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The Winner's Trilogy #3

The Winner's Kiss

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Some kisses come at a price.

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?

486 pages, Hardcover

First published March 29, 2016

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About the author

Marie Rutkoski

28 books8,158 followers
Marie Rutkoski is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for children and young adults, including THE HOLLOW HEART (September 14, 2021). Her debut for adults, REAL EASY (January 18, 2022), is a psychological thriller.

Born in Illinois, Marie holds degrees from the University of Iowa and Harvard University. She is currently a professor at Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn with her family.


(photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,636 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
March 30, 2016
No battle is won without a good gamble.

This series has come a long way from its tame romantic beginnings in The Winner's Curse. The final installment finishes the series on an emotional, action-packed high, weaving in more game, winning and gambling metaphors to add to the running theme.

A couple of years ago, I was disappointed with the much-loved The Winner's Curse. The author had a good writing style that engaged the reader, but it was so tame! So much romance dampening the secrets, revenge and betrayals. However, I was so happy I gave in and tried The Winner's Crime, a far more well-written, well-developed book with a fantastic story and just enough romance.

This book, though, is a near perfect ending. From start to finish, it's a nasty, bloodthirsty tale with no more niceties. Hands get dirty, shit goes down, and people surprise you. There's a constant pull of action and horror, forcing you to read "just one more chapter" until suddenly you've reached the end.

Combine that with some clever storytelling and intricate relationships, and you have one hell of a good book.
But nothing is ever simple between the gods, and the stories of the gods of war and games were many...

Each page flows into the next with perfect dialogue and tension. Rutkoski uses quickly changing perspectives in the most dramatic scenes, setting up a cliffhanger with Kestrel before jumping to Arin and leaving you desperate to know more. This has failed in other books, but the author manages it expertly here.

Because of this, the big battle scene is perfectly told, with plenty of heart-stopping moments.

In The Winner's Kiss, the romance is more mature. Kestrel and Arin are no longer simply blushing teens from different sides of the track. They've been through so much, grown as characters, and I think this final chapter of their relationship will satisfy romantics and non-romantics alike.

More importantly, Rutkoski doesn't neglect secondary characters and the protagonists' relationship with them. Special attention is given to Kestrel, her father and the complex dynamics between them, as well as the comical relationship between Arin and Roshar that involves a lot of banter and bickering.

Entertaining, dark, and completely worth pushing through the first book for.

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Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
January 23, 2016
Final books are hard. Readers dive in with so many expectations, hopes and fears, and let's not forget the ships. I suspect it must be at least a little daunting for an author to want to give their readers everything and stay true to their story. Friends, for me, Marie Rutkoski has done just that. This story has taken me on a remarkable journey, capturing my heart and and melting my emotions in one fell swoop.

The Winner's Kiss is a perfect conclusion to an expertly crafted series. And as always there are many familiar reasons to love the final installment as much as its predecessors while containing quite a few twists that kept me anticipating the turn of each page. Our protagonists, Kestrel and Arin, experience a lot of growth as previous choices finally reach shocking, climatic consequences, many of which I was unsure how they'd move past. I definitely didn't expect the changes Kestrel underwent; she is both the same and vastly different, exploring physical and mental strength of female characters.
You don't need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.

The unpredictability of this novel is its greatest weapon as Rutkoski clearly shows she's not afraid to make you beg for your favorites' survival. She's heartlessly brilliant like that.

What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed Roshar's character. I give his sarcastic, witty remarks an A++ and loved how he reminded me of a rougher version of Sturmhond from The Grisha series. It was smart for him to have as much page time as he did since The Winner's Kiss contains romantic tension to the max with a few scenes causing me utter desperation—moments where I was throwing buckets of water out of my ship, lest it sink, screaming "Noooooooooo!" fiercely at my ceiling.

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I still admire the writing and how it manages to convey so much more than is actually written. It's made me re-think my stance on 3rd person narration, usually my least favorite. But the fact that I, too, now feel as though I can translate Kestrel and Arin's Epic Starring Contests, Roshar and Arin's Bromatic Body Language among a host of other tells, just goes to show you the quality of writing. No words are wasted, and always feel so carefully deliberate while still maintaining its raw honesty.

Perhaps what The Winner's Kiss succeeds at the most is its ability to straddle that fine line between a character driven and plot driven novel. Neither side took over the other, out-shining or lacking in development. The relationships were given the proper amount of time and dignity. Not only is there a focus on Kestrel and Arin's, but also of another that's made very clear it's just as important, and maybe even more so. And, yes, in case you were wondering, this book does indeed pass the Bechdel test, something which I'm always pleased to see in a YA novel.

The plot was excellent. Surprisingly detailed battle scenes, strategies and political maneuvers are at the front without making my eyes glaze over with confusion. And I loved that Arin's cultural religious beliefs along side Kestrel's disbelief was handled with a great amount of respect and love. It really highlighted an ongoing theme of tolerance and respect of others' differences, and that is so incredibly relevant. And, of course, I really enjoyed how the novel began and ended with A Winner's Curse, bringing the entire series full circle. Nice touch.

I am fiercely in love with all things Kestrel and Arin. Their relationship struggle in the novel was so real. Finally a YA book where it's not the fantasy world keeping them apart, but actual real relationship bumps that plagues us all: break down of communication, acknowledgements of individual changes and growth, trust issues, accepting faults along with strengths, understanding personal struggles, guilt of hurting the one you love the most, forgiveness, and above all, mutual respect.

Favorite quote:
"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."

It's sad for me to come to the conclusion of a favorite series, one that I never expected to adore so much. But I loved every minute of this ride and can't wait to revisit.

Highly recommending.

Excellent series is excellent.

An ARC was provided by the publisher. No monies or favors were exchanged.

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery.
Profile Image for Samantha.
417 reviews16.7k followers
March 30, 2016
I finished this book on one sitting. I have no regrets.
Profile Image for Renée Ahdieh.
Author 28 books17.4k followers
February 17, 2016
a beautiful end to one of my favorite series ever. quintessentially marie <3
Profile Image for Jen.
1,073 reviews92 followers
January 13, 2016
Before Reading: I'm going to need Arin and Kestrel kissing. Each other. A lot. Forever.

After Reading: NOT ENOUGH STARS IN THE UNIVERSE! LOVELOVELOVELOVE! This was beyond anything I could have imagined or asked for, for this book and these characters. Seriously. It was perfection. PERFECTION. Read it.

Dear Marie Rutkoski,

Thank you.

Thank you for this world and these characters and this story.

Thank you for showing that a girl's intelligence, tenacity, determination and cunning is every bit as appealing, sexy, desirable, important and necessary as her outward appearance or physical strength.

Thank you for Arin. A boy who started out with a vendetta and ended up vested.

Seriously, thank you. Arin has moved to the top of my YA Book Boy Shelf. Because swooning is a real thing.

Have I said thank you for Arin yet? I don't won't to forget to do that.

Thank you for Roshar. He is the Be Fri to Arin's Est End and I want to keep him. And his little tiger too.

Thank you for the love, friendship, forgiveness, romance, and redemption woven throughout this series.

Thank you for all of the things I can't say right now--because spoilers--but that I fully intend to tackle hug you for the next time I see you. Don't be scared, I'll be gentle. I promise.

Thank you for your prose which is so gorgeous, it makes anything I've ever written look like I have been finger painting with poop. (This is a compliment, I swear!)

Lastly, in case you didn't know, the god of cupcakes loves you!

~ Jen
Profile Image for Maggi.
220 reviews1 follower
March 29, 2016
I'm crying and screaming and laughing and shaking, I'm full of so many emotions but most of all just happiness; I can't believe this series is over, but I am so so overjoyed with how it ended. Review to come when I finally stop smiling like an idiot and my hands stop shaking.
Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.8k followers
November 7, 2016
Marie Rutkoski isn't an ordinary author.
She's an artist.
“Later, Kestrel wished she had spoken then, that no time had been lost. She wished that she’d had the courage that very moment to tell Arin what she’d finally known to be true: that she loved him with the whole of her heart.”

The Winner's Kiss isn't an ordinary book.
It's a poem. A sad melody. The blood that pumps in your veins. The air that ruffles your hair.
It's a promise. A promise of love lost and found.
It is beauty, in its purest and most radiant form.

The tale of two enemies that fell in love, lied, schemed and betrayed each other continues, sweeping everything in its path. Arin tries to win a war that seems like a lost cause, Kestrel pays the price of her mistakes. Arin wants to forget her, Kestrel tries to forgive him. They're hurt and angry, desperate and hopeful, ready to gamble one last time, to find out whether they're blessed or cursed. To find out whether they can handle the truth.
“Every chip of her being slid into place, into the image of a lost world. The boy discovering it. The girl who sees it spark and flare, and understands, now, what she feels. She realizes that she has felt this for a long time.”

Do you know the feeling when you love a book so much that the mere thought of it makes your chest swell and your heart ache and your eyes water? It's the most satisfying feeling in the world. Marie Rutkoski managed to compose a tale of war and love with threads of sadness, hope and despair, all of them at the same time. Her writing is lyrical. Expressive. You can taste it in your tongue. You can travel into faraway lands, smell the gunpowder, shiver under the rain. Her descriptions, her battle plans, her military strategies, everything is crafted so masterly that you can't help but bow to her brilliant mind and her brilliant pen. She has the power to shatter your heart and then mend it, and repeat the same process until you don't know what's left of you to give but you give it nonetheless. She is magic.

“He hadn't been blessed by the god of death.
Arin was the god of death.”

