Review: The Winner’s Kiss (Winner’s Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski

20443235Some 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?

5 stars

First, if you haven’t yet, you can check out my reviews for the first two books here:
Review: Winner’s Curse (Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Review: The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski

And in relation to those books I have to talk about first one thing I really love about this series. The progression!
What I find really common for myself at least is that as a series goes on,  I stop liking it, as such there are a lot of series out there I will never finish and very few exceptions to it. In this case I began with a 4 star review, then 4 1/2 and finally to the last book of this trilogy a 5 star. There is something about that I love and I think shows all on it’s own the progress this book makes. It was also one of my first 5 stars to the new year so yussssss.

I’ve taken a bit of time since the last paragraph to get this review on the road, so apologies. School and time got away from me. Not sure how this is going to go now.

This book had everything that I found the two books lacking. Basically that’s how the star progression added up. As always, Rutoski’s writing was phenomenal. She spins a tale like no other until I can’t help but keep reading until I find myself at the last page. One of the best writers to come across. They are also perhaps the ones that call for the most rereading. This will be a reread series that’s for sure. It’s the type that at the end I can’t wait to go and look back on it to the things I missed. Little plot bunnies, hints that didn’t make sense and now will just be shouting me in the face. Frustrating, but also one of my favourite things to experience in rereading. Really, one of the true reasons for doing such a thing.

From the first book in lacking, this one had the full relationship building. The first was the basics, the outline. But this book gave me more. Seeing Arin and Kestrel come together the way they did in this book -avoiding spoilers here- was beyond words. I loved every moment and was fangirling all the way along. There is no doubt about that. All the way, just
giphy

For more details on the relationship, refer to the spoiler section further down.

The aspect I found lacking in the second book, excitement. Yes it was intriguing, but I didn’t get what I wanted from Kestrel. It felt like she was behind and constantly being outplayed in the second book. Outplayed simply by sheer lack of experience at that. I couldn’t even hold a grudge against her for it. Just wanted her out of the situation.
Then, trilogy finale, and boom. Situation change. New Kestrel. More relationship. And her character development and strength in this book was awe-inspiring. Once again, yas yas yas. (For more refer to spoiler section)

In conclusion, trilogy finale? One of my favourites! So rarely can I trilogy be ended off in a way that leaves you wanting more. I find most are satisfactory in a way that I can move on. I could move on, but damn it I didn’t want to. Rereading here I come.

Now for those extra spicy details, I bring you to the spoiler section of this review. So:

spoiler-warning

You’ve officially been warned.

BACK TO RELATIONSHIP. THESE MOMENTS PEOPLE!

“Arin pulled her onto his lap. He held her shaking form, tucked his face into the crook of her cold neck as she sobbed against him. He murmured that he loved her more than he could say. He promised that he would always choose her first.”
Marie Rutkoski, The Winner’s Kiss

So emotional. So impactful. Yes. More please.

“He changed us both.” She seemed to struggle for words. “I think of you, all that you lost, who you were, what you were forced to be, and might have been, and I—I have become this, this person, unable to—”
She shut her mouth.
“Kestrel,” he said softly, “I love this person.”

I’m going back to character development here. Kestrel’s loss of memories was a stunner in so many ways. I’d like to say I wasn’t sure about it. But the fact is, Rutkoski added it into the story flawlessly. I can see why she wanted to do it. It goes back to my thoughts in the first book. That Kestrel and Arin would never work. I was right. The people they were then never probably would have. But the loss of memories, plus the experiences Kestrel went through…They were emotionally upsetting, and essential to who she could become.

Then of course there’s this:

“You could offer her a seat,” Arin said.

“Ah, but I have only two chairs in my tent, little Herrani, and we are three. I suppose she could always sit on your lap.”

I felt a bit too serious with the last two. But this quote ^ is the epitome of Roshar’s character and man I love that guy. Talk about tiger Arin. Best moment ever. But, this guy, plus the relationship. Wonderful dude. Love you forever, just for this line even.

Then, if I go back to Kestrel’s development,

“She tried to imagine her former self. Enemy. Prisoner. Friend? Daughter. Spy. Prisoner again. “What am I now?”
Sarsine held both of Kestrel’s hands. “What ever you want to be.”

This opportunity and the internal conflict. The way this impacted me emotionally as a reader was enough. Maybe this was all I needed to seal the deal for a five star. The way Kestrel’s recovery, the growth of Arin, was all so real and important to me. I became so close to these characters in so short a time. And I don’t want to let them go. Of course, that five star rating is sealed and even over-shot by this final quote.

“Arin. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”
Her words silenced him, steadied him.
Antecipation lifted within her like the fragance of a garden under the rain. She sat at the piano, touching the keys. “Ready?”
He smiled. “Play.”

What can I say? CALLED IT.

People. I had this conversation with Michelle after the FIRST book!! I told her. I said, y’know what I want to happen really badly? They need to play together. She needs to play piano, he needs to sing and my life will be complete. I was also convinced the ending would break my heart at this point. So I also decided that if this scenario happened, I’d be okay with the breaking of said heart. Book lover probs, it’s been broken a lot. And not by a single boy. Err. Non-fictional boy that is.

Anyways, I think that’s the end to this review/rant. What were your thoughts on this trilogy? Any recommendations for me similar to it? I’m always open to add to the TBR pile of course. (I said I was smart at some point, not with books though, not anymore)

Until next time,

Shayla

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