Some kisses come at a price.
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?
Wow. Just wow. I finished Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss and so close a chapter on yet another series. I can’t believe I almost didn’t want to read this series for some unknown reason. It was incredible! I realize it lacks the magic or paranormal that I am so fond of, that it was sort of more just fantasy-esque, but somehow, this worked for me. I think it was the incredible characters that kept me coming back! I adored Kestrel, Arin, and Roshar, and even Verex. They were all so amazing, that I just ate up the pages!
We had a monstrous cliffhanger at the end of The Winner’s Crime that I was wondering what on earth will happen in this one? Will things ever be repaired with Kestrel and Arin? And dear god, please tell me the emperor gets kicked in gonads or something and a good slap upside the head to Kestrel’s father would be nice as well! Lol!
We start pretty much where we leave things, Kestrel is being taken to the prison far away where no one will ever find her and Arin is back to planning his attacked against the emperor. There’s a lot of planning with Roshar involved. And it killed me to think that Arin truly believed all of Kestrel’s lies; the ones she told in order to protect him. Kestrel is in a prison where she’s drugged every day and forced to work and after one failed escape attempt, she succumbs to her fate. But before you know it, a glimmer of hope happens. Arin learns of Kestrel’s true actions and is racing off to rescue her from her prison despite Roshar’s warnings and reminders of the war that is afoot. I don’t consider this a spoiler, as it happens fairly early on, but those first few pages were a killer!
Arin though, gets his own surprise when Kestrel, legit doesn’t recognize him. And it’s not due to his appearance so much as that her memory had been addled by all the drugs, for she’s been a prisoner for a month. Arin and Sarsine end up taking her in and helping her heal and sober up.
This new Kestrel was quite surprising. She literally had no memories of her old life but for vague recollections. Arin was sadly, not a part of them either. But as time went on, and the war loomed ever closer, a bond was reforming between them. It’s sad in some ways because Arin does remember everything that happened between them and he still loves Kestrel despite it all. Yet, she has no inkling of who he used to be to her.
The Winner’s Kiss was most definitely an emotional read. Oh my God, all my heartstrings were being pulled in different directions! It actually became a relief when Roshar came onto the page, because despite being a bit prickly at the best of times, he provided some much needed humor! I loved his character and his actions in the book always continued to amaze me because…he’s just very surprising is all!
What to say about the romance? There’s been sooo much hardship between Kestrel and Arin. I’ve longed for them to get together and be happy for ages it seems. Binge reading is definitely a lovely thing when you decide to unknowingly wait for such a series! They’ve both broken my heart a time or two throughout and it seems heartbreak continues on in this one. Though, I will say, that they learn to grow with each other. They were given a new start and they don’t waste it, that’s for sure.
The last several pages, around 100, but a wee bit less than that, were all completely amazing and my heart was racing incredibly fast. There’s also a storm coming at the moment, so my anxiety was also up, but basically reading this made it race all the faster. Lol. Hoping to ride out the rest of this storm the next day still and hope for the best. But I am still left with completely gushy feels over this book! Because we do finally get to war by the end of this story. There were quite a few battles and they were all rather exciting and heart-pounding as well! This is definitely a read to get the blood running! And I adored every minute of it…minus the actual storm outside the increased my feels of anxiety.
Marie Rutkoski has written a marvelous story here! To think that I might never have read it shocks me! I am so glad I decided to take the dive into this world because though it’s very light on the fantasy elements where magic is concerned, it’s rich in other glorious elements such as characters, plot, suspense, and yes, even romance! The ending was one that pulled at so many emotions that I wasn’t sure how it would turn out or how I wanted it to turn out, what I will say is that it didn’t make me cry! So take that as you will! If you enjoy a fantastic read filled with all the aforementioned elements, then seriously, seriously, pick up The Winner’s Curse trilogy, you will not be disappointed!
Overall Rating 5/5 stars