God of death or god of lies, Arin is a character you can't help but love deeply. He's changed, he doesn't regret the blood he's shed, he's cunning and manipulative, but he's also afraid. He blames himself for every misfortune that's ever happened to the people he cares about but he loves fiercely and expects nothing in return. In this book his patience and his thoughtfulness made me weep several times. But Kestrel's trials also bought me tears. She had been strong for so long that she finally gave up, and the result was gut-wrenching. All she ever wanted has her father to love her for who she is, she wanted his approval and his acceptance and all she got was pain and betrayal. She was afraid to open up her heart again, and Arin posed the most imminent danger. Her pride, her wit and her fire make her one of the best female heroines an author has ever created.
“She looked into the shadowed corners of the room. Talking with him was like having a flower unfold inside her chest, then close up tight. Creep open. Collapse in on itself.”

In the final book of this trilogy, Arin and Kestrel got to know each other and fall in love from the start and this time, there were no lies and deception but bluntness and honesty. And trust. Roshar's part managed to break the tension and offer lighthearted moments of laughter, a great addition to help me breathe. Because I drowned in a sea of bittersweet, agonizing emotions and I was overwhelmed by a longing and a desire so palpable that felt like they were my own. But Marie didn't focus only on romantic love. There was also the family love, a bond that seemed broken and even though you were angry, deep down you wanted it to survive.

And now that this magnificent series has ended, I don't want to say goodbye. Instead, I'll say thank you. Thank you Marie Rutkoski. For Arin and Kestrel. For this wonderful ending. For everything.

“Come closer, and I will tell you."
But he forgot. He kissed her, and became lost in the exquisite sensation of his skin becoming too tight for his body. He murmured other things instead. A secret, a want, a promise. A story, in its own way.”
Profile Image for Dorreh.
63 reviews198 followers
February 9, 2017
"He didn’t smile. He cupped her face with both hands. An emotion tugged at his expression, a dark awe, the kind saved for a wild storm that rends the sky but doesn’t ravage your existence, doesn’t destroy every thing you love. The one that lets you feel saved"

I finally finished this series! YAY!!!!

I promised myself no more reading until after my basic science exam, but I broke it. Shame on me!

I have this hollow feeling after reading this book, I loved it and all, but the ending left me kind of devastated. I honestly can't tell if it was because I wasn't ready to accept this series came to an end, or because Ive been in a weird mood these past few days. This book felt like nostalgia, a melancholic touch of vague feelings. Maybe better said a kind of chilly dejavú.

"She pressed her face into the pillow. His scent was there. She was stupid to have come, yet didn’t have the strength to leave.
The ghost of him between the sheets. The shadow of her old self curled into the shadow of him."

This was my favorite part, truly. It was so beautiful, I wanted to curl onto myself with raw emotion. It was so intimate, a kind of intimacy born of desperation and need unfulfilled. An illusion of intimacy per day.
At the begging I was so happy and overwhelmed with joy about the fact that instead of a pity party like I had expected, Krestel picks herself up no matter how many times she falls, I was further exhilarated when she lost all memory of Arin. It was a second chance for them to fall in love, and for me to love them all over again. For the first half of the book, the story is amazing, its unique, it's emotionally plundering, a true roller coaster. The typical after becoming a couple drama that usually is the main staple of the final installment in trilogies was absent. BUT, somewhere along the way, around the second half of the book I felt like I was reading a completely different book. Maybe I'm mistaken, but it felt like the writing style somehow changed, as if the author were someone else entirely. The characters behavior, the fast pace and plotting, everything was the same yet different. At some point the book had taken on a poetic stance. Krestel went from clever and witty to, I don't know, somehow docile? It wasn't bad, it was just different.

"Kestrel felt a slow, slight throb, a shimmer in the blood. She knew it well.
Her worst trait. Her best trait.
The desire to come out on top, to set her opponent under her thumb.
A streak of pride. Her mind ringed with hungry rows of foxlike teeth."

This is why I love Krestel, why she became a YA protagonist favorite. I love ambition, and more than that I love ordinary people who strive for their ambitions, they don't whine and ask it handed to them on a silver platter.

I can't really word properly how I felt, and maybe it's just me, but it just felt changed. I'm not complaining, or okay, yes I am, maybe just a little. I loved the winners crime so much, that honestly the second half of this book disappointed me a little. The storyline ended amazingly, I couldn't even go near predicting how things would end. It was beautiful and touching, a perfect ending to an amazing series. I guess it's just the mindset that you read something in that determines how great you feel.

Overall this book was an emotional and thrilling, imaginative, and creatively expressed. It had everything a YA novel needs. It was a easy flowing book, and was powerful in terms of literary writing. It also like I mentioned earlier, had a poetic drift to it. Maybe it was perhaps that both the protagonists were artists in their own way. One a creator of music and the other a player of instruments. I felt the softness to the souls that were created on these fictional characters, and that was beautiful. If I have the time to reread a series, I'd probably choose this one again.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,153 reviews18.4k followers
November 5, 2019
Reread and man oh man, this story still has so much soul, depth and authenticity that only gets richer with each reread.
It’s not a story that I’ll ever tire off. I’m in love!


Original review.
"You don’t need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon."

Well, shit. This book!!!! My heart feel so heavy right now. I'm so sad that it's over!

The Winner's Kiss was absolute perfection for me, start to finish. Every page. My mind is all over the place at the moment, and I cannot find the words to declare my love for this trilogy or write a comprehensive review for it.

The things is, I didn't even expect it to become one of my favourite trilogies. The first book lacked a lot of things for me, in terms of world building and character explorations. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, but, didn't love it. However, the second and third instalments, improved drastically and beautifully, and my heart is bursting with love for these books right now.

Marie Rutkoski took her sweet time and gave every character, every detail, every element to this story its due right. She broadened the scope of this world to something you could visualise and connect with.

The characters. *sigh* Kestrel was an incredible character. I absolutely adored her! She is someone who is admirable. Someone that young girls can look up to. She's intelligent. Fiery. Independent. Strong, yet vulnerable.

Arin, dear god. I don't even know what to say. I could't help but fall in love with him.

The characters and the story is something that has now embedded itself into my heart. I had the best time reading it and I'm already looking forward to the day I decide to reread them.
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
369 reviews978 followers
October 6, 2018
“You don't need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.”

*Please note that there are spoilers from the Winner’s Curse and the Winner’s Crime, as well as some minor ones from the Winner’s Kiss. So, if you haven’t read these, proceed at your own risk.* (aka: don’t @ me in the comments for spoilers!)

This was another buddy read with Laura, of course (OMG this is like our fourth by now. Go us!). AND NYAH NYAH NYAH! I’M WINNING AGAIN! MUAHAHAHAHA! ;)

The roles have seemingly reversed in this instalment of the Winner’s trilogy. Arin is now led by the god of Death, killing anything that comes across his path or gets in his way to seek revenge against the Valorians. He wants to destroy all those who have wronged his family and his people, and he doesn’t care what he has to do in order to accomplish it. Kestrel, on the other hand, is now a slave in a work camp, drugged to the point where she no longer knows who she even is anymore. Everything that made Kestrel the amazing protagonist that she is…no longer exists. She and Arin finally have common ground in the sense that they both have physical and mental scars that will haunt them until they find a way to overcome their inner demons.

This instalment was great, albeit rather dark, in comparison with the past two. Yet, it simultaneously came across as a light rom-com because the first 75% of this novel revolves around Arin and Kestrel’s romance, making the reader forget about the war that they were supposedly fighting in the first place.

I could barely even recognise Kestrel anymore because she’s essentially a shell of the person that she once was. Amnesia is always a very difficult trope to tackle – and Rutkoski seems to have a penchant for filling her books with an abundance of tropes from slavery in book one, political intrigue in book two and memory loss in book three – and I think that it wasn’t handled very well. Having taken a few university-level classes in Psychology, I know that amnesia is sometimes a defence mechanism for traumatic events, but that’s not how it’s used here. Rather, a drug is what takes Kestrel’s memory away. And instead of gradually getting her memories back, since her body is no longer addicted to the drug, she remembers inconsequential events at random intervals…and then remembers everything all at once, which defies everything that is known about amnesia. Either your memory slowly returns over an extended period of time, or you never recover it at all. In addition, after everything, Kestrel somehow isn’t suffering from post-traumatic stress??? How???! She was betrayed by her father, a man that she trusted to protect her above all else, and he essentially threw her to the wolves, by sending her to a certain death. The most we get is her crying on Arin’s shoulder as he promises to love her (which was SUCH a sweet moment).

Kestrel: “I want better choices.”
Arin: “Then we must make a world that has them.”

On a more positive note, I did FINALLY end up enjoying the romance between Arin and Kestrel, although I am still not certain why Arin fell in love with her, but I already covered that in a previous review. I don’t really want to go over it again, haha. Ultimately, I found Arin’s complete and utter devotion to Kestrel to be rather sweet in this instalment, and I liked that Kestrel didn’t allow her insecurities, left behind from her father’s abandonment, to hinder her from finally coming clean to Arin about how she really feels about him. They’re not an all-time favourite ship of mine by any means, but at least, I can somewhat appreciate it now.

Roshar and Arin, the tiger, were absolute delights, who made me smile every time that they appeared on the page. <3 It was sad to see Roshar hiding his true feelings behind his bravado, but we did get to see how genuinely he cares for Arin…his friend. Also, I lived for every moment when he complained that Kestrel “murders [him]” at every game, even asking Arin if she has anything that she’s NOT good at! Ahhhh…how I love him! :D Considering that Verex was my favourite character in the previous instalment, I was extremely disappointed that we only saw him a total of three times in this entire novel. As the son of the Emperor, he could’ve had a much more integral role. This was an opportunity that Rotkoski definitely squandered.

