The Winner's Curse was everything that I was hoping it would be. First of all, the audio narration was fantastic! I can always tell almost immediately whether I am going to enjoy a narration by how quickly I am able to connect w/ the characters and be drawn into the story. This was certainly one of those times that it worked. Justine Eyre brought that something extra to the story, it wasn't simply narrated, it was performed. Each character was immediately recognizable by tone and even accent, and the setting & atmosphere were beautifully expressed so that I felt completely immersed in this world.
Of course, Eyre's job was made much easier by Rutkoski's beautiful and expressive writing. From the very beginning, this fascinating world slowly came to life with all of it's political intrigues and society's unwritten rules. It almost felt like historical fiction in the way that the society was structured. It's always fascinating to read about how a conquered people and the conquering people attempt to coexist and the constant struggle for control.
I enjoyed that Kestrel was not a "perfect" heroine but felt genuine which made it that much easier to connect with her. I thought that most of the characters had depth and personality which was even more pronounced with the excellent audio narration. The building friendship between Kestrel and Arin was sometimes obvious but was still believable. I definitely enjoyed the slower pace of their relationship, how they came to understand and respect one another before exploring other emotions.
The slow pacing of The Winner's Curse never once caused me to lose interest, it just pulled me deeper into the story, allowing me to get a better understanding of the world and the people and their motivations. I am never happy with a cliffhanger ending but I have to say, this one didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book as will so often happen. I actually liked the way it ended BUT I am simply dying to read the next!
I would recommend The Winner's Curse to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy or historical fiction since it has elements of both but isn't entirely one or the other. I also very highly recommend this in audiobook format! I always say that when the right story has the right narrator, it is a special kind of magic, this is definitely one of those times.