The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Romance
For Fans of: The Grisha series, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Throne of Glass, WAR ROMANCES
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Some kisses come at a price.
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?
I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that I wasn’t approved for an ARC of this.
Okay, I’m not gonna lie – this didn’t have me weeping from emotion overload, but man, what a great ending to a wonderful trilogy.
It’s not secret that I enjoyed The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime. While not without their faults, I found these books a delight to read – sweeping war novels with beautiful prose and a romance-centric plot that didn’t make me want to drink a gallon of unsweetened lemon juice. Rutkoski’s writing is beautiful – purple prose done right. Her characters are tangible and likable – they make mistakes, do incredibly stupid things, and you root for them anyway. And the romance? Very shippable.
It’s rare for me to enjoy a novel as romance-heavy as this one. Especially when it’s a series. Because after a while I just get really annoyed with the soppy couple and am like, “Yeah who cares? Show me the war!”And if you remember, I was very skeptical when I picked up the first book in the trilogy. I thought I was getting Romeo and Juliet. I was wrong.
Because, see, Kestrel and Arin have such good chemistry. Their relationship, no matter the bumps in the road, is very believable. They learn and grow around each other. Do they have their sappy moments? Yes. Do they make questionable decisions? Yes. Do they let their romance distract them from the war they’re smack in the middle of? Nope.
And that’s really what I loved about this one. Kestrel and Arin’s relationship never pushed the war to the backseat. Rutkoski did a marvelous job of weaving the two together – love and war twisted together in a beautiful, emotional braid. There was a maturity to The Winner’s Kiss that I absolutely adored. Kestrel and Arin have grown up since the first book – they’ve turned into completely different people, while somehow staying exactly the same.
This makes sense. Trust me.
Despite how much I loved this, I did think it had a few issues, hence the 4.5 stars. The pacing wasn’t quite right. Sometimes it would be be racing, and then suddenly drop to a slow shuffle. Also, the whole [SPOILER: Kestrel’s inability to remember/realize whether or not she loved Arin] got a little old. The whole Ross and Rachel will they, won’t they aspect of it felt drawn out. AND THIS IS SUCH A SHAME. Because if it hadn’t been for these two tiny tiny things, I would have given this puppy five stars. Easily.
Ugh. Just, just read it.