great book, after you’ve read and enjoyed it, log onto Marie Rutkoski’s website (here’s the link http://thewinnerstrilogy.com/ ) to actually play Kestrel and Arin’s favorite game, Bite and Sting (it’s actually surprising a very addicting and fun game).