Title: The Winner’s Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Published: March 29th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)The summary of The Winner’s Kiss from Goodreads:
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it, with the East as his ally and the empire as his enemy. He’s finally managed to dismiss the memory of Kestrel, even if he can’t quite forget her. Kestrel turned into someone he could no longer recognize: someone who cared more for the empire than for the lives of innocent people-and certainly more than she cared for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.
But far north lies a work camp where Kestrel is a prisoner. Can she manage to escape before she loses herself? As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover unexpected roles in battle, terrible secrets, and a fragile hope. The world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and Kestrel and Arin are caught between. In a game like this, can anybody really win?
There’s a lot of expectation for the final book in a trilogy. The readers, and author, have spent the previous two books falling in love with the characters. In the case of The Winner’s Trilogy, I had also spent the last two books feeling my heart splinter and wondering how in the world it could be put back together again.
The Winner’s Kiss met every single one of my expectations and flew by them without looking back.
Kestrel is in a work camp because her secrets were discovered. Everything she had done to try to help Arin came to a screeching halt and she realized it was done in vain. The emperor was never going to give in to the demands of Arin and his people. He was never planning on letting that land go.
Arin thinks he understands Kestrel. He knew she lived to play games and thinks she viewed everything that had happened as a game. She wanted to win, even with the human cost. She was never able to tell him anything different because too much rested on her never being alone with him. Too many lives where in danger.
Arin was right, in that Kestrel was making moves in a game of war, but he failed to understand her intentions and who she was as a person. Now he thinks of her as calculating and nothing like the girl he thought he loved. She’s been trapped in the work camp as a punishment, working away while the emperor hopes people forget all about her.
When they are finally reunited, everything has changed. Arin is the one with the power and Kestrel has to try to find herself. Arin knows he loved the girl she was, but he can’t help but fall in love with the girl she’s become. Kestrel is trying to decide who she is and where Arin fits into her life.
Throw in the fight for the freedom of Arin’s people and every page has something to keep you captivated. Arin has learned how Kestrel uses strategies and uses that to his advantage, even more so when she joins him. But more than that, they’ve finally come to trust one another. They certainly felt an attraction in the pervious novels, and wanted to trust each other, but never had been fully able to. Finally, all their walls have been broken down and they’ve learned that they’re even stronger when they actually trust in each other and work together, as one, instead of trying to make plays based on assumptions.
A surprising turn, outside of the romance and war, is the development of a friendship between Arin and Roshar. Their friendship provides the lightness the novel needs, but also what Arin needs to remain grounded and understand that there is hope. I loved that friendship almost as much as the romance between Kestrel and Arin.
There are some books, and series, that will stay with you for a long time. The Winner’s Trilogy is one of them. There is something so beautiful about this series that I can’t put it into words. Rutkoski has used words to create a piece of art and it is simply breathtaking.