The Winner’s Kiss Review

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All if fair in love, war, and the final book in a series.

The Winner’s Kiss concludes the Winner’s trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. The Winner’s Kiss is a complicated book with many twists and turns. Without giving too many spoilers, The Winner’s Kiss follows Arin who decides he is over Kestrel and focuses his attention to the war. Meanwhile, Kestrel pays for her traitorous crime in a Valorian work camp.

Last year, I read The Winner’s Curse in this series and absolutely loved it. Earlier this year, I picked up The Winner’s Crime and was equally impressed. Going into The Winner’s Kiss, I was afraid that I set my expectations too high for the final book. Even though I had a minor problem with The Winner’s Kiss, overall it delivered an exciting and satisfying ending to the series.

I’m not sure if I didn’t notice it in the first two books in the series, but I loved Marie Rutkoski’s writing style. Everything flowed so nicely. Furthermore, Kestrel and Arin’s section each reflected their personalities perfectly. Additionally, the author’s writing style allows for great world-building. The culture, attitudes, and histories of each land are highlighted so well that they actually seem real.

One of the best aspects of this book would be the battle scenes. The author must have really researched military strategy and weaponry because every battle was well thought-out and realistic. Although not a battle, my favorite strategy scene is a Bite and Sting game between the emperor and Kestrel. Not only did the scene capture both of their personalities, but it kept me on the edge of my seat!

Another aspect done well in The Winner’s Kiss are the relationships. Throughout the series, I appreciated that Rutkoski strayed away from the typical love triangle. In all three books, readers see how Kestrel and Arin’s relationships grows based on the changes they undergo in all three books. I also liked seeing Kestrel wrestle with feelings towards her father. Their ending may not be perfect, but it is extremely realistic and true to their characters. I also enjoyed seeing some of the more platonic relationships, such as Arin and Roshar. Each relationship was well developed and directly affected the plot.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

There was only one problem that I had with The Winner’s Kiss. Out of every plot twist, memory loss is my least favorite. When I watched Cinderella III, which uses a similar plot twist, I almost turned off the movie. Personally, I dislike how a memory loss story line almost ruins the original story by taking away the experiences of one or more characters. While the author does make Kestrel face the past, I didn’t really think this part of the story was necessary. It only dragged out the beginning of the novel.

END SPOILERS. 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Winner’s Kiss. I will really miss reading about Kestrel and Arin! I rate The Winner’s Kiss as four out of five stars.

The Winner’s Crime Review

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On the counts of an action-packed plot, well-developed characters, and a fantastic sequel, The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski is guilty as charged.

The Winner’s Crime picks up after Kestrel’s engagement to the Valorian emperor’s son. With the wedding fast approaching, Kestrel feels extremely trapped as she must attend numerous parties and keep the favor of the emperor. Meanwhile, Arin struggles as the governor of the newly free Herran and with his feelings for Kestrel.

Similar to the first book, I really appreciate how Kestrel and Arin grow throughout the book. Both must make tough decisions and all of their actions really align with their personalities. Also, like with the first book, I appreciate how Kestrel and Arin’s relationship faces real challenges that greatly impact their relationship. They struggle through each challenge and nothing ever is solved easily simply because “they love each other so much.”

I also really enjoyed the pacing within this book and thought it was better paced than the first book in the series. In The Winner’s Curse, all of the action took place in the first half and went slowly downhill in the second half. Even though I still liked it, the second half felt like more of the beginning to the sequel. In The Winner’s Crime, however, the action was more evenly dispersed.

Even though I loved The Winner’s Crime, there were a few things that threw me off. A lot of the characters from the first book faded away or were removed all together. I appreciate that their story lines were resolved, but they did little to influence the plot. Then, the author threw in a lot of new characters, which like the old ones, often fell into a certain stereotype without much depth. I know Arin’s trip to the East will be more important in the final book, but I wanted a little more of it within this book.

Although I had some problems with this book, I still really enjoyed it. The first book in the series, The Winner’s Curse, was one of my favorite books of 2016. I was definitely not disappointed with The Winner’s Crime–once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down! I give The Winner’s Crime five out of five stars.

Teen Tuesday: The Winner’s Curse Review

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This book is definitely a winner.

In The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, the brutal Valorians enslave whoever they conquer by selling them at auctions in town. Kestrel, the general’s daughter, finds herself immediately drawn to one of the slaves up for auction. Her growing relationship with Arin threatens to destroy Kestrel’s reputation and her oath to her father: marry or enlist in the army.

Usually when books that involve intense military strategy and dire stakes chiefly revolve around the romance of the two main characters, it fall flats for me. This is not the case for The Winner’s Curse. I couldn’t put this book down and couldn’t help but root for Kestrel and Arin. This book is a great set-up for a series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book.

One of the best aspects of this book are the two main characters, Kestrel and Arin. I’ve seen in some reviews that it takes some people a little while to warm up to Kestrel, but I instantly loved her character. Her intelligence, wit, and challenging social norms greatly reminded me of one of my favorite movie heroines, Scarlett O’Hara. Arin was also a complex character and I admired his strong values and determination. I absolutely loved them together, but also liked how events in the novel negatively impacted their relationship and how they actively needed to work to solve their problems.

That being said, I wasn’t a fan of several of the side characters who were a little too one-dimensional. I really didn’t care for Cheat’s character and felt like he could have been dealt with an a different way. (SPOILER: Cheat attempts to rape Kestrel. I felt this traumatic event was extremely unnecessary in the book). Also, Kestrel’s various friends also fell into stereotypes like “the girly girl,” “the villain,” and “the lovesick puppy.” I’m hoping these characters become more complex and the series continues.

Another part of this novel that slightly threw me off was the pacing. I expected everything to fall apart a little later in the novel, but it happened in the middle. This made the third quarter of this book drag a little. However, I think if the second book started here, I might be a little bored. I really liked the end of the book and I can’t wait to see how it is resolved, but I wish the same action carried throughout the whole second half of the book.

Since I enjoyed the characters and romance in this book, but wanted more dimension in the side characters and better pacing at the end of the novel, I give this book four out of five stars.