- The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Rating: * * * * *
Series: The Winner’s Curse #3
Publication Date: March 2016
Goodreads synopsis: ‘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?’
It was a long wait for the last book in this series, but the wait was completely worth it. The Winner’s Kiss was a wonderful finale to a much loved trilogy, full of action and emotion. I could not put it down, and now that I have finished it, I cannot get it out of my head!
One of my favourite things about the final book in a series is reflecting on how far the characters have come and how much they have changed. Kestrel, the main protagonist, has certainly come a long way. She has become stronger, more considerate of others and more aware of the changes that need to be made in the society she lives in. However, she has retained the keen and wily mind that makes her such a distinctive and engaging heroine. This ability to outwit others proves very useful in this finale and makes for many unpredictable twists. One such turn related to Kestrel’s cunning comes very close to the end of the novel in a tense and heart-pounding scene, and I didn’t see it coming! Marie Rutkoski keeps you guessing right until the very end, and I love that.
The character, aside from Kestrel and Arin, that really stood out for me was Roshar. I particularly loved his decision to name his tiger ‘Little Arin.’ He constantly infuriates Arin with his witty jabs and boldness, as seen here:
”Roshar, the tiger has grown.’
‘And what a sweet big boy he is.’
‘You can’t bring him into a dining hall filled with hundreds of people.’
‘He’ll behave. He has the mien and manners of a prince.’
‘O, like you?’
‘I resent your tone.’ ‘
He also has a sober and more sensitive side and this full development and exploration of secondary characters is one of the things that make this series so phenomenal.
Marie Rutkoski’s writing is completely compelling. It has a lyrical, poetic quality to it, with captivating imagery and metaphors – particularly a metaphor about forgiveness that comes near to the end – and the narration and dialogue is authentic, memorable and also thought-provoking. Some of the lines are so beautifully crafted that as soon as I read them they become firm favourites and I mark them out. This series is truly writing for young adults at its very best.
The Winner’s Kiss is a captivating end to a captivating series, a series which is one of my absolute favourites and one I treasure. I am devastated that I have reached the end of it, but I know that it is one I will come back to time and time again.
‘She thought of her past. Her whole life. ‘I want better choices.’
‘Then we must make a world that has them.”