Review: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

WARNING: If you’ve not yet read The Winner’s Curse or The Winner’s Crime please proceed with caution. I’ve tried to make this a spoiler free as possible for those who haven’t but I make no promises. If you’ve read both of those then you have nothing to worry about. 🙂

Title: The Winner’s Kiss

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 484


Version 2



“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?”

“No battle is won without a good gamble.”

Warning ahead of time this review might be a tad incoherent as I’m having trouble conveying how much I absolutely loved this book.

So this is the end of an amazing journey! I’m always sad to see an incredible series end. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve gotten frustrated, and most of all I’ve loved every second of it. It’s been a journey I was all too willing to go on. I was absolutely blown away by this book. It’s gripping, thrilling, suspenseful, even possibly horrifying at times, and once you start it you can’t possibly stop and you won’t want to because you’ll want to keep reading to find out what happens next. Marie Rutkoski knows how to end a series!

One of the things I loved most about this book was how it flowed from suspenseful moments, to horrifying moments, to softer moments, to anxiety ridden moments so seamlessly but with a lot of power. I felt everything the characters were going through and became so invested in it. I attribute that to Marie Rutkoski’s writing; it’s positively enchanting. The way she describes emotions, without even having the characters speak at times, is incredible. You feel it radiating from the character’s so clearly that you don’t need dialogue to back it up. She also sets the tone of each setting and the story so perfectly. You feel the horror, the gripping fear, and anxiety of battle. You feel the camaraderie between the characters in its light and teasing way. You feel the softness and slow blooming of love. You feel the gripping anxiety of trying to achieve something but feeling as if you’ve failed or will fail. You feel the sting of the truth and the sting of lies. You feel betrayal, frustration, vengeance, and so much more.

Something that kind of deterred me in both The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime was the romance aspect. The intensity of it was a bit unrealistic for me and although I really loved them together I wasn’t sold on how it was being done. However, this book changed that completely. Arin and Kestrel have both changed so much from who they were in the beginning and the romance was better for that. It became this sweet, slow burning that leaves the reader practically begging for more. At times I found myself absolutely giddy because of these two. The romance along with the friendship between Roshar, Kestrel, and Arin adds this bit of lightness to an otherwise dark and serious story.

A+ to Marie Rutkoski for the friendships in this book! I really felt like the previous books were lacking friendship and that’s another thing that had me pushing aside the romance. Sarsine, Roshar, and Verex. I love those three! The friendship between Roshar and Arin has this camaraderie and brotherliness that I adored. Roshar is self-deprecating, sarcastic, and slightly hard to love at times but he is so entirely unique and he matches Arin’s more serious personality perfectly. Sarsine has been my favorite since the first book. I loved her gentleness and honesty. The way her friendship grows with Kestrel and how she is with Arin. I loved it and I was sad that we didn’t see more of her in the books. Verex, the character I wasn’t sure I was going to like but that ended up stealing my heart. Verex’s friendship with Kestrel was incredible and I was so happy with how it grew and became something that Kestrel really valued.

As with all great series ending books I so wish there had been an epilogue! This series ends with a bit of openness that is conclusive at times in the fact that the reader can easily figure out for themselves what will happen but it also leaves some things unanswered. I find open endings torture but also satisfying. I was definitely satisfied with how Marie Rutkoski wrapped things up and must admit that I shed a few tears after I turned the last page. I was left feeling bittersweet; sad because it was over but happy about how it ended.

Suspenseful, dark, serious, thrilling, and satisfying. If you’ve not yet picked up the last book in The Winner’s Trilogy, you’ll want to and you’ll enjoy every minute as it sinks its claws into you and doesn’t let go until you turn the last page!

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Honesty requires courage.”

“Your should haves are gone. They belong to the god of the lost.”

“As he spoke, it occurred to her that maybe he, too, felt like two people, that maybe everybody does, and that it’s not a question of whether one’s damaged, but of how easily or not that damage is seen.”

“Sometimes a truth squeezes you so tightly you can’t breathe.”

It’s hard not to be heard, seen. To share.”

“I want better choices.” “Then we must make a world that has them.”

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

You can purchase this book on: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository, iBooks, or you can check it out at your local library.



The Winner’s Curse Review (here)

The Winner’s Crime Review (here)


4 thoughts on “Review: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

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