Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Release Date - March 29, 2016
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 496 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received for honest review from the publisher**


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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?
I fully expected to have my heart broken while reading The Winner's Kiss. Marie Rutkoski's subtly beautiful series has shown that there is beauty in unexpected places, but heartbreak too. The previous novels have offered an exquisite heartbreak while leaving you entirely captivated. This finale offered up plenty to mourn as we see the cost of war, but also plenty to find solace in as we see the resilience within people.

Kestrel, right from the moment we meet her in The Winner's Curse, quickly become one of my favourite characters. She is, to borrow from Taylor Swift, the definition of a 'nightmare dressed like a daydream'. She's a strategist who will out maneuver you. She's the knife you never see coming. She's not a warrior or even a fighter really, and that is what I love most about her. She uses her intelligence and political skill to get things done. This is what sets Kestrel apart from other literary heroines, and also what makes her such a welcome inclusion to the Badass YA Ladies list. She uses the skills she does possess and I can think of no better message for readers than that of owning what you're good at and feeling pride in it.

The ending of The Winner's Crime left us with Kestrel being branded a traitor, and her future uncertain. We quickly see what the consequences of her actions are. She proves herself just as resourceful, and as resilient as I hoped. Kestrel truly is a character to admire for her complexity, and tenacity. This final chapter in her story only proves her willingness to remain steadfast in her beliefs, even if she sometimes doubts herself.

The romance in this series has a lot in common with Pride and Prejudice even if the novels have nothing in common at first glance. There is a pride in both Kestrel and Arin that prevents them from fully communicating with each other, and their own prejudices and self doubt prevent them from moving towards the happiness they both deserve. This novel is a quieter, slower burn romance but is all the better for it. I won't spoil if Arin and Kestrel have a happy ending, only that their story continues in this installment and is as brilliantly written as the previous chapters in their romance.

There is plenty said about war, and the costs of war within these pages. Even the 'winners' are left with uncertainty and casualties. This novel balances the injustices done, and the need for freedom, with the brutal truth of war. It may be necessary to fight for what you believe in, but Marie Rutkoski shows that it always comes at a cost.

Surprisingly, forgiveness is a reoccurring theme within these pages. Particularly the strength it takes to offer forgiveness to those who may not truly deserve it. Forgiveness can heal and is a vital part of the healing process for a lot of our characters. It's tied together beautifully with the war storyline in a way that is effortless. It makes the story richer, and touching. Marie Rutkoski shines most in the character motivated moments that are rich with emotion and that is evident as this story comes to close.

Marie Rukoski ends The Winner's Trilogy with a stunning, romantic finale that offers up the most fitting ending to Kestrel and Arin's story. This has been a series of war, love, and miscommunication and that remains true in the finale. The beautiful writing may draw you in, but this finale proves it's the characters that make the series shine.

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