Title: The Winner's Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #3
Format: eARC, kindly provided
by the publishers via Netgalley
for review. (Thank you!!)
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Release Date: March 24th 2016
My rating: 5+ / 5
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?
-- As seen on Goodreads
*I received an eARC from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This didn't influence my opinion in any way.*
Also, this review is completely spoiler-free.
Wow. Just… wow! The Winner’s Kiss was everything I hoped it would be, and a whole lot more. This was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2016 and my expectations were ridiculously high when I began reading. What I wasn’t expecting was each and every one of those expectations to be met, and exceeded. And I’m SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS! I’m completely blown away by how perfect this book was, and it’s easily one of the most satisfying conclusions to a trilogy I’ve read in a long, long time.
The book begins within days of the previous book ending, and in general, it’s a lot bloodier and more brutal than its predecessors. It’s even more action packed, which was a wonderful surprise, and the stakes are higher than ever. The range of emotions I went through was incredible! I was on the edge of my seat right from the beginning, and I didn’t relax until I read the very last sentence. It was excruciating to read at times, but in a completely good way. I went from nervous, to scared, to happy, to petrified, to anxious, to devastated, to swooning, and right back to nervous to begin the cycle all over again. I swear I was nearing emotional overload by the time I finished reading! But, oh wow, it was so epic.
The world building was just as vibrant and detailed as ever. Its development didn’t take a back seat despite it being the last book, and we continue to learn things about each kingdom’s politics, and everything becomes so much clearer as the book progresses. Also, the pacing was absolutely perfect and there wasn’t a dull moment at any stage. The writing style was just as beautiful, if not more so, than the previous books. We’re put right in the middle of a war, exploring the tactics, choices and consequences of being at war, yet, the writing style and words used are so beautiful it contrasts so perfectly with the brutality of what’s actually being described. The combination was so exquisite to read and I wish I could remember each and every moment… actually, in the hopes that I could do this I think I highlighted at least three-quarters of my eARC!
Oh, I just have to quickly mention: the battle scenes and how they’re written? P.E.R.F.E.C.T.I.O.N. It honestly felt like I was watching a movie, only it was a zillion times more intense. Not giving anything else away, but just wait until you read them, they’re incredible.
As for the characters, I don’t think I can even begin to express how much love I have for them. If there was ever a doubt that Kestrel and Arin would be added to my all-time favourite characters list, that doubt has been obliterated by this stage! Both of them have grown so much, and to have seen them blossom into the characters they’ve become in this book has been a pure joy to witness. Now, there were moments where I wanted to strangle them, and other moments where I wanted to swaddle them in cotton so nothing bad could ever happen to them, but all of these feelings are what I love to experience when I read. Kestrel is all kinds of perfection, and oh my goodness, I love her to PIECES. She has been a consistently amazing character throughout the series, and to see how much she’s grown yet stayed true to her core personality is phenomenal. I was a little iffy about Arin in The Winner’s Crime, but he completely redeemed himself here. Also, we get to see him get his piiiirate on. And it’s a total mix of adorable and scary. But mainly scary. And also awesome! If you haven’t fallen for Arin yet, I think this book should take care of that nicely. I love when secondary characters get just as much attention and development as the main characters in a series, and I absolutely love Roshar! And Sarsine, too. (Oh, and let’s not forget Javelin! I just had to mention the best and most adorable horse of all time! <3 )
Personally, I think The Winner’s Kiss is by far the best book in the series. It captures every single element that you could possibly hope to experience while reading, and delivers it seamlessly chapter after chapter. It’s nothing short of perfection and I absolutely loved it. Would I have liked more? Well, I’m never going to say no to that question, really. I mean, if another dozen books wanted to show up based on this trilogy, I’d devour them in a heartbeat! But, as for the conclusion to one of my favourite trilogies of all time, I’m completely satisfied. I couldn’t have asked for more, and I wouldn’t change a single thing. After reading scores of mediocre finales over the years, it’s always an extra special delight when you read a beautiful little masterpiece such as this.