Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski


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:

Heck. Yes. Read this book. Read this series. Though The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Crime, and this book each got four stars from me, this book is EASILY the best of the three. Book one blew me away but book three... book three has my heart. 

Rating:

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!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

22 comments:

  1. So many great series to read but I am on book buying ban. Soooooo... Better luck next time. Great review, dear!

    Yani @ Paper Boulevard

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    1. I know how you feel! Technically I'm currently on one too... but this is definitely a series I'd recommend you binge-read.

      Thank you! :D

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  2. I love it when a book has your heart! Best feeling ever!

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  3. I want to read this book so much!!! It only comes three days after my birthday, so it'll be the perfect gift ever!
    I'm so so glad to hear it was as amazing as I thought!

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    1. A great birthday gift indeed! You need to indulge in this one, Lis! I hope you love it. :)

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  4. Woah!! This review is making me regret not bringing my physical copies of the first two books on my trip!! I'm glad you really enjoyed this. We have similar tastes in books so I'm positive I'll love this series. I've spoiled myself enough as it it so I need to read the books soon lol

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    1. You should have! This is definitely a series worth binge-reading, especially since book three is almost here, so you won't have to suffer through the cliffhangers (no matter how many spoilers you know). :D I hope you enjoy the series, Karina!

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  5. I'm so excited for this book! It makes me happy that you said that they're probably together for 3/4 of the book! It bugs me to no end when they're kept apart in the third book, just to get back together right at the end! And then it's over. Ahhh! I need to buy a copy of the second book so when I get this one I can reread the first two! Great review! I'm so excited to get my hands on this!

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    1. I was impressed and SO happy that Rutkoski has them sharing page-time for so much of this book! Authors have a nasty habit of separating the OTP at the end of the second book (cliffhanger!) and keeps them separated for like, the ENTIRE third book. *rages* You must read this one ASAP, Cyra! I hope you love it. =)

      Thank you!

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  6. *freaks out* Ohgosh. OMYGOSH. I read the excerpt of The Winner's Kiss a couple of months back and it almost killed me! When I finished The Winner's Crime last year I just knew the last book is going to be epic and that it's going to tear me apart. You just confirmed it! This wait is KILLING me.

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    1. I hope you looooove it! Only weeks to go, Haraiah! It's worth the wait!

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  7. *flailing* I'm so ready to read this book!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it, Lekeisha! You will. =)

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  8. I cannot wait for this book!!!!!!! So glad to hear that they are reunited pretty quickly. I was worried about that. These books are a fav. So well done.

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    1. I was really excited about that aspect too! I knew I needed to mention it, in my review. ;)

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  9. Yaaaay. <3 Gorgeous review Alyssa :D SO glad you loved this book. <3 But aw, sorry it wasn't fully perfect even so, hih :) BUT YAY. I am so excited about it :D Heard a few things that makes me so so happy. <3 But ohhh. She forgets things? I AM WORRIED. Yet the most excited. It sounds amazing. But damn it. I am still forever heartbroken that I did not get an eARC :( I want it the most. Sigh. Glad you got to read it sweetie. <3

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    1. Remember, I'm VERY picky. It has to be pinpoint perfect to get five stars.

      I highly doubt you were the one that wanted it the most. Just a fact. And remember, we've been over this - it's nothing that YOU did, it's just that Macmillan no longer does overseas mailing. USA/CA. Move on, chica! Try Pan Macmillan!

      Thank you, Carina!

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  10. Yes you can! I will read book 2 and 3 soon!!!

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  11. To quote you Alyssa.. this book was absolutely "stunning!"I loved loved the rebuilding of Arin and Kestrel's relationship. It was beautifully written and probably a must because of how they first started out in book 1. They needed to start over and having her not remember the past was perfect. I did not expect almost the whole book dwelling on their relationship but it was so good. Character development was excellent and I loved Roshar who gave the story much needed humor and light heartedness in the mist of fear, pain and suffering. This book is definite a keeper and reread. Great spot on review!

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    1. I didn't expect that either! But that made the book even more perfect. I loved seeing the relationship take over the story because it is so important, and not just the war.

      Thank you very much! <3

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