The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Published by: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Format: ARC e-book
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I re-read the first two books in the series to prepare for this one and they were really fast reads. Probably because I already knew what to expect from The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime but I had a lot of expectations for this. While I thought it was a good ending to the series, I was a little disappointed with the trajectory of the book.
P L O T
Throughout the whole series, we’ve been building up to a big battle between the Valorians and the Herrani. I’ve previously said that war is my least favourite thing to read in books, but it’s kind of inescapable in fantasy! Kestrel and Arin, after such tender moments in the second book, have been ripped away from each other because someone betrayed them and their romance. This means that if you’re expecting the kiss the title suggests closer to the beginning of the book, you’re going to be disappointed. There are trials and tribulations before Arin and Kestrel can finally be together.
The one thing that disappointed me about the book, because I might as well get straight to it, is how it reminded me of other books within the genre, more than the first two in the series. I really liked how unique the story was, and the relationship between the characters wasn’t something I’d read before, but I’ve definitely read girl-gets-amnesia-and-forgets-love-interest, and torture chamber before. It was very Throne of Glass in some ways. The first 30% just didn’t work for me.
The latter half, on the other hand, definitely picked up the same strands of negotiation and intellectual battle, and the relationship was all back on track.
R O M A N C E
Arin and Kestrel’s relationship is so unique. It’s a lot of angst, for very little payoff but I think in this book, they were where they needed to be. They finally admitted their true feelings and were there for each other.
Of course, a non-contemporary book is nothing without a good old sacrifice. Kestrel, I think, makes a pretty silly decision (that ends up paying off, I guess, but still) that is very Tris Prior…y. The Winner’s Trilogy has never been one to say that women aren’t strong and need to stay off the battlefield, because becoming a soldier or a wife are the two options available for girls. I liked how Kestrel and Arin both got to say that they wanted the other to be safe, but there’s a difference between saying it and acting on it.
In the end, though, this couple is lovely. They work together, most of the time, and it’s nice to give both the male and female character equal weight and importance. That’s why the third person works so well as a point of view.
V E R D I C T
Overall, the quality of the final book is very much on par with that of the previous books, and I’ll give it 3.5 stars. I was happy to get to finish this series and feel satisfied. There were some clever action scenes, and cute romantic ones, so in the end it was a very soft-core high fantasy, that didn’t need a huge battle to make it successful.
I don’t necessarily see myself reading these books again, because the characters were left in a good place but I definitely think the experience of marathoning the whole series was worth it.