“No battle is won without a good gamble.”
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?
To say that I am glad to be back in Kestrel and Arin’s world would be an understatement. I’ve been waiting for this final installment ever since I first finished reading The Winner’s Crime last year. I’ve been rereading the first two books countless times that sometimes I feel like I already build hundred versions of the Arin and Kestrel’s ending in my mind. But of course, I still want to know the real ending from the talented creator herself, Marie Rutkoski.
In this final installment, Marie Rutkoski not just pushed Arin and Kestrel’s story but also send to test both characters.
After being captive and sent to slavery, Kestrel lost part of her mind. She cannot remember a great deal about her past, about Arin, nor her father. While Arin is trying to understand what Kestrel did and struggling to win a war with alliance he isn’t completely sure but have no other choice.
As always, I am at awe with Marie Rutkoski’s writing. I spent much of The Winner’s Kiss astonished by her beautiful prose, and intricate passages. Words that are arranged meticulously to carry depth, emotions, and different meanings that can make readers pause, feel, think or have some reactions of one or two. Marie Rutkoski is truly a talented writer.
Beside with the superb writing, the intricate relationships of intriguingly complex characters is another best part of this book. Arin, Kestrel, and Roshar are all flawed but the connections between them are very palpable.
As I said from my previous review, Kestrel is one of the smartest character I have read in YA fictions. And to see her lost her wit and memory in this installment is just heartbreaking. She is still strong and smart but without her memory readers will see her struggle. Being a slave changed her both in the best and terrifying way. Her experienced at the mine makes her understand more the hardship of those who are not in power, while losing her memory makes her susceptible.
“Her memory was a gaming set where she could see the board and knew the rules of the game yet didn’t recognize all the pieces.”
Arin started with so much doubt and hatred for Kestrel. He thought he was betrayed and played. But eventually he realized what really happened, his own misgivings and all the misunderstandings. His love for Kestrel is immeasurable.
“I won’t play you because even when I win, I lose. It’s never been just a game between us.”
Arin and Kestrel are both broken not just by the war between their people but also with all things they’ve seen and done. But in-spite of all that happened these two fight to survive. They may not always agree with each other or share the same beliefs but when it matters they fought on the same side.
“He didn’t smile. He cupped her face with both hands. An emotion tugged at his expression, a dark awe, the kind saved for a wild storm that rends the sky but doesn’t ravage your existence, doesn’t destroy every thing you love. The one that lets you feel saved.”
Roshar is the most surprising character in this book. Though he was actually introduced from The Winner’s Crime, readers doesn’t know much about him until this final installment. His relationship with Arin is admiring and endearing. With his snarky comments and banter with the other characters, he balance the heaviness of war, and the drama and angst of others.
All in all, The Winner’s Kiss is a perfect end to this brilliant fantasy series of Marie Rutkoski. It’s smart, action packed, emotionally powerful, compelling, entertaining and satisfying. I am sad to see this whole series to end, but I’m beyond thrilled with how everything turned out. I’ll be rereading this whole series again and again as I love revisiting Kestrel and Arin’s world.
Kudos to Marie Rutkoski for delivering a fantastic series.