The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (paperback)
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s on 24th March 2016
THAT. WAS. AMAZING.
(disclaimer before i start: this review is gonna be kinda spoiler heavy so if you’re thinking about reading the book i wouldn’t read this review)
This book was without a doubt the best book in the trilogy for a whole range of reasons that I can’t wait to talk about!!
(disclaimer before i start 2.0: This review is gonna be messy because I just can’t group my thoughts together please just… stay with me.)
So lemme start with the characters. In the first book I found it hard to connect with the characters and didn’t really care for any side characters at all (like when Enai died I didn’t really care all that much), BUT by the this last book I felt incredibly connected to many characters and found myself actually really caring about what would happen to them if Herran and Dacra were to lose the war. The detail in the backstories we were provided with in this book were really effective in my opinion, and i feel as if that is why I cared for the characters more. I found cared particularly for the character of Roshar and loved the friendship that he and Arin had formed (which was nice since I felt that good friendships were really lacking in the previous books). Verex and Risha were also very likeable, and verex in particular stole my heart when he tried to help Kestrel escape from the Tundra by sending her a key despite the punishments he may receive if he was caught doing so.
I also found the friendship between Kestrel and Sarsine interesting, and loved the way Rutkoski used parallells to signify the importance of the change shown in Kestrel as she was now comfortable sleeping in the same bed as Sarsine, when previously she would have done this with Jess (whom left her when she discovered there was something going on between her and Arin).
I LOVED the use of the God of Death as a type of guiding figure for Arin throughout his fighting, and loved the idea even more when this happened…..
“Arin was a boy, a slave, a grown man, free. He was all of this at once… and something else, too. He realized it only now, as he plunged his sword down toward the general’s throat.
Like……… I was shook to the core.
In terms of the action in the plot I definitely feel as if this was the strongest book out of the three, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way Rutkoski jumped frequently between POVs, leaving us on cliffhangers that she would later explain. I also love the secrets hidden and later revealed, such as when Kestrel played bite and sting with the emperor but didn’t touch the tiles she had painted (like FR I never even saw that coming like…..what!!!). In terms of the other aspects of the plot, I feel as if the messages were portrayed in the best way in this book too, and the romance was definitely strongest here.
The whole memory loss aspect of the story worked really well for me, and I feel as if the relationship was a lot more likeable as Kestrel was trying to regain her memory. I found the part in which Arin told Kestrel the entire story of how they met and what happened between them particularly touching, and found the idea that “As he spoke, it seemed to him that this was really the only story he wanted to tell.”so………cute (+ this was actually the point where I really started loving the relationship). I also really appreciated the trust that Arin learned to have for Kestrel in terms of war, and in turn, the trust that Kestrel learned to have for Arin in terms of their past and their relationship (which she obviously had no recollection of at first and so had only his and Sarsine’s stories to go by).
I LOVED Kestrel’s character arc, and the overall message the entire trilogy sent out. At first Kestrel was so indecisive, and I enjoyed seeing her make realisations and changes of opinion throughout the books. (For example: “Kestrel could say that she’d learned that one’s life is also the lives of others. A wrong is not an egg, separate unto itself and sealed. She could say that she understood the wrong in ignoring a wrong. She could say this, but the truth was that she should have learned it long before”).
The writing style is, again, very beautiful and easy to read. I loved many more aspects of the writing in this book than I did in the previous books, and literally highlighted sooooo many quotes I can’t decide which ones to add in this review. I really liked the use of Kestrel and Arin thinking about what stories they would tell at the beginning of the book, and found that the action scenes were written so much better here than in previous books.
The idea of forgiveness at the end of the book really worked well for me, and I particularly loved this quote:
“Kestrel thought that maybe she had been wrong, and Risha had been wrong, about forgiveness, that it was neither mud nor stone, but resembled more the drifting white spores. They came loose from the trees when they were ready. Soft to the touch, but made to be let go, so that they could find a place to plant and grow.”
The only thing that I would have liked more of was more of an insight into the lives of Arin’s family before they were killed (like the fact that his sister was engaged to the prince was brought up once but never mentioned again and I just felt like I wanted to know a bit more about it ykkkkk), BUT I do understand that this would have slowed the story down and know why it wasn’t included.
Overall (that’s right I’m finally done), I really enjoyed this trilogy and would definitely recommend it to anyone that hasn’t read it (though if you haven’t read it and are reading this then i just spoiled almost everything for you oops), and I hope that anyone that is reading it enjoys it as much as I did