Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Curse #3)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy (Sans Fantasy)
Source: Bloomsbury

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?
Review by Nara

The Winner's Kiss is the conclusion to The Winner's Curse trilogy, and in my opinion, it is most definitely the best of the three books. It's extremely satisfying, with all of the things that I wanted to know answered.

I'm very glad Rutkoski didn't drag things on in the first part of the book and actually made the plot move forward quite quickly, keeping my attention and making it hard to put the book down even for a second. I was expecting a lot more frustration considering the flow of the first two books (especially The Winner's Crime, so many heartbreaking misunderstandings). And while there are definitely a lot of things that don't quite go as the characters want them to, these are resolved in ways that are satisfying for the reader and not frustrating as hell (which they kind of were in The Winner's Crime).

I know that people have a lot of love for Arin, but I actually really loved Kestrel as well. While she's not the conventional "badass" found in a lot of high fantasies, she uses the strength of her mind to solve her problems. This offsets Arin's physical strength, and I feel like this is one of the things that makes them such a great pairing. It's interesting seeing the contrast between them.

The political intrigue from the first two books continues into this one. But there's also an increase in the stakes with three nations at war and our characters at the centre of it. In turn, the tone of the book is much darker and has more of a focus on the brutality and violence of war. But it never gets too dark, as we get the balance of Arin and Kestrel's romance and the lighthearted wittiness of Roshar.

I wasn't sure that The Winner's Kiss would meet my expectations after the slight drop of enjoyment between books one and two, and I'm very glad that it not only met my expectations, but completely blew through them. The whole series is most definitely recommended.

Overall: 9/10
Plot: 4.5/5
Romance: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
World Building: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5