I had mixed feelings towards this book. Sure it had a lot of things I loved, but it lacked a "wow" factor that would've blew my mind away. But still, this book also had a lot of potential, and I think it's a terrific series starter, and promises epic things that can happen in the sequels.
I really liked the world building of the book. There was a stable backstory for both societies - the rulers and the enslaved - with importance given to both of their culture. I liked the fact that these had a hint of my own culture - the Valorians ate by hand and were known for their spices and the Herrani gave importance to ancient literature, and called their mother "Amma" which has the same meaning in my language as well ( Which was a pleasant surprise) I didn't know whether it was intentional or not, but I still enjoyed the rich culture portrayed in The Winner's Curse all the same!
Kestrel was really refreshing as a high fantasy heroine. Not that I don't like the kick ass ones who knows how to wield a sword or kill a man with her bare hands, but I found Kestrel realistic and was able to connect to her. Kestrel was horrible at fighting - and no, she doesn't get any better by the end either. Rather she was a character who had a sharp mind and won fights through wits not weapons. She was a great observer, and had great tact when it comes to lies, deception and outer appearance.
“The god of lies must love you, you see things so clearly.”
It had unfurled.
If her heart were truly a scroll, she could burn it.
It would become a tunnel of flame, a handful of ash.
The secrets she had written inside herself would be gone. No one would know”
For a moment, he imagine it wasn't the melody that touched his lips, but Kestrel.”