Two of my biggest complaints about this trilogy have been the fantasy elements and the world building. Well, the world building remained the same…meaning, that there still wasn’t any. I don’t think that the inclusion of maps counts as world building, and that’s basically all we get. In regards to fantasy elements, a strange mythology came out of nowhere. Suddenly, Arin is being advised constantly by the god of Death, despite not having done so in the past two books, and I’m very confused as to why Rutkoski decided to include this. I had accepted that this was more of an alternate history, until she threw this unexplained mythology upon me. Needless to say, I’m NOT A FAN of it. And this is coming from a person who lives and breathes mythology, ugh.

As always, Rotkoski’s addicting writing style hooked me in from beginning to end, but it still wasn’t able to distract me from the fact that there was basically no plot. Everything of note occurred during the last 25% of the novel, and only then did Kestrel really use her strategic sense that we love. As such, I found the ending to be rather anticlimactic. In addition, after all of the angst that goes on between Kestrel and her father, nothing is really resolved. In all actuality, nothing is really resolved because Rutkoski decided to leave us with an open ending, which I wasn’t a fan of. What happens to them??? What happens to the world??? I NEED ANSWERS!

Despite all of these criticisms, I did really enjoy this novel, but as more and more time passed after having completed it, I realised that I had so many complaints that I needed to address. Thus, this is more of a 3.5-star rating. This is by no means, a poor book, but as I’m typing out this review, I’m starting to realise that once it’s finished and the story sinks in, there’s more bad than good. I’d classify it as a guilty pleasure YA read, that doesn’t necessarily have the substance of a Laini Taylor or Leigh Bardugo book, for example. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Sorry, if I’m dissing your favourite series… :(

Kestrel will always stay with me as a loveable protagonist, but I’m kind of disappointed that this author hasn’t written a lot more books. I want more!!!
Profile Image for Chantal .
337 reviews825 followers
September 29, 2016
Are you really a boy, like Xash says? the god asked Arin. You’ve been mine for twenty years. I raised you.
The Valorian signed the scrap of paper.
Cared for you.
The message was rolled, sealed, and pushed into a tiny leather tube.
Watched over you when you thought you were alone.
The captain tied the tube to hawk’s leg. The bird was too large to be a kestrel. It didn’t have a kestrel’s markings. It cocked its head, turning its glass-bead eyes on Arin.
No, not a boy. A man made in my image…one who knows he can’t afford to be seen as weak.
The hawk launched into the sky.
You’re mine, Arin. You know what you must do.
Arin cut the Valorian’s throat.

I’m speechless.

This book was the perfect ending to one of my all-time favourite series.
I can't believe it's over. But it was a beautiful ride, Marie Rutkoski, a truly beautiful ride.

Let’s do some reminiscing. When I first picked up The Winner's Curse my expectations were pretty low. Books with girls in dresses on the cover? Focused primarily on romance? Not really my thing. However, as soon as I started the novel two things became very clear.

1) The writing was STUNNING.
2) I loved the female protagonist, Kestrel.

As the book went on, these feelings intensified and I found myself drawn to this story of star-crossed lovers despite my aversion towards romance and books that don’t contain enough world-building. So I ended up really liking the first book in this series, but I wasn’t in love with it yet.

Then The Winner's Crime came along (click here here for my review) and I was blown out of the water. It was vastly different form The Winner’s Curse, so different in fact, that I even hesitate to compare the two because they attempted such different things, elicited such different emotions. But I adored it.

And then we have this book. Was it my favourite? Maybe. Probably. The Winner’s Kiss has a maturity and depth that goes beyond the other two. It is more bloody and bloodthristy, more raw and graphic. This final instalment in the series has everything you could hope for: beautiful writing, fleshed-out, flawed characters, better world-building, fast-paced action, tons of emotion, character development, the list goes on.

I fear I will never be able to make this book justice, so I’m going to try and just pick out a few things I absolutely loved.

First let’s start with what is probably my favourite thing about the series. Kestrel. As Risha put it so wisely
You don't need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.

Yes, that indeed she is. Kestrel is my favourite type of character: intelligent, brave, rational, strong, a tactician. Authors like writing these kinds of characters, I see them often. However, it’s quite rare that I see them done well. If they are well-done, the outcome is glorious. The results are the Light Yagami’s, Lelouche vi Britannia’s and Kelsier’s of the world. But more often than not, this isn’t the case because the writer forgets a fundamental rule: show, don’t tell. We might end up with books where the narration keeps going on about how great a character is without showing anything or we are told through the thoughts of other characters or dialogue. But Marie Rutkoski is better than that. We can tell Kestrel is intelligent and tactically gifted, not only through other people’s thoughts, but through her actions. In this book, she did things that surprised me, awed me, made me gasp for air. She was EVERYTHING. Absolutely fabulous.

Then we have Arin. I admit, I wasn’t the biggest Arin fan in the first two books. I liked him and Kestrel as a couple, but him as a character I found rather unimpressive. He dulled next to Kestrel. Not so in this book. He really grew on me and became strong and determined, gifted in his own right. His utter devotion to Kestrel was palpable and I loved to see how vulnerable it made him, how it cracked open his veneer of composure and strength.

Both Arin and Kestrel are deeply flawed characters that had difficult choices to make, choices that can’t always be considered honourable. There are times were the author makes you question the characters’ morality and with it your own beliefs of what is right and wrong. Nothing is simple in war.

I also loved the other relationships in the book, particularly the friendship between Arin and Roshar. It was both a heartwarmingly deep connection, but also provided much needed comic relief.
Roshar lay on his back, the dip of his neck bolstered by a tied bedroll. He smoked.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Dear gods.”
“It occurs to me that you have no official rank, and that I, as your prince, might give you one.” He said an eastern word Arin didn’t know. “Well? Will it suit?”
“Whether that word was some horrific insult you’re pretending is an actual military rank.”
“How mistrustful! Arin, I have taught you every foul curse I know.”
“I’m sure you’ve saved a few, for just such a time.”

I also loved the exploration of the relationship between Kestrel and her father and Kestrel and Sarsine.

The storytelling is exquisite. We have the wonderful metaphoric writing style combined with clever changes in point of view. Marie Rutkoski knows exactly when to switch POV for maximum dramatic effect and how much to tell the reader so he will still be surprised. The plot twists killed me. The battle scenes and war strategies were on point. Also, this was one of the rare books where I really wasn’t sure how it would turn out. The possibility of a main character dying is very real. It made for an anxiety-ridden reading experience.

This book dealt with many realistic problems that are part of any relationship. Miscommunication, trust issues, growth, guilt, forgiveness. I was rooting for these characters full-heartedly.

Overall, I cannot recommend this series enough. It may seem like your typical YA trilogy but it’s honestly one of the best ones I’ve come across and truly special to me. A definite favourite. Highly recommended!

*I kindly received an e-ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.5k followers
December 15, 2019
what a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series. after the frustration that was 'the winners crime,' i had my doubts. but this book reminded me exactly why i love this series.

i love that kestrel is a strong female main character. but it isnt physical strength (which is common in stories set during a war), its mental. we stan a smart and cunning woman.

i love that arin has such a gentleness to him for being an absolute beast. hes ruthless, but hes also tender when it matters. i love that complexity.

but most of all, i love the writing. the writing in this series still continues to surprise me. its rare to find a YA story that has such poetic writing. im used the the simplistic, straight-forward narration often found in this genre, so the elegant prose is such a delight.

all i can say is im very happy with how strongly this story ends!

4.5 stars
757 reviews2,346 followers
July 14, 2017
Rating has been raised to 2.5 stars.


I think I finally understand how my parents feel about me.

D I S A P P O I N T E D big fucking time man.

I feel like a totally different author wrote this book. Literally everything about this book seems so different and changed and you know what, I refuse to believe that this book is the ending to my most fucking favorite series (hint: The Winner's trilogy).

At the mines, Kestrel is given a drug with her meals and drinks that slowly makes her lose her memories. (Like how even though?? Nothing's really explained about the drug.) The best thing about Kestrel was that she was clever, independent and she was very strong. She was strategic and smart when it came to politics and she was also quite stupid and flawed. She got caught, she failed, but she's not perfect and I loved that about her. But when she loses her memory, her character is just so not her. I understand that memory loss isn't her fault and I understand that she was not herself and I am okay with that, but this plot line takes half of the book up, and I was incredibly bored and disappointed.

Honestly, the book could have done without the drugs and memory loss. First, there is no explanation about the drug and how it could be used for memory loss. (Shitty science) The memory loss plotline is super fucking long and takes up so much of the story and left me bored as fuck. It's like about the first half of the book and I was just bored out of my mind.

I also really hated the romance. Arin and Kestrel felt so....forced together? I don't know, they just don't for together. I loved their romance when they were apart, but together they just didn't work out. (I think it was because Kestrel didn't remember him, maybe?) Anyways, everything was just very different and I didn't like it at all.

Even the action scenes felt so boring. They weren't even filled with action.
Profile Image for Sophia.
270 reviews2,036 followers
March 22, 2020
this book is a fr*cking masterpiece. it is everything i could've dreamed it to be and more. there's not a thing i would change about this book.
Profile Image for Simona B.
892 reviews2,985 followers
February 9, 2017
"Her worst trait. Her best trait.
Her mind ringed with hungry rows of foxlike teeth."

