The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

9780374384739_FC_n6GzO0HThe Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #3 (3/3)
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 29, 2016
Genres: [Young Adult] Fantasy
Pages: 484
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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5 Stars, Completed April 3, 2016

– to avoid major SPOILERS read bold text only –

As he spoke, it occurred to her that maybe he, too, felt like two people, that maybe everybody does, and that it’s not a question of whether one’s damaged, but of how easily or not that damage is seen.

In the third and final installment to The Winner’s trilogy, war has begun and Arin is among his enemies hoping to forge an alliance against the empire to save his people, the Herrani. He still believes he’s fallen out of love with Kestrel and despises her for her evident cruelty and inhumanity. Meanwhile, Kestrel is in the freezing north as a prisoner paying for the grave mistake of betraying her people, the Valorians, by helping the Herrani before Arin left for the east. She only wishes that Arin knew what she had sacrificed for him. With the abundance of misunderstandings, increasingly intensifying war, and distance to separate them, there’s much more of a strain on Arin and Kestrel’s relationship than ever before.

Is it strange that I already feel like I’m ready to reread the entire trilogy? I really don’t want this world to end. Happy sigh.

Despite the noticeable flaws and convenient turns, I really loved this finale. Everything was very Rutkoski-esque and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime has showcased Rutkoski’s ability of creating a believable slow burn, forbidden romance. The Winner’s Kiss is not any different from its preceding installments; book three starts out slow and builds up to the moment the couple reunites. And even then readers aren’t given the satisfaction of having a true reunion so soon because of an amnesia plot. I know that a lot of readers will be frustrated with this trope. In truth, being someone who has seen this way too many times (especially in Asian dramas), I had qualms myself. I would normally find it too cheesy and a lazy “twist” on the writer’s part. Yet because this is concerning Arin and Kestrel I could forgo this exasperation. By now, loyal fans of the trilogy should know that there will always be some unfortunate event that prevents the couple from truly being together. So in other words, I was not at all surprised to learn Rutkoski would choose this route with that arc. (Honestly, I didn’t want to be fooled by the title so I was bracing myself for the worst scenario such as Arin dying in battle or something equally maddeningly brutal.)

“You don’t need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.” …
Kestrel felt a slow, slight throb, a shimmer in the blood. She knew it well.
Her worst trait. Her best trait.

And with this segment, Kestrel is anything but her usual, confident self. She’s timid, insecure, and not the ideal heroine she has been in the previous installments. However, I actually really liked this change. I interpreted her transformation as character growth, and specifically an opportunity for her to understand Arin past an emotional and sympathetic level. This vulnerability allows her to grow empathy and compassion-not that she was ever heartless like Arin misread her to be though.

“He changed us both.” She seemed to struggle for words. “I think of you, all that you lost, who you were, what you were forced to be, and might have been, and I—I have become this, this person, unable to—”
She shut her mouth.
“Kestrel,” he said softly, “I love this person.”

And so, in a way, book one and book three displays a paradoxical reflection of the main couple. I think the pain Kestrel endures at the work camp and the after effects of the poison was necessary for her to understand the trauma Arin lived with his entire life after the Valorians took everything from the Herrani. In a sense, the changes Kestrel goes through makes her even stronger and closer to understanding Arin.

“The reason you enjoy my company is because I look like how you feel.”

For me, The Winner’s Kiss shines because of a supporting character: Roshar. Sometimes he spouts the weirdest nonsense but he’s also the witty, comedic relief readers rely on (especially during the dark times with The Winner’s Crime). There’s no doubt that he’s manipulative, but I adore that deep down he’s also caring and affectionate towards the people he values. Roshar never fails to be the attentive best friend.

Lastly, the ending… From the title alone, I’m sure readers could have predicted how the trilogy would pan out. Because of the endless misery the couple’s been through, I don’t think anyone has the heart to protest how The Winner’s Kiss resolves. And in terms of the supporting plots and endings of the remaining cast, I noticed there were some convenient ties (like Arin and Arin-those that have read the book know what I mean) but, overall, I couldn’t really complain. I guess, I was too busy gushing over my OTP finally becoming official, which was the only thing that really mattered to me after all the heartbreak to be honest.

Oh, look there. A celebratory photo of me fangirling while reading this.

Literally a (grainy) celebratory photo of me totally fangirling while reading this. (Chinky eyes and hair in disarray. The full thing.)

I’m still in disbelief by how much I enjoyed this journey, and I couldn’t recommend it enough to folks that prefer simpler fantasies (with little to no info dumping) and slow burn romances. This wasn’t a flawless finale by any means, but in regards to entertainment and fulfillment of a fangirl’s heart it deserves a perfect 5 star rating from me. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Summer’s Playlist:
Bitter and Sick | Reason | Empire | A Call to Arms | The Keeper | Oh Father | All I Want
*the bold/underlined are must listens!

