The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Book Three of the Winner's Trilogy
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.
But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win?
What I Liked:
I'm just going to apologize in advance because this is probably going to be a mess of a very short review. I literally have NO clue how to review this book. Can I just say that it is an epic and STUNNING conclusion novel, and force everyone to the bookstore on March 29th for a copy? Personally, I don't think you need my review to know that this book is EPIC and perfect and the series is easily a favorite!
In this final novel of the intense and riveting Winner's Trilogy, war has taken over. Arin is devoted and determined, with a single-minded focus on saving and protecting his country. He's done his best to forget the girl he loves, who is to be married to the Valorian emperor's son. But she's not - the emperor sent Kestrel to a work camp in the tundra. Kestrel begins to lose parts of herself, and even she can't think and strategically escape out of the tundra. But fate isn't finished with Kestrel and Arin, and they play the biggest roles of the war.
Did I already mention that I have no idea how to review this book? Because I definitely do not. I am afraid of saying too much, for fear of spoilers. There are spoilers of The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime, but I will do my best to keep everything about the conclusion very vague.
First I will say that I LOVE how technical and specific the war tactics and strategies and battle formations and plans were. Rutkoski really did her research on wars and battles, because it really felt like we were in the middle of attack plans and strategies. Arin and Roshar (eastern prince and best friend of Arin) are excellent commanders, and Arin especially has a great mind for battle.
Oh Arin. His character development throughout the entire series, but especially this book, was beautiful and heartbreaking and so well-written. He wants to forget Kestrel; he wants to destroy anyone who gets in his way to take over Herran; he wants to keep Herran safe even after the war. He believes in his god, the god of death, but he struggles with how battle lust gets to him. I adore Arin, and probably the most in this book, of the series.
I think I liked Kestrel the most, of the series, in this book as well. Rutkoski really breaks her down in this book. She's sent to a work camp in the tundra, and she tries to escape but she can't. The water is drugged, and she slowly starts to forget. And when she does escape (not saying how!), she doesn't remember many things.
Here is what I'll say about Kestrel and Arin - Rutkoski does NOT spend the whole book with the pair apart. In fact, they "reunite" very quickly. But their reunion isn't what you'd expect. Still, the pair is together for the rest of the book. Literally more than half, probably three-fourths of this book has Arin and Kestrel together, occupying the same space.
The romance does not come easy, as it hasn't in any of the books. But fear not, because it's at its swooniest, in this book. Oh, my poor feelings. Sometimes I felt like the pair was yanking on my heartstrings for fun - they sure know how to make it difficult for each other.
But that's the thing - I LOVED that the romance in this book is the way it is. The only thing that is keeping Arin and Kestrel apart is each other. The doubts, the insecurities, the trust/distrust, the fear of losing the other - them being apart has nothing to do with the empire, or someone else (NO LOVE TRIANGLE! Why was anyone saying anything about a love triangle, in the previous books? There never was one... ever). This is a fantasy novel but the romance is like that of a contemporary romance novel, in this book. The pair has to work to rediscover and learn each other, and fall in love, on their own. The "fantasy" part of this series isn't what is stopping them, in this book. Not that they were stopping each other, necessarily. You'll have to see what I mean.
I love the romance! So much swoon! Did I mention that I love Arin? And Kestrel? Also Roshar. I adore Roshar! He is likely my third favorite character in this book. He's brilliant and hilarious and just arrogant enough for me to adore him. I hope he gets good things in life! He's a wonderful friend, and prince too.
The concept of religion is present in this book (and series), and I like how Rutkoski handles it. Arin has Herrani gods and believes in them. Kestrel believes in none of them, though she is familiar with them. I like that one has religious beliefs, one doesn't, and yet they still coexist and respect and love each other.
The ending is PERFECT. Everyone has to work for it, and Rutkoski really had me worried, but the ending was amazing. I love how important Kestrel is, in the climax, and Arin too. I love certain decisions Arin made, as well as Roshar. I love this book. Have you figured that out yet?
What I Did Not Like:
In all honesty, I can't remember much of anything that I did not like... I always want more, from conclusion novels, like epilogues! This isn't a complaint though. Rutkoski wrote a really GOOD conclusion to this final novel.
Would I Recommend It:
4.5 stars. Please Goodreads and Amazon and B&N, invent a half-star system because it hurts a little to round down to four stars. I loved this book so much! I definitely plan on rereading all three books in the near future because I need to experience the series all over again!
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