I have had to deal with heroines, or called so, of all sorts. The fierce, the whiny, the hotheaded, the softie-and-swoony. The ones who can fight and the ones who cannot, the ones who can think and the ones who cannot; princesses, commoners, magicians, assassins, many, so many of them, and all different one from the other, for better or for worse.
But none, none of them even compare to Kestrel. The one with the cunning mind, all sharp thoughts and nimble ploys. The one who's dangerous not because of what she holds in her hand, but for what she hides up her sleeve. The one who, up until now, battled her heart for her heart's secret's sake, and who, finally, must no more.
Kestrel's done fighting herself. Now she fights for herself.
The one thing I didn't expect?
That Kestrel's mind, that fierce creature of a mind, would be her mightiest opponent.

"Your light happens to shine brighter. It's best for everyone if it goes out."

•Seeing Kestrel struggle with was strange, and totally unexpected. It added little to the plot, which, anyway, is not the focal point of the book -to the book's advantage, in my opinion: this trilogy is deliciously, very characteristically character-driven. This expedient, then, was so unexpected, so much as to give me pause at first, but then I saw the idea -fleeing, elusive, very Rutkoskian- lying beneath: it was the last round of Kestrel versus herself, but while before her enemy was her heart, now it's her mind she has to overcome. And we all know what an enemy that mind can be.

"She had no one to blame but herself."

Yes, it really was the last round. And her final victory was glorious. Because despite everything, despite the betrayal and the shattered heart, the childhood made of longing and one-sided adoration, the expectations unmet, the hollow hope, despite the brokenness, Kestrel wins.
And wins.
And wins.
I loved how she is finally able to get rid of her masks, give up her lies -see how perfectly the device fits and serves the purpose- and, somehow, discover herself all over again. My heart was stolen by the sly, deceptive Kestrel of The Winner's Curse (which is still my favourite book in the trilogy). But this Kestrel? True. New and old at once. Pure. A red-hot blade upon raw flesh.
Rarely have I admired a character to the point of saying I want to be like her.
I want to be like her.

Arin's character undergoes a different, but somewhat parallel, kind of trials. The war, the gods, the blood on his hands: each of these things and many more are, to Arin, reasons to question himself, to briefly indulge his doubts and to swipe them away with a swing of his sword.

"He wanted to deafen the sounds. Close your eyes, he wanted to tell that child. The echo of old panic fluttered in Arin's chest."

He is tormented, but he never truly hesitates, never falters, and I didn't expect the awe that his ruthlessness inspired in me. Because Arin is gentle, full of tenderness and care, and yet, in some twisted way, violence suits him. He blames it on fate: what could a boy born in the year of death been born to, if not grief and blood? And Arin accepts it. Not only, but at first he may even be too prone to it. It's Kestrel to pull him back from the edge of the abyss, which served as a great means to the development of their relationship.
And while we are on the subject, favorite scene: .

•I have diffusely exposed my reading of the main characters. What else do you want me to tell you about? Maybe how much I adore and how skilfully fleshed-out all the other characters are?

•The sparkling bromance?

"I’ve been thinking."
"Dear Gods."

•The flawless balance of the pace?

•Or maybe the astounding writing? The way Rutkoski's words unfold with the finest grace, fall upon your mind like the lightest feather or the sweetest beam of light? The way you're left staring, wordless because of words, at this little miracle made paper and ink? I could. I could try to explain what Rutkoski's writing can do to your soul, and I could do it with the wildest metaphors and most colorful analogies. The only thing that stops me is the awareness that it would be, alas, useless. It's poetry, and it's painful. That's all you have to know. The rest, you have to find out for yourself.
(I used to think I had my way with words -in my native language. Rutkoski, who, when it comes to words, is a deity, makes me feel ashamed of having ever thought such a fool thing.)

➽ I'll never shake this series off my heart, or off my mind, for that matter. I was so afraid when I started reading this book; it was because I was sure, sure, that Rutkoski would have made us suffer horribly. In a sense, she did, but she was merciful, and I am grateful. And I will reread the whole series soon. And I will keep thinking about it until that moment.
And after, too.
And after that too.


This sneak peak, guys, THIS BLESSED SNEAK PEAK.


Yeah but I am scared to hope all the same. It's not like I trust Rutkoski with my little fragile heart.

Why does life have to be so freaking painful?
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,466 reviews9,624 followers
February 13, 2017
Satisfied with this ending =) ♥


So lets talk spoilers =)


So many things took a turn in this book.

Kestrel was found out! She had been supplying information to a spy for Arin and the Herrani. Of course, Arin didn't know this because Kestrel had to keep him at a safe distance. Otherwise he would do a dick move and get them all killed.

Arin is a twat at times and he thought everything Kestrel did to make him not like her was true. Men! So he decides he doesn't care for her any more. Yeah. . . .

Meanwhile. . . . Kestrel's father finds a letter she had written to Arin coming clean about helping him and loving him and wanting to be with him. That twat of a father let the emperor read the letter and they put Kestrel in a prison!!!!!!!!! Your own father. Pffft!

In this prison, Kestrel was drugged morning and night. They were too different drugs. One was to wake her up and energized to work in the caves where they got the powder. What's it called, the cannon powder - anyway the stuff to blow sh•t up.

At night she was given a drug to make her sleepy so she wouldn't put up a fight. All of the prisoners were given the same drugs in their food and they all lost their memories and became drug addicts. Fun times!

Then some dude comes and gives Kestrel a key to escape so she stops eating and drinking to get a little sense back into her. BUT, she's an idiot and does get free but makes stupid moves and gets caught. SLAP her.

BUT THEN, Arin finds things out and he comes to her rescue. Then we have to go on the journey of her getting off the drugs, remembering who she is and who Arin is and what her father did to her.

She helps out in the war Arin is fighting against her father. Her father gets wounded but not killed and they just keep him around.

Kestrel goes and kills the emperor! Oh happy day!

The emperor knocked over the wine. He seized up against the table, hand clamped around Kestrel's dagger.

She stepped back from the table as he shuddered against it. She felt a relief. It plunged straight into exhaustion.

"I lied," Kestrel told him.

The emperor tried to push himself upright. She thought he might be trying to do something with the dagger, but his arm had gone rigid. It thumped into the spilled red wine.

"I lied when I said I hadn't come to murder you."

His eyes were wide, stark.

"It never mattered whether I won or lost the game," Kestrel said. "Only how long the poison would take to kill you. It comes from a tiny eastern worm. In its purest form, the poison is clear. It dries to a shine. I painted it onto four Bite and Sting tiles. You touched them."

Foam dribbled from his locked mouth.

His breath rasped. It became glottal, the sound of bubbles popping.

Then it ended

I mean if your an evil b••tard long enough your bound to get killed right?

Anyway, I liked this book better than the second book. Overall, I enjoyed the trilogy =)

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Cody.
203 reviews631 followers
March 26, 2017
The Winner’s Trilogy is without a doubt one of my favourite series ever, from its captivating writing, the incredible characters and those crafty plot twists, Rutkoski has proven with each new release that she can still leave us in a complete state of shock…. The same can definitely be said for The Winner’s Kiss; my dear friends, you may want to brace yourselves.

After the heart-breaking ending of The Winner’s Crime, Kestrel is in a barbaric work camp where she is drugged in order to work tirelessly long hours under the watch of ruthless guards. Arin knows nothing of Kestrel’s predicament; he’s too busy preparing his people for a War with Valoria. Arin will not lose his country without a fight and with his new alliance with Dacra and the god of Death on his side, he will be unstoppable.

Kestrel will break your heart in this book; she has been a force to be reckoned with through this series, her clever wits and strategic mind have been her greatest weapons but I feel you don’t really know a character until you’ve witnessed them at their highs and lows--- let me tell you, Kestrel hits rock bottom but I am in awe of her strength and ability to get back up. Kestrel is truly a hero and a fantastic heroine.

“She'd betrayed her country because she'd believed it was the right thing to do. Yet would she have done this, if not for Arin?
He knew none of it. Had never asked for it. Kestrel had made her own choices.
It was unfair to blame him.
But she wanted to.”

Arin’s greatest enemy is himself, he continues to doubt himself and any decision he makes, after his last meeting with Kestrel he’s always looking for a hidden meaning in people’s action and words. Arin struggles trying to lead a war where he is outgunned and outnumbered but he is able to be just a devious as Kestrel and I loved seeing his brilliant mind at work.

The romance, oh you guys!!!! The Winner’s KISS is a befitting title. Kestrel and Arin are one of my top ships and I have wanted to smush them together since the beginning. Their romance is so slow and it’s been full of disaster and complications but they are perfect together and they are so deserving of each other. Fellow shippers and fangirls will be very, very, very happy, eeeeekkk!

“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.”

The action never stops, from the very beginning you can feel the high stakes of this dangerous game Arin and Kestrel play but my OTP plays to win so be prepared for some epic and sometimes intense scenes that will have you holding your breath.

"Did you have to bring the tiger?”

“I kept him hungry during the journey here, just for you,” Roshar said. “Go give him a nice snuggle, won’t you? He’s come all this way to see you. The least you could do is give him one of your arms to eat. Too much? What about a hand? At least some fingers. Arin, where’s your hospitality?”

Arin, laughing, embraced his friend.”

