by Marie Rutkowski
The Winner's Trilogy, book one
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. (Description from goodreads.com)
I have to admit something pretty funny about my reading experience with this book...so, I was a history major in college, back before going to get my Master's in Library Science. I read this book convinced that this was some foreign world/dystopia like story, and I really liked it. It's easily readable and has a compelling storyline. Imagine my chagrin when I read the author's note at the end and realized...wait for it... this is actually historical fiction!!
Yup. I totally missed all the cues that let readers know that this story is set in a fictional version of the ancient world when the Romans and Greeks were vying for power in the Mediterranean. As soon as I read that it clicked in my brain and I went, "Duh." LOL. Now, I have even more admiration for Rutkowski's story because it really made such a foreign time and place come to life in a relatable way.
While both Kestrel and Arin have to deal with slavery, war, and prejudice, they are still characters that I could find I had things in common with, characters that I desperately wanted to root for as they faced adversity and struggled to stay with each other. I liked how their relationship grew in fits and starts, rather than in insta-love. It felt very realistic. Knowing the tough decision that Kestrel had to make at the book's conclusion, I cannot wait to see how things progress in book two!
Full disclosure: Borrowed from my local Library