The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski



What a wonderful finish to a wonderful series. I had supremely high hopes for this book, as I loved The Winner's Crime so much it made my eyes pop out of my head upon finishing it. Luckily, this book didn't disappoint. Now granted, I didn't like it as much as I loved The Winner's Crime, but it was still really magnificent and perfectly plotted. And WARNING: There is one spoiler below.

I was luckily enough to go to an author's signing on Friday with Marie Rutkoski and Kristin Cashore. It was wonderful. They are both so intelligent and funny, and it was really interesting to hear their thoughts about each other's work, and to hear the backstory behind these two worlds that I love so much.

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?

Kestrel and Arin shined in this novel. But in particular, it felt like this was Kestrel's novel because of one huge plot point: her memory loss. It transformed the novel in a way that I didn't see coming. And I liked it--but I didn't at the same time. It felt natural and well done in the full arc of the book, but I just kinda wish it didn't happen. It felt a little too easy.

Arin was just perfection in this novel. He had to overcome so much fear and guilt after the last book, and he did is so honestly. I loved being in his mind--probably more than Kestrel.

And the two of them heart exploded. I mean, it's called The Winner's Kiss for a reason. Damn, it followed through! They had to claw and fight and kill their way to each other, and it felt so honest in their story. This romance has been building for 1000+ pages, and in this novel, none of it was rushed. They finally were able to find each other and I loved every second.

The writing was incredible, as expected. As it was pointed out by Kristin Cashore, Marie Rutkoski has a way of saying so much with the dialogue, but also with the silences between her characters. It's a talent that I cannot fathom, because it is so amazing. She also used a writing technique in this sequel that I don't remember in the others--or at least she didn't do it as much. There were particular chapters, usually battle chapters, where she would flash between Arin and Kestrel's POVs after a couple paragraphs. And it was perfect; so captivating and intense.

I don't think this book had any flaws, really, it just wasn't as spectacular as I wanted it to be. Still, it's wonderful. Just not quite there.

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