I’ve got to say that I have a new favourite pairing within this series: Arin and Roshar. Oh my god, the relationship between these two it’s utterly hilarious and fantastic, I found myself excited for their next interaction. It’s filled with friendly banter, backhanded compliments and lots and lots of sass and sarcasm. Roshar became a main character in this book; he has in own struggles within his kingdom and family, trying to figure out where his own alliances lie but the friendship with him and Arin was extremely heartwarming, I felt so spoiled for all his page time. Can we please have book for Roshar? Please Rutkoksi, I am begging you!

The Winner’s Kiss is the best book of the series and best way to end a trilogy, it was completely perfect, and faultless! Well, Roshar’s story would be nice. I can’t even put into words how sad I am to see this beautiful series come to an end, I am in no way ready to say goodbye to Arin and Kestrel and I’m also in no way ready to be parted with Rutkoski’s magical writing, I am praying to all of Arin’s Gods for her to have some crafty series up her sleeves. The Winner’s Kiss will make you cry, laugh, cry some more, warm your heart and cry some more, it’s an extraordinary ending and I am so thankful to have read this early but for also picking this up in the first place. It’s been one hell of a ride but I couldn’t have asked for more, now go read it and enjoy!!

Literary-ly Obsessed (Blog) | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for ☆☽Erica☾☆.
200 reviews673 followers
June 1, 2017

I am writing this as a ghost because this book killed me.
I, Erica's ghost, have a lot of things to say about this but feel inadequate to verbalize my love/obsession/adoration/fascination with this spectacular story using coherent thought. Some other reviews somehow managed this, such as Nina's, Simona's, and Chantal's.

But I shall try.

To begin, I would like to say that I read this for about 7 hours straight. I ignored the existence of time to fulfill my addiction to this series, which is, honestly, my favorite series I've ever read. I cannot understand how I lived without this series and, for so long, without being a devoted reader of anything. This series embodies what truly is magical about reading. It embodies the true transformative power of a story. And embodies how a reader can fall deeply in love with fictional characters.

You may be saying to yourself, ghost of Erica, you're being awfully dramatic here, it can't possibly be that good. And I would say to that: First of all,

Second of all, no I'm not over-hyping this.

The Winner's Kiss was a perfect ending to a perfect series. This final installment continued with the political intrigue and overall complexity that the first two had built so well. If the author bombed after the first book, the original story would have still been great. But noooooo, she didn't stop there. She made the story absolutely fucking spectacular.

Oh so often authors stretch out their series by adding unnecessary drama (i.e. personal relationships or magical worlds getting in the way) but Marie Rutkoski made a story where the conflicts were, however extraordinary, ultimately understandable. I did not facepalm at events. I did not roll my eyes at people's choices. I was, at times, crushed by certain occurrences, but they were necessary events in the end.

The true star here was our female protagonist, Kestrel. She was spectacular. And no, she wasn't a magical assassin or the chosen one or the lost princess who possesses a legendary power, she was a dynamic, vibrant, brave, manipulative, powerful person with flaws and misjudgments and worries. And we hardly are ever told these traits, we are able to see them ourselves. Kestrel is shown to us as a complex individual whose attributes come through in her actions and thoughts, not through direct communication from the author.
“You don't need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.”

She is a beautifully crafted character. Her development over the series made me feel embarrassed that my original love for her in The Winner's Curse was so shallow. I didn't know her then. I didn't see all she could do. But I am thankful I got to see her evolution. And she's probably off doing more badass things now even though the series ended.

Ultimately, I think that this whole series has the overarching theme of the transformative power of love. And no, not like in typical YA novels where hot 17-year-old girl becomes transfixed with shirtless hot 17-year-old boy and they get married at the end. I mean love in all forms. The love between a father and daughter, between friends, humorous bromance, dependable allies, love that hurts but love that heals, and, lastly, romantic love. I know people often say shit like "love hurts" or "love is a battlefield" or "love is pain." And I guess I could see what they mean, relationships are difficult, they take work. Sometimes really passionate (yet unhealthy) relationships cause you immense turmoil. I've experienced it. BUT ultimately those people are being dumb. Love inherently does not hurt. When it is twisted in such a way, something you view as love feels bad when it is unrequited. Love is beautiful and feels good and lights your soul. Yes, it has trials, yes things hurt sometimes, but love is a force of good. It makes you a better person on your own, to be supported by a person who unconditionally loves you. This book knows that. It is full of prime examples of this love at work, in its many forms. And the love between Kestrel and Arin is that kind of love, the true kind. They grow together and feel together and move forward with each other's best interests at heart.

But the fucking suspense sometimes. Like I was pretty much internally begging the author to bring Kestrel and Arin together.

And none of this emotion would have been possible without the brilliant writing. Marie Rutkoski is one hell of a writer. Her writing motivates me to be a better writer AND a better reader. She masterfully constructed this story. She took a story that could eventually fall flat and made it pulse with life. Her words were poetic and beautiful and symbolic and powerful without being overwhelming. And she utilized POV changes with expertise. I especially loved when in battle she shifted from Kestrel's point of view to Arin's at the most poignant times. It hastened the plot and created that sense of urgency one (I'm guessing) would feel in battle. It conveyed the illusion that many, many things were happening at once and her narrative camera was keeping you on the edge of your seat. Even within simple conversations, her suggestion of pauses and reactions was brilliant. She makes the reader intelligent, because she forces you to think and become enraptured in this world. For example look at this:
“How do I look in the dark?”

Startled, Arin glanced at him. The question had had no edges. It wasn’t sleek, either. Its soft, uncertain shape suggested that Roshar truly wanted to know. In the fired red shadows, his limbs looked lax and his mutilated face met Arin’s squarely. The heavy feeling that Arin carried—that specific sadness, nestled just below his collar bone, like a pendant—lessened. He said, “Like my friend.”

Roshar didn’t smile. When he spoke, his voice matched his expression, which was rare for him. Rarer still: his tone. Quiet and true. “You do, too.”

Like what. How does she verbalize brilliance in this way? I'm astounded. Bottom line, she's an incredible writer and I'm honored that she signed my first two books in the series (and that she's friends with Kristin Cashore whom I love). There's a particular quote that I absolutely adore that I wanted to share with you all (the bolding in this passage is my own):
The stained-glass window glowed, and something eased open inside Kestrel. As color seeped into the room, she felt an unexpected wish.
She wished her father were here.

You, who seek your own father's death.
But she didn't, she found that she couldn't, no matter how he had hurt her. She wished that he could see her play, and win. That he could see what she saw now.
A window is just a window. Colored glass: mere glass. But in the sun it becomes more. She would show him, and say, love should do
And you too, she would tell him, because she could no longer deny that it remained true, in spite of everything.
I love you, too.

This passage made me falter when I read it. It is so beautiful . And so indicative of the overarching theme of genuine love that weaves itself throughout every aspect of this story. Viewing love as the effect sunlight has on a stained glass window is something not only visually appealing, but also breathtakingly true and pure. As I said before, love should make you glow with light.

I could keep going. But I think you get the picture. You should prob hop on this magical, literary train.

It was an absolutely divine pleasure to read this series. Thank you, Marie Rutkoski.

******4/9/16 addition*******

Sooo look I met Marie Rutkoski!

Profile Image for Sophie.
1,174 reviews438 followers
March 5, 2016
I received an Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley. This in no way impacted on my view.

I'm sure it will be no surprise that I loved this book. I don't think I know anyone who hasn't loved this series, and when I found out that The Winner's Kiss was up on NetGalley, I requested it so quickly. I was in the library doing research for an assignment when I got the email came through that I'd been approved, and let me tell you, it was extremely difficult to keep my attention on civil war battles when I knew I could read about Kestrel and Arin.

I've put off reviewing this book for a few weeks because I just can't organise my thoughts. Basically, the book was amazing, I loved it, and I'm sad the series is over.

In The Winner's Kiss, we dive back in just after the dramatic events of The Winner's Crime. Kestrel is on her way to the work camps in the north for her treason against the Valorians, and Arin has no idea as he's heading to defend Herrani. The final battle between Valoria and Herran is coming, and both with be crucial players in it. There's a lot of angst, and some quite sweet moments, but basically, I was a complete mess while reading it.

Kestrel remains one of my favourite YA heroines ever! As you can imagine, she had a quite tough time in this book, especially at the beginning, but she remained strong, even in her vulnerability. There were moments when my heart just broke whilst reading her PoV chapters, and I loved seeing her grow, and come to terms with the fact that her native Valorian people aren't the best, and she has more connection with the Herrani in reality.

Arin, well, he had to deal with a lot in this book too. He's the leader of the Herrani people, and has to come to terms with his responsibility to his people. At the same time, he's struggling with his feelings for Kestrel, especially when he thinks she is the cause of all his problems. When they finally come together again, both struggle with wanting to help the Herrani cause, when they can't really deal with their own issues.

The Winner's Kiss had a plot line that was simply sublime. So much was happening, but not too much that you couldn't keep up. After the action packed books 1 & 2, I didn't know how Marie could up the ante, but she definitely succeeded. Everything happened like I wished, and I can honestly say that I couldn't ask for more. The fact that Marie has done so much research whilst writing this book, including reading some of my favourite classical books, like Herodotus' The Histories, made it all the more better. The Winner's Trilogy will remain one of my all time favourite fantasy YA series, and I will basically shove it down everyone's throats until you pick up this series, and discover just how amazing it is. If I could, I would give it much more that 5 stars, it deserves all the stars!
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.4k followers
May 11, 2017
Well, cancel 2017.


What do you rate a book when you’re saddened to your core that you finished the series, but also you didn’t enjoy it and thought it was objectively not good? WHAT DO I DO? It’s like mourning a childhood friend who turned out to be a meninist, or a My Little Pony fan, or a fan of buttered popcorn-flavored jelly beans. You know, something definitively but somewhat harmlessly Bad™.

