Book Review: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Trilogy #3)

20443235The Winner’s Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #3
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Macmillan
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


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?


While I wasn’t a HUGE FAN of this series like so many others out there, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. This last book was the best one yet, and all my expectations were fulfilled in the finale. It starts out with a slow beginning that reflected my frustrations with the second book. The latter half of the book was when it really picks up and when I started getting excited. And the ending – pure perfection.

If you check out my review of the second book here (cue cringe-tastic moments), you can probably surmise that my biggest frustration was the misunderstandings and unspoken messages between Kestrel and Arin. It brought so much unnecessary conflict that I thought became redundant after the first fifty pages. What can I say? I like my angst to stay low key. Anyways, the first half of this book kind of picks up on that. The plot was slow, agonizingly slow, and had some plot elements that were quite unexpected. It wasn’t terrible for me, but definitely an odd direction to go.

What I got from it was how true Kestrel and Arin are to each other though. Gosh, their romance is all the goals. <…>
Sorry, I had to pause just now because I was too busy clutching my heart. I just love the support they have for each other, and how their actions always have the thought of the other in them. And the romance was just so, classy, you know? It wasn’t cringe-worthy, or any of that mushy-gushy stuff (that I still love, not gonna lie). I MEAN, LISTEN TO THIS QUOTE:

“‘You are changed,’ he murmured, ‘and you are the same. Honorable. I honor you.’”

He’s not saying love or worship or something – he’s saying honor. Hell if that doesn’t make me more emotional than the l-word. :’)

This phone background can be downloaded here!

Of course, this book is littered with Rutkoski’s absolutely magnetic writing and imagery that blends so effortlessly with the scenes. It’s almost like magic, even though this story certainly doesn’t have any. And I still can’t help but appreciate how Kestrel’s strength comes from her wit, and not a physical weapon or anything. It just really emphasizes how strong you can be without being physically talented. (AKA THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR ME GUYZ)

“‘You don’t need to be gifted with a blade. You are your own best weapon.’”

I also love the attention that Roshar got in this book. He was the best friend of all best friends to Arin. I honestly wouldn’t mind a short story about him because he totally deserves one! Plus, Rutkoski managed to make him a super interesting character with awesome dynamics so it wouldn’t be hard to enjoy a story centered around him. The other supporting characters were outshined by him, unfortunately. There are some developments with Kestrel’s father, but they never struck my heart the same way Arin and Roshar’s friendship did.FullSizeRender (1)

I think all followers of the trilogy will be satisfied by the conclusion. Okay but seriously, if you think it could have been more perfect, comment below because I’LL FIGHT. The characters, their relationships, the plot – everything just ties up so nicely and left me smiling so hard my cheeks hurt. But I didn’t notice, because my heart was so warm.


14 thoughts on “Book Review: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Trilogy #3)

  1. Great review, Aila! I have to get around to reading this trilogy. I have got all the books but I haven’t had the chance (or motivation) to read them 😁

  2. I haven’t gotten round to reading this series yet but it is close to the top priority. I love how this series empahsises Kestre’s intellectual strength. It just goes to show that we don’t have to be all independent and warrior like to be strong and that sometimes knowing your limits is a greater strength. I also love that the romance is classy and that little quote you included had me melting because sometimes I feel like the big I Love you gesture can go a bit over the top and the fact that he honours her is just so swoon-worthy. I can’t wait to get my hands on this series. 😀

    1. Yes, I’m so glad you’re picking this series up soon! I really loved it, and especially how Kestrel isn’t the greatest at fighting. Granted, I was a bit miffed at first – I mean, who doesn’t want a sword-wielding heroine leading an army of rebels? But Kestrel’s power is much more subtle and intense; it really shows how sometimes our greatest strength can be in our mind.

      And I adored the romance! It was a lot of back-and-forth and misunderstandings in the middle of the series, but the end result was soooo worth it ❤ hehe enjoy!

  3. Awwww Aila it definitely sounds like you adored both of them in this last book! They definitely ended up working things out after that slllooowww beginning. I loved Roshar too and the twist with him was unexpected and awesome!

    1. Dude yeah, Roshar was the most interesting side character by far! I really wish we got to see more of him hehe. But in the end I really enjoyed this conclusion 😛 Despite the slow start (and the memory-losing thing, sheesh)

  4. I always feel I’m opposite of everyone with books. haha. I loved the first 100 pages of this book then it got slow for me. However, I was very satisfied by the end. My favorite book of this trilogy is actually The Winner’s Crime. It bled tension and I loved it! Her writing style is so easy and wonderful! I’m super glad I ended up binging this series, it was quite enjoyable. 🙂 And as always your photos and arts are fabulous!

    1. Ooh yes, The Winner’s Crime was just delectable. Binging this series is definitely an awesome idea! 😀 I’m so glad you liked this one – Rutkoski’s writing is really captivating and you can’t help but get caught up in it.

  5. Great review! I loved this entire series, and this one was definitely the best of the three. The perfect finale anyone could ask for. Arin and Kestrel are one of my favourite bookish OTPs, and this book just gave me all the feels.

    Sophie @ Sophie Reads YA

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