The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

*This review does contain spoilers because it’s the third book in the series!*

“You don’t need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.”

winners kiss

Synopsis from GoodreadsWar 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?

Feelings: This book was masterful. Never have I ever read a better ending to a series. Reading Rutkoski’s writing is like looking at a painting, or an art gallery. Every word is so carefully chosen and her phrases are like brushstrokes. In this book, more than the previous two, her writing was more sensual. Every sentence was packed with emotion and tension.

I especially loved the fight scenes. Sometimes when I read battle scenes, I get a little lost because I’m not 100% clear on what’s going on. In this book, though, these parts were written so clearly that I was able to keep up with what was happening. Oftentimes, writers attempt the whole back and forth action thing, where they cut off and then pick up with another character, then again and again. For me, it rarely works. But in this book, it made it so that the book played like an action movie in my head, keeping me on my toes, desperate to find out who was safe and who wasn’t.

Characters: In my reviews of the two previous books, I mentioned the back and forth between Arin and Kestrel. By the end of the second book, I was so totally over it. I was ready for some reconciliation and emotional settling down. All of that happened in this book and it was through the whole thing, thank the Heranni gods.

Kestrel’s memory loss made the story so interesting! Usually something like that annoys me and makes things feel disjointed. In this case, though, it helped Kestrel and Arin to start at a clean slate, which they desperately needed.

Roshar! I freaking loved him. I didn’t really care for him in the previous book, but he was so vital to this part of the story that we got to know him so much better. He’s so confident and outspoken, masking his caring, emotional side. He’s the kind of fierce friend that everyone wants.

I wasn’t sure where we’d go in this book regarding Kestrel’s relationship with her father. Would she be bitter and vengeful? Would she be forgiving? I think in the end, she had a very real reaction. Each action was understandable and was true to her character, both her old self and this new version of her.

Final thoughts: I know that some people stopped reading this series after the first book, unsure of what direction the series would go in and not motivated to find out. I’m telling you…see this series through to the end. You absolutely won’t regret it.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Goodreads rating: 4.51/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.9/5

My rating: 5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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