The Winner's trilogy bookmarks

Blog @xingsings | Instagram @readxings | Twitter @xingsings

25 thoughts on “The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

  1. Nerdybirdy @ Daydreaming Books says:

    I can’t wait to start this series!!!! Well… I kind of had to skip read this one to avoid spoilers but I will come back screaming once I finish this series!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. elianasin says:

    I haven’t read this book yet but your review has me dying to. I thought the first instalment was littered with clichés but I was strangely compelled by the sequel and I am so excited to dig back into Kestrel and Arin’s world. To be quite honest I’m up for any trope as long as it is well executed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      I think the majority of readers preferred TWC2 over the first installment. I sort of felt the opposite though (but I generally tend to like first installments of series the most). You should really pick up book three; I hope you enjoy it when you do. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Zoe says:

    YES. This was such an amazing conclusion to the trilogy, wasn’t it? It was absolutely perfect. ❤

    And Kestrel is the best, isn’t she? I love how, even though she may not be strong physically she can still beat you in any fight with her brilliant mind. She almost reminds me of Annabeth Chase in a way. xD

    Thanks for sharing Summer and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      It was so wonderful! I’m was so glad everything tied up neatly. (I was a little worried Marie Rutkoski would throw something crazy at us like make Arin die in battle or something ridiculous.)

      Yes! Kestrel totally gave me Annabeth vibes because of her wit and intellect sometimes. I love that about both of them!

      Aww, thank you, as always, Zoe! Your comments always make me smile. ❤


  4. Carolyn says:

    I was really angry about the amnesia plotline initially which is why I couldn’t give it a 5 stars even though I really wanted to! But when I think back on it, I like the execution more than I use to because like you said, it just gave another side to Kestrel and I think it forced her to confront who she really is when she didn’t have lies and deception to fall back on. Her feelings are still very much hidden but less so when she had to really evaluate who she was again. But I liked that Rutkoski didn’t make Kestrel a whole new character. I like that Kestrel still had her cunning and wiles because that’s who she is. Sorry about the ramble, I love this series too much lol
    Amazing review, Summer! =)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      I love that this entire comment focuses on Kestrel. To be honest, I was a little bit skeptical because the amnesia plot has been overused so many times in the most inconvenient and annoying circumstances. I can’t even remember the details really but when Peeta became an entirely new person in Mockingjay, that pissed me off beyond anything. And Mockingjay’s happily ever after? Just, ugh. Everything about that book. But, wait. I need to return to The Winner’s trilogy. But yeah, you’re exactly right. I’m glad that Kestrel was still essential herself but just different and more vulnerable (Peeta and his darn “real or not real?” -__- ). But you were right, everything about this book was awesome for me. So I guess it looks like you’ve gained three points from this trilogy alone. So 1 (A Little Life) + 3 (The Winner’s Trilogy) + 0 (Unteachable) = 4. That’s pretty good seeing as that’s a total of five recommendations. :3 And hehe, thank you! ^.^

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carolyn says:

        I had a love hate relationship with the Peeta amnesia plotline in Mockingjay. I hated it because like you said, Peeta was an entirely new person and it’s like basically starting over from book one but I did like that it gave more insight into Katniss’s character. Like everyone in the book, except Peeta and her family, always sees her as this cold, distant person but Peeta has always seen her as something more than that (his first memory of her was her singing) and I think when Peeta lost his sense of who Katniss was, it’s like we’re seeing Katniss from everyone else’s point of vew and it was pretty jarring seeing someone who’s always believed in Katniss’s innate goodness turn against her so harshly. But maybe that’s just me. But despite all that, I still wasn’t a fan of it lol. And get ready, I have another recommendation for you soon =) but I’m scared this one will turn into another Unteachable

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Liam @ Hey Ashers! says:

    “In truth, being someone who has seen this way too many times (especially in Asian dramas), I had qualms myself.”

    The Asian drama thing was pretty much all I could think about while reading this book!

    I’m glad to hear you loved it, and that you can’t wait to read the series all over again. That’s the best feeling of all. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      …I know. All the Asian tropes were in there (amnesia, killing the evil people, unrealistic HEA (happily ever after)) but I was surprisingly (okay, not so surprisingly) okay with it, lol. ^.^ And I actually did go back to reread my favorite parts shortly after finishing up writing this review (they mostly all consisted of Roshar). 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Analee @ Book Snacks says:

    Yayyyyy I’m so glad you enjoyed this book so much! Series enders are so hard to get right sometimes. Can you believe I still haven’t read this though?!! I even re-read the first two books in order to prepare to read this and I didn’t even read it yet. Agh, moods and busy schedules are the worst! LOL. But this review has me excited to pick it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      Oh my goodness, it is indeed a shocker that you haven’t gotten to this. Hopefully by now, you’ve read it? The finale was ultimately satisfying and I hope that it proved so for you as well. XD (But I totally get what you mean though. Priorities…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Analee @ Book Snacks says:

        Honestly? I’ve just started it! Better late than never…?? I guess? Omg I can’t believe haven’t read it for this long though. So far I’m around halfway through it though and I’m really loving it! The ANGST though omg. Arin and Kestrel (if I was on my phone a broken-heart would be right here lol) It’s really addicting!


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