The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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'The Winner's Kiss' was definitely one of my must-read March books (it even made my top three March releases list)! Now, getting to the end of another brilliant series, I cannot believe it is actually over. But alas, all good things must come to an end.
I really enjoyed 'The Winner's Kiss'. It had all the suspense and strategy that I liked in 'The Winner's Curse' and absolutely adored in 'The Winner's Crime'. Maybe I just loved 'The Winner's Crime' too much, but I felt that this book was not as good. Don't get me wrong, I still loved it - hence the 4 star rating - but it seemed to be missing the twists and turns, the angst and separation of 'The Winner's Crime'. Granted, this book is set in a vastly different location, but still - I could not help but miss the political intrigue and near misses of yesteryear.
The pacing of this novel was so fast I think I may have developed a heart condition from it! We switch between Arin and Kestrel's POV so quickly that you'll be on the edge of your seat for the whole novel (but especially during the latter half). Rutkoski is an inspired writer, the kind who's writing feels like a song and a story at the same time. Even though I did not like this novel as much as the second book in the series, 'The Winner's Kiss' does not want for good writing.
There are some things I did not enjoy - so be warned, there are some mild spoilers in this paragraph! Firstly, the whole 'Kestrel-with-amnesia' thing. I hate amnesia plots. Hate, hate, hate. It is quite easily the most overdone trope in book history (big call, I know). Rutkoski is a brilliant writer, so I think she could have done something so much more interesting than this. Having said that, it did make sense in the context of the story, so I was able to somewhat forgive it. Secondly, the Emperor is barely in this novel. I understand that Kestrel and Arin are no longer in the same area as him, but they barely mention him until right at the end of the novel. He was such a bone chilling, creepy character, and I missed being scared every time he walked into a chapter.
There are also some things I adored! Kestrel and Arin continue to be a super cute couple in this novel. There are definitely some swoon-worthy scenes in this book for those of you who live for the Arin/Kestrel romance. Moreso even than Arin and Kestrel, I loved the relationship between Arin and Roshar. They showed each other true friendship in this novel and it melted my little heart. Arin and his God have an incredibly intriguing relationship throughout 'The Winner's Kiss'. Reading about their conversations was certainly an interesting take on religion that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Overall, this was a beautiful ending to a tumultuous series. Even though I had some problems with this novel, I cannot recommend this series highly enough. If you love political intrigue and war with your romance, The Winner's Trilogy is definitely for you.
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