The Winner's Curse is a very interesting look at war and strategy. I have read several reviews that list this as a romance - but I saw it as more of a fantasy novel about revolution, compromise, and war. Kestral is the daughter of the general and many expect her to follow in her father's footsteps, becoming a great soldier and leader. But Kestral has a secret - she can't fight. While she is excellent at strategy, she has never been able to grasp the fine art of physical combat.
Arin is a slave. He is Herrani, one of the people captured by the empire and forced to choose death or slavery. But he is more than just an ordinary slave. When Kestral purchases him she discovers that he is intelligent and sly. As her strategic mind begins to put the pieces together, she isn't quite fast enough. Disaster strikes Kestral's people and while she may be the only chance they have of survival, she is also the reason it succeeded.
I think I loved the mental sparring in this book the best. It was very political, with moves and counter-moves throughout society and on the field of war to be analyzed with fast minds that could make quick decisions. Is there a romance? Sort of. It certainly isn't one that I would want to be a part of, but it is incredibly important to the story. There was not a lot of physical action or conflict until after the half way point of the book, but the author managed to create a lot of tension without it.
I found this book very hard to put down. There were a few small things that bothered me about Arin and the way he reacted and accomplished things - especially when it came to Kestral. I'm definitely going to be watching for the next book. While the story didn't exactly end in a cliffhanger, you can tell there is much more to come and I'm hoping some things aren't exactly as they seem.
*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*