God, I love that gif. Okay. Okay okay okay. I’m going to try to coalesce approximately 1,472,389 emotions into a review here. Oh this is so hard. Oh I don’t want to write this. This review might be really bad, you guys. (Also I was in denial for roughly 60% of the book about the fact that I wasn’t liking it and thereby refused to take notes. So. Really making it hard on myself.)

I’m just going to jump into it. My BIGGEST ISSUE - the type of problem that makes you scoff and turn your nose up even when you’re alone - was stupid Arin. (Yes, the one who narrates 50% of this book.) I’m furious about this. I never loved Arin, though. He’s always been a touch too angsty and obsessive. But, you know, whatever. The surprising thing is that despite this guy creeping me out, I still lowkey shipped him and Kestrel. This book forced me to realize that I only tattooed Arin + Kestrel 5ever on my lower back supported them when they were apart. Because they don’t work well together, like, at all.

(Exactly, LC! Thank you. Congratulations on your pregnancy.) Anyway, why are they not good together, you ask? Well, it’s Arin’s dumb fault. A good relationship - okay, wait. I want to clarify here that I’m making a sweeping generalization about love in YA fantasy, NOT giving unsubstantiated relationship advice. Despite my charm, charisma, beauty, and immense skill at review-writing, I’m not qualified for that shit. OKAY, so a good relationship in books consists of the two characters supporting each other. Having each other’s backs. Synonyms. But Arin is never supportive of Kestrel. This book takes place during a WAR, and every time Kestrel tries to do ANYTHING - like, make a plan, sneak around, or GOD FORBID go to battle - he spends 20 pages moping and begging her not to go. UGH. SHE’S A BADASS. SHUT THE F*CK UP FOR ONCE ARIN.

So...Kestrel. Her badassery got her into the exclusive club of my all-time-favorite-female characters list in the second book. The central aspect of her character is that she is not physically a badass, but her political and intelligent mind TOTALLY is. That’s an amazing foundation for a character. That’s my dream version of myself. But...she felt reduced in this book.

And so disappears my favorite part of the last one.

I don’t talk about writing style a lot in reviews, and when I do, it’s usually a positive. It’s not my intention to cast blame on YA books - I goddamn love them, bro - but a lot of the YA I’ve been reading of late has been stylistically unremarkable. I think that’s an asset to young adult books, as it helps with pacing, clarity and level of difficulty. But this book was written bonkers-ly. (Yes, I just attempted to use bonkers as an adverb. What of it?!)

First off, this book was TEEMING with the world’s longest sentences. I’m talking paragraphs of just a single run-on, baby! I wasn’t even mad so much as fascinated - like, this sentence is six lines long without so much as a comma? Bananas!

What really bugged me was how overwrought it was. This isn’t the kind of overwrought I talked about in my review of I’ll Meet You There, where every single moment is emotionally significant...although there was a lot of that, too. I’m talking about the sheer amount of figurative language put to work in this book. I have never read so many similes in my life. Marie Rutkoski, don’t think I didn’t notice you say make three separate comparisons between something and an egg. And these aren’t just the usual, dumb YA similes, like “his eyes were like chocolate” or “her hair shone like gold.” Here’s an example of one I literally just found on the random page I flipped to: “A feeling floated over him like sillage from a rare perfume. He seemed to hear the tinkle of a glass stopper lifted from a tiny flacon. The release of scent. How was it possible, to smell flowers that weren’t there?”

Everything is profound, everything is a simile, everything is a runon. For almost 500 pages. It was EXHAUSTING. I never wanted to be angry at this book, and so getting angry at it made me even angrier. And on and on, even more egg comparisons and sweeping, tryhard generalizations about ~life~. Flipped to another random page, and: Kestrel “wondered if there was any difference between how she listened to [her father] and how Arin listened to his god.” Um, yes, many differences. Just because it sounds smart doesn’t mean it’s deep. Or accurate. Or NOT DUMB.

But this book does have one impressive thing about it: it manages to be pure, unadulterated boring while a WAR IS GOING ON. Even the battle scenes are just eh, nowhere near enough to make up for the countless pages of Kestrel and Arin making goo-goo eyes at each other. There was just so much romance in this book. I’m getting physically sick just thinking about it.

This just...got rid of everything I liked about the last one. The intrigue, the action, Kestrel’s cunning, the politics, the lack of romance, me not wanting to straight up murder Arin. I’m so, so, SO upset and I’m canceling this year. Four disappointments in a row.

Bottom line: I’m not giving this book one star only because I liked the last one SO MUCH. And I still think people should read this series. Maybe you’ll even like this book! But to make this all about me, as I so love to do: I really needed to love this book and I SUPER didn't.
Profile Image for Nina.
306 reviews407 followers
March 22, 2016
Fellow readers and fangirls, I have come to preach to you the awesomeness that is this book, this series, this writer. And I’ve come armed. With words. And feels. And quotes.

feels photo: tumblr_inline_mfkq86L8zl1qg61c1_zps68a607fc.gif

The Winner’s Curse was a gentle introduction to the characters, the world and the romance. I loved it. The Winner’s Crime was a crescendo of court intrigue, sticky webs of lies and the first glimpses of war. I loved it. The Winner’s Kiss was a battle cry. I loved it.

I had astronomical expectations for this book, and it did not disappoint. Frankly, I would rate this 6 stars if I could. My words will never do this beautiful gem of a book justice, just to give you a fair warning before you plunge into my review (Also: if you want to be kept completely in the dark, then don't read this until you've read the book).

Once there was a girl who was too sure of herself. Not everyone would call her beautiful, but they admitted that she had a certain grace that intimidated more often than it charmed. She was not, society agreed, someone you wanted to cross.
This version of Kestrel was probably the one I liked the most. She has always been a fierce, cunning character but in The Winner’s Curse, she was rather tame, and in the The Winner’s Crime, she was deceitful. In this book, she was neither. Rutkoski adds a nice little twist to her personal subplot, which allows Kestrel to uncoil like a tight knot. Her journey is hard and painful, and I suffered alongside one of my favourite female characters of all time like I haven’t in a long time (the book lid has finger imprints on both sides from gripping it so hard). Her broken relationships – with Arin, with her father – are thoroughly explored through her eyes. What I still love most about Kestrel is that she is a strong opponent in spite of her physical incapability with a weapon. Do you know why I think she no longer holds a sword on this cover? Because she doesn’t need the bloody thing.
“You don't need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.”


After the The Winner’s Crime, I didn’t hold much love for Arin. He’d been blinded by jealousy, and it had disappointed me because Arin can be a cunning badass if he wants to. In The Winner’s Kiss, he’s finally thinking straight again. This book is as much about self-discovery for Kestrel as it is for Arin. For the most part of the series, Arin has been a gentle character despite his iron determination. Now that war is upon him, Arin discovers a ferocious side of him – one that revels in the rush of battle, one that kills without mercy. This characteristic emerges without suppressing his other qualities: His protectiveness, his loyalty, his morals. To witness Arin’s development throughout the book was both beautiful and heartbreaking.
Arin’s god slapped him across the face.
Pay attention, death demanded.
Arin did, and after that, no one could touch him.


Introduced in The Winner’s Crime (in a not especially memorable way), Roshar was a necessity to this instalment like we need air to breathe. His witty, snarky character provides an excellent balance to Arin’s calm nature. Roshar has an air of combined arrogance and modesty. He rides to war armed with his sword and his sass – now can anyone tell me whether there is anything more satisfying than that? No? No. (He reminded me a bit of Sturmhond, to be honest.)
“I happen to be very good at war. It’s because I’m so handsome. Like one of your gods. People see me and their minds go blank. I run my sword right through them.”

The friendships

The predominant friendship in this book is Arin’s and Roshar’s, two buddies at war, commanders of an army, destroyers of Valorians. The banter between the two of them reminded me of Kell and Rhy. They have this bromantic chemistry, making it hard for those facial muscles to stay relaxed.
Roshar lay on his back, the dip of his neck bolstered by a tied bedroll. He smoked. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Dear Gods.”
“It occurs to me that you have no official rank, and that I, as you prince, might give you one.” He said an eastern word Arin didn’t know. “Well? Will it suit?”
“Whether that word was some horrific insult you’re pretending is an actual military rank.”
A more surprising friendship arose between Kestrel and Sarsine, two equally fierce women. The female friendship snuck up on the characters on its tiptoes, slow and tentative. The affection they hold for each other is heart-warming.
Protective. That was the word for Sarsine’s furrowed brow, her gentle mouth.
“Does something else trouble you?” she asked. “You can talk to me. I can keep a secret.”

The romance

The sequel had left Kestrel and Arin torn, torn as individuals, torn from each other. I had a lot of Jack-Sparrow moments where I kept bellowing, “Stop blowing holes in my ship!” I was not sure they would ever get passed this but, as I said, Marie Rutkoski weaves in little twists that somehow slowly build a bridge over the gaping hole dug by distrust and resentment. I fiercely adore these two beautiful people together.
“Do I still own you?”
Rutkoski made it clear that it was not the war that was keeping them apart – it was them. In The Winner’s Curse, they had been on different sides. In The Winner’s Crime, their communication had been completely severed. In The Winner’s Kiss, there was a lot of growth, forgiveness and mutual respect. Their relationship development devoted a lot of time to the acknowledgement of the other person’s faults, strengths and beliefs. I especially liked how the clash of Arin’s belief in his Gods with Kestrel’s apparent disbelief was handled. They did not just grow as individuals, they rose above as one.
“I trust you. You won’t lie to me.”
And the last scene of the book is so incredibly beautiful. My heart swelled to twice its size. I think I need to go see a cardiologist to check whether my heart is still working properly.

