Winner's Kiss

The Winner’s Kiss – Marie Rutkoski – The Winner’s Trilogy #3 – Bloomsbury Children’s  – Published 24 March 2016



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?

My thoughts

The Winner’s Kiss is an epic conclusion to the fantastic Winner’s Trilogy. Heart-wrenching and awesome, every moment is tense with a mix of despair and possibility. Could Kestrel and Arin ever save their people, find safety, and possibly get their happy ending?

Arin has allied with the Dacran queen. Kestrel has been discovered as a traitor to her people and has been transported to a work camp. War is looming.

Marie Rutkoski has proven her ability to write engaging stories, but The Winner’s Kiss cements this, with imagery so vibrant that reading this book was akin to sinking through the pages straight into the detailed world she has created. In The Winner’s Kiss the perspective frequently switches from Arin to Kestrel, sometimes with each only sharing a small paragraph or two before returning to the other’s view point. It makes for dramatic, edge-of-your-seat reading. 

It was devastating in The Winner Crime when Kestrel denied Arin in an effort to save him and his people. I was so hoping that The Winner’s Kiss would give them another chance to reconnect (the whole Kiss part of the title was very encouraging). Their romance is very much a focus of this book, which I loved. Of course, there is also the ongoing war between the Herrani and Valorian nations, the treaty between the Herrani and the Dacran and the ever-present tactics and war games. But I loved the tension between Arin and Kestrel. Their chemistry is off the charts. I thought I was already in love with Arin, but this book had me head over heels for him because of his understanding and the fine balance he perfects between gentleness and a ruthlessness needed to win the war. Kestrel is, as always, the strong and determined heroine we have come to admire and there is no shortage of her tricks and devious planning. But in The Winner’s Kiss we also witness a very vulnerable, hurting side to Kestrel, and I loved her all the more for her resilience.

And as for that happy ending…? Well, you’ll just have to read it for yourself, but this book, this whole series is most definitely worth putting on your to-read list. Very highly recommended.

The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Fantasy.

Themes: War, romance and love, alliances, kingdoms and royalty, family, fathers.

Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.

Advisory: Strong violence, battle scenes, killing, injuries and death. Implied sexual scenes.

Published: 24 March 2016 by BLoomsbury Children’s

Format: Hardcover, paperback,  ebook. 496 pages.

ISBN: 9781408858745

Find it on Goodreads