The storyline

The plot was engaging. The atmosphere of war and hardship is palpable. Rutkoski constructs a powerful storyline of politics, strategies and battles, underpinned by her beautiful, metaphoric writing. The friendships and romance never overpower the plot and vice versa. There was enough room for everything. The pace was steady and never stuttered. The world-building fully unfurled in this instalment. The plot twists were the death of me. The tension building towards the climax gripped me like an iron fist and would not let go until almost the very end.

This is one of the most HEARTBREAKING and GUT-WRENCHING, UNIQUE and BEAUTIFUL series I’ve ever read. Rutkoski’s skill for the written word and the flawed, relatable characters she crafted are out of this world. The finale was the fireworks this wondrous journey deserved. Utter perfection. I will push this series on any- and everyone.

(Has anyone paid attention to how many times I dropped the word “beautiful”? In case you’re interested: It was 7 times).

Dear Ms Rutkoski,
as you are no stranger to cruelty yourself (yes, I am referring to the ending of The Winner's Crime), you may understand that if I don't get "Arin+Kestrel, unharmed, reunited", I will do very unkind things to your book. Or I might hack your computer and rewrite the ending – oh, and possibly change that corny crap you chose for a title while I'm at it. (Although the latter might technically be the publisher's fault but shhh).

jennifer lawrence photo: Crazy tumblr_inline_minh0m5hCU1qz4rgp_zps3c935274.gif

You've been warned. Do not cross me.

That cover. Weakness. Defeat. Surrender. KESTREL, NOW WOULD BE THE TIME TO PICK UP THAT SWORD AND SLAY. And that bluuurb. "… and a fragile hope." – I can't even. Just can't.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,710 reviews701 followers
February 22, 2016
After that ending of The Winner's Crime, I was dying to get my greedy hands on this book and I could never have expected what we got.

The feels start right from the beginning and it's a rollercoaster that lasts the entire book. I have loved Kestrel and Arin and I loved seeing how much they've grown from book 1. They're different, yet the same. And can I please get a novella or spin off with all of the Roshar? I floved every single scene with him.

Please excuse my vague review, I would never want to spoil this for anyone. Marie has created an amazing world and she's given us quite a ride. This book is a perfect example of how you end a trilogy.

**Huge thanks to Macmillan for the invite to read**
Profile Image for gio.
1,019 reviews386 followers
July 9, 2020
Buddy read with Lys <3
Profile Image for Maureen.
507 reviews4,200 followers
March 27, 2016
This may even be 4.5/5 stars but it just wasn't quite there for me though it was prETTY STINKING CLOSE.

I am a ball of emotions guys. I cried MULTIPLE times in this book from lots of feELINGS.

Kestrel is seriously one of my favorite protagonists ever. She's smart strategically and doesn't let anyone tell her what she can and cannot do - and she's not *totally* adept at fighting, though she is competent, but her real strength lies in her amazing ability to play the political game.

I also love Arin, how can you NOT? And I feel like a lot of the side characters (Sarsine, Roshar, etc) got a lot more fleshed out in this book and I really loved getting to know them.

The plot was great, though the pacing was a little off for me. It didn't jump well from REALLY INTENSE to just chill time, it felt a little jagged between the two, but overall I liked the plot! Though I do love me some ARIN and KESTREL, the book bored me at times (OMG WHAT) but the other amazing parts almost made up for it.

Overall really happy with this close to the series, but I don't know if any of the books will capture me and have the same magic for me as the first book. But still SOLID SOLID series that I would highly recommend.
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews987 followers
May 3, 2021

Buddy read with my partners in suffering Katerina & Vera. Thank you, girls, for helping me survive this book *hearty hug*

Actual rating: 5+

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

If you know me, you probably know that my two most favorite book series are ending this year. The Raven Boys and The winner's trilogy. It's hard because they end a mere month from each other. An emotional blow. The Winner's kiss's time is up. It's the hardest review I have ever written, not because I don't have thoughts about the book, no, because it physically hurts to write my thoughts down, to accept that this is the end, nothing else is here for me. I warn you, this review is going to be an emotional wreck.

When I first read The Winner's Curse I was instantly enchanted by the story, from the first words it was "my thing". It penetrated my heart, ripped it out, and held it hostage for almost three years. I, like a girl from the fairy tale, put my heart inside an ivory box and gave it to this series. The Winner's kiss now returns my heart to me - torn and shredded - but I don't want it back, not yet. You may ask, what is it about these books that makes me so possessed? I can answer: its characters, the subtle almost seamless understanding of their hearts; language that intensifies every emotion ten times stronger, penetrates and destroys your will to fight the feelings; the story that holds your attention like chess pieces on a board, making you want to guess the rival's next move. Everything in this series makes me aglow with life and desire, with longing. That's why I love this series.

From book one to book three main characters came a long way filled with suffering, pain, passion, uncertainty, betrayal, and so on. The list of things they endured can go on almost indefinitely. Book one was the beginning, tentative steps to acknowledging characters and the world around them. We were mostly isolated and didn't know the stakes of the game everyone around was playing. In book two the world became bigger and the stakes higher. Everyone played everyone and our characters were amateurs in the world of major gamblers. Book three... the stakes are higher still - no saying if you'll survive or the god of death will claim you.

I think we can divide this book in four acts.
Act one picks up almost from the moment book two ends. Kestrel is on her way to Tundra's working camp, a place where any hope is futile. A place with zero chances to stay the same person you were before you entered it. This is the highest point of Kestrel's suffering. Her former self disappears, dissolves inside a nightmare, and someone new is born.

It would be a blessing to forget.
After all, what was there to remember?
Someone she never could have had. Friends dead or gone. A father who did not love her.

Meanwhile Arin prepares for the war with Valoria, and this final battle will determine the future of the whole nations. He feels betrayed, used, abandoned. Isn't it what people do to him all his life: throw him away like an unwanted thing.
No, it didn’t hurt anymore to think about Kestrel. He’d been a fool, but he’d had to forgive himself for worse. Sister, father, mother. As for Kestrel . . . Arin had some clarity on who he was: the sort of person who trusted too blindly, who put his heart where it didn’t belong.

Arin turns to steel, his god protects him and all that left is fighting.
The man wrote his message.
Are you really a boy, like Xash says? the god asked Arin. You’ve been mine for twenty years. I raised you.
The Valorian signed the scrap of paper.
Cared for you.
The message was rolled, sealed, and pushed into a tiny leather tube.
Watched over you when you thought you were alone.
The captain tied the tube to a hawk’s leg. The bird was too large to be a kestrel. It didn’t have a kestrel’s markings. It cocked its head, turning its glass-bead eyes on Arin.
No, not a boy. A man made in my image . . . one who knows he can’t afford to be seen as weak.
The hawk launched into the sky.
You’re mine, Arin. You know what you must do.
Arin cut the Valorian’s throat.

Act two is about redemption, friendship, hope. Can a damaged person heal another damaged person? Is it possible to find yourself again, to be reborn from the ashes like Phoenix, to find your beacon in a raging storm in the middle of a foaming sea?
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.

She tried to imagine her former self. Enemy. Prisoner. Friend? Daughter. Spy. Prisoner again. “What am I now?”
Sarsine held both of Kestrel’s hands. “Whatever you want to be.”

Arin thought of Cheat, Tensen, Kestrel. He wondered if some part of him was drawn to lies. What was it that made him so easy to deceive?

Act three is all about war and revenge. In the end, what would you choose? Revenge or peace? Death or victory? Or are there any other choices?
The cannons held their breath. Vanguard crashed into vanguard. She saw the collision happen a few ranks ahead. The spurt of blood. Hideous masks of fear and hatred. An arm shorn from the shoulder. Bodies shoved from horses, crumpled into the sand beneath hooves. And the cruelty of what she couldn’t see.

Arin and Kestrel will have to make hard choices and ultimately decide what they are.
He wondered if he, too, was tempted by cunning. Maybe he was drawn as well to the biggest gamble.

He hadn’t been blessed by the god of death.
Arin was the god.

It was grief. It was the horror of someone who’d been dealt a winning hand, had bet her life on the game, and then proceeded (deliberately?) to lose.

Kestrel felt a slow, slight throb, a shimmer in the blood. She knew it well.
Her worst trait. Her best trait.
The desire to come out on top, to set her opponent under her thumb.
A streak of pride. Her mind ringed with hungry rows of foxlike teeth.

Act four is about absolution. The ultimate game is played, who will live and who will die? Who deserves a second chance?
Kestrel thought that maybe she had been wrong, and Risha had been wrong, about forgiveness, that it was neither mud nor stone, but resembled more the drifting white spores. They came loose from the trees when they were ready. Soft to the touch, but made to be let go, so that they could find a place to plant and grow.

Arin & Kestrel

They hurt each other constantly. Sometimes they don't understand the damage. They are broken, they are lonely. They were made for each other, but the world keeps them apart. Love is not enough when too much power divides you. Did I mention that Arin & Kestrel are my favorite couple in YA? They are. I don't think I've ever read a book about two people so synced, if you hold them together there won't be any visible seams - a perfect match, two halves of one. In this book, they went through hell and more. It literally hurt to read about them, I wanted to shout a question to Marie Rutkoski: How did you know how to write them? A slow-burning romance - no - it's not just the romance - a partnership, built brick by brick from the ruin of their lives.
She looked into the shadowed corners of the room. Talking with him was like having a flower unfold inside her chest, then close up tight. Creep open. Collapse in on itself.

She’d wanted to put her fear inside a white box and give it to Arin. You, too, she would tell him. I fear for you. I fear for me if I lost you.

What they have is hard, it's toxic at times,
I would do anything for you, she’d written in the letter her father had found. But that part, despite feeling true when she’d scrawled it on the page, had been a lie. Kestrel had refused Arin. She hadn’t been honest with him, not even when he’d begged. She’d pretended she was empty and careless and cruel.
He’d believed it. She couldn’t believe that he believed it. Sometimes, she hated him for that.

but at the same time, it's the purest elixir, the essence of love.
He didn’t smile. He cupped her face with both hands. An emotion tugged at his expression, a dark awe, the kind saved for a wild storm that rends the sky but doesn’t ravage your existence, doesn’t destroy every thing you love. The one that lets you feel saved.

Kestrel and her father

Betrayal. This is what between Kestrel and her father. She betrayed him and he betrayed her. But whose act was the ultimate betrayal - an unforgivable crime?
Harder to know that her father had sent her here. Hard, horrible, the way he had looked at her, disowned her, accused her of treason. She’d been guilty. She had done every thing that he believed of her, and now she had no father.

General Trojan is a military man, he was raised with certain expectations and a code of honor. He tried to raise Kestrel the same way. But when she disagreed with his way, he didn't give her a choice, he put his honor above his daughter. it's a terrible crime.
But how could he? Why couldn’t he love me most? Or enough. Why couldn’t he love me enough to choose me over his rules?”

Kestrel is hurt beyond words, but this story wouldn't feel realistic if her hatred was absolute. No. Life is complicated. You can love a monster. There are no heroes or villains. There are us and the consequences of our choices that define our future.
Kestrel hadn’t known until she saw her father’s face how much she still loved him.
Wrong, that she felt this way. Wrong, that love could live with betrayal and hurt and anger.

Her love for him closed within her like a fist. Nervous, bruised. She despised it. Wasn’t it the love of a beaten animal, slinking back to its master? Yet here was the truth: she missed her father.


He is the book's light. Sometimes I was overwhelmed by the darkness of the story and Roshar helped me to save a tiny piece of sanity, to look at things from the brighter side.
Arms folded across his chest, Arin walked to the end of the pier. “Did you have to bring the tiger?”
“I kept him hungry during the journey here, just for you,” Roshar said. “Go give him a nice snuggle, won’t you? He’s come all this way to see you. The least you could do is give him one of your arms to eat. Too much? What about a hand? At least some fingers. Arin, where’s your hospitality?”

“Please understand. When I look at you as if you’re crazy, it’s not that I judge you for your insanity.”

I loved how he mocked Arin and Kestrel. they are so tense most of the time that a little relaxation won't hurt:
“You could offer her a seat,” Arin said.
“Ah, but I have only two chairs in my tent, little Herrani, and we are three. I suppose she could always sit on your lap.”

Of course, Arin decided to stand and Kestrel took the chair. Why ever lose such a great opportunity to rest your legs, Arin?!

Roshar is not all sunshine and rainbows and often hides his vulnerability behind jokes and self-mockery . He has his sins, he made his stakes, he lost, he continues to live with the guilt.

“I have a confession,” he said. “Sometimes I offend on purpose. It’s like my smile.”
“That’s not an apology.”
“Princes don’t apologize.”

His friendship with Arin is something precious, something that lasts forever.
“How do I look in the dark?”
Startled, Arin glanced at him. The question had had no edges. It wasn’t sleek, either. Its soft, uncertain shape suggested that Roshar truly wanted to know. In the fired red shadows, his limbs looked lax and his mutilated face met Arin’s squarely. The heavy feeling that Arin carried—that specific sadness, nestled just below his collar bone, like a pendant—lessened. He said, “Like my friend.”
Roshar didn’t smile. When he spoke, his voice matched his expression, which was rare for him. Rarer still: his tone. Quiet and true. “You do, too.”

Curious facts:

- During the writing process Marie Rutkoski listened to: U2 - bad and florence and the machine - take care.

- In one of her interviews, Marie mentioned that she may write another fantasy book taking place in The Winner's trilogy world but with different characters. I would like that, the map of the world will widen, maybe we'll learn what's beyond the sea I would also like more cunning characters. The strategy is one of my favorite things about this series. It's refreshing to have a heroine who doesn't fight with swords and fists but with her mind. More such heroines in YA would be wonderful.

- Did you notice in the acknowledgments of the book how many people helped Marie to create this world, how many different books she read and researched for this fantastic series? I am, as a reader, want to thank Marie and the people who helped her create this series.


This review has come to an end. Maybe it wasn't a review in its defined form but a map of my emotions and thoughts during my journey through this series. I don't know. I am not sure I can say goodbye to this series yet. I will probably read and re-read it not once, but many times. The thing about favorite books is that they make us stronger even when they make us weaker. Wasn't it what Kestrel said about Arin or Arin said about Kestrel or did they say it about each other? The things we love always hurt us, whether it's books or people or something else. A Bitter-sweet pain that makes us alive.

Profile Image for Ninoska Goris.
261 reviews159 followers
August 17, 2018
Español - English

Tal como había predecido, este libro tiene un escenario totalmente diferente a los anteriores. Este es el más doloroso para los personajes, no sólo porque están en medio de una guerra, sino por sus situaciones individuales y como pareja.

El emperador se enteró que Kestrel no estaba haciendo lo que había ordenado y que era espía de los herranies en la corte y la desterró y envió como prisionera a las tundras hacer trabajo forzoso.

Arin ha conseguido aliados de los cuales no está seguro qué pasará si ganan la guerra. Trata de convencerse, a sí mismo y a todos los que le rodean, de que ya no ama a Kestrel hasta que se entera que está prisionera.

En este libro los personajes debido a todo lo que les ha pasado, han evolucionado. Se nota mucho crecimiento. Ya no son los mismos que eran en La maldición del ganador.

Está narrado por Kestrel y Arin, y siempre pasaba de uno a otro dejando una incógnita y para el lector es imposible parar de leer. No hay un solo momento para aburrirse desde el principio hasta el final. Y el final es perfecto.

Me encantó Roshar.

Aun así hubieron cosas que no me gustaron: (Spoilers alert!)
1. Que Jess desapareciera sin que pudieran arreglar su amistad de muchos años.
2. La amnesia de Kestrel por recibir drogas por un mes que duró prisionera en las minas. No sabía que eso pudiera pasar. Me pareció excesivo.
3. Para todo el mal que hizo el emperador, su final fue demasiado fácil. Ingenioso, pero fácil.
4. Que Verex decidiera no gobernar y quedar entonces el imperio con un futuro incierto.


As I had predicted, this book has a completely different scenario than the previous ones. This is the most painful for the characters, not only because they are in the middle of a war, but because of their individual situations and as a couple.

The emperor realized that Kestrel was not doing what he ordered her to and that she was a spy for the Herranies at the court and sent her prisoner to the Tundras to do forced labor.

Arin has secured some allies of which he is not sure what will happen if they win the war. He tries to convince himself and everyone around him that he no longer loves Kestrel until he finds out she is a prisoner.

In this book the characters due to everything that has happened to them, have evolved. They show a lot of growth. They are no longer the same as in The Curse of the Winner.

It is narrated by Kestrel and Arin, and always went from one to another leaving a cliffhanger, making it impossible to stop reading. There is not a single moment to get bored from beginning to end. And the end is perfect.

I loved Roshar.

Even though there are things I did not like: (Spoilers alert!)
1. That Jess disappear without being able to fix their friendship.
2. Kestrel's amnesia for receiving drugs in the mines. I did not know that could happen. I found it excessive.
3. For all the evil that the emperor did, his ending was too easy. Ingenious, but easy.
4. That Verex decided not to govern and to remain the empire with an uncertain future.
Profile Image for Mikee (ReadWithMikee).
203 reviews1,281 followers
February 9, 2017

RATING: {★ ★ ★ ★}

The Winner's Kiss was a beautiful ending to a beautiful series. Marie Rutkoski truly outdid herself. This final installment was definitely much better than The Winner's Crime.

The first half of the book was absolutely fantastic. I loved that Arin and Kestrel were finally reunited. I loved the angst and stress that we had to go through with Kestrel while she lost her memories. My heart broke for her a thousand times because of what she had to endure at the work camp, and Arin for always being patient with her.

The second half of the book was filled with nonstop nail-biting suspense and anticipation. I was at the edge of my seat turning the pages and hoping none of my babies die in the end! I believe that the characters themselves made this story the masterpiece that it was. We had Rosher, the proud, conceited, but loyal Prince. Risha the badass fighting Princess. Sarsine who played no role in the war aspect of the book but still remained a loyal companion to Kestrel. And then there's Verex, the noble, gentle Prince of Valoria. These characters were truly a great addition to the series.

I found that some of the war strategies discussed in the book sort of felt a little slow to me, but the actual war itself was not even close to boring. It all felt so real, and downright scary! We got to really see just how clever and tactical Kestrel was in the strategies of war, and Arin whose heart belongs to Kestrel and his country of Herran. I'm glad that these two finally reunited and got the happy ending that they so long deserved.

Bravo, Marie. Your efforts and hard work are evidently shown in every page of your books. Thank you for this wonderful series!
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