Written by Marie Rutkoski
Fantasy, Dystopian, Romance
Published March 24th 2016
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia via Netgalley
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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?
Nick and I both found ourselves reading The Winner's Kiss, so naturally I suggested a fabulous review discussion.
But I didn't take no for an answer. After much discussion about eyebrow waxing, Nick's hostility and the challenge of a knife fight, we decided it was a brilliant idea and it was selfish to not to share our fabulousness with the blogging community and thus, a discussion was born.
For the girl who is Ernie to my Bert, please welcome Nick from Nick and Nereydas Infinite Booklist and our discussion review of this epic finale.
Best. Finale. Ever.
I must admit, I'm always wary of finales. Usually I end up pissed that I've invested so much into a reading a series and only to have an author write a half assed conclusion. But The Winner's Kiss was fucking epic wrapped in awesome. The intensity, the romance, the sexual frustration! I wanted to jump onto the page and rub Kestrel and Arin together at one point just so they'd get it on with all that friction.
Was the finale what you expected?
What I expected? No! It went far far far beyond what I wanted. I'm like you in that I'm always worried about how a book ends. With the events in The Winner's Crime, I was even more nervous, but wow! Rutkoski took my heart, punched it repeatedly with her stunning writing and all the damn feels, and in the end left me sated. Like you said, there is just so much of everything in this finale and undeniably my favorite was the epic EPIC! romance between Arin and Kestrel. I was ready for them to get it on from very early on! Haha!
So... Are we going to have to fight for Arin, Kelly?
He's right up there, but I prefer my book boyfriends more villainous. Arin reminds me so much of Chaol from the Throne of Glass series. The same gruffness, the inner turmoil and seriousness that makes them both seem much older than their years. I was heartbroken during The Winner's Crime as well. But that heartache lead to such a delicious tension between the two. Let's talk about Kestrel and her character transformation. I loved her in book one, but seeing how selfless she was in Crime made me warm to her even more so. But shock horror, some readers don't like her. Are they clearly barking mad or just want Arin for themselves?
YES! More Arin for me! You know I don't have much love for the Throne of Glass series anymore, but I can definitely see why Arin reminds you of Chaol. That quiet intensity he possesses is so sexy. I don't know what it is about me and rough-around-the-edges boys in books. I think his roughness really balances out Kestrel's own intelligence and one of the many reasons why they are such a great couple.
WHAT? How can anyone not like, Kestrel? I'm going to assume it's because they want Arin for themselves because why else? Is it because she's not the typical fantasy heroine a.k.a physically badass? I think one major reason I love Kestrel is the fact that she's not physically strong (which was also why I was so against those US covers being changed), but yet, she is an important player and is Arin's equal when it comes to the story. I connect better with characters like Kestrel who are cunning and use their heads to solve problems. There's one particular scene in The Winner's Kiss, that really highlighted that for me and it's one I sadly can't talk about.
It's that quiet determination and intellect which drew me to her character in the first place too. She doesn't need to be a fighter to show her tough she is and I love young adult that isn't afraid to create characters that can't wield a sword, but can use words as weapons just as effectively. I don't understand why they would change the covers only months before the finale is released. From what I gather, the series is selling well and I don't think we need another Throne of Glass type cover, which is iconic to that series and not The Winner's Trilogy. Even stranger that they are under the same publisher too.
What did you think about the support characters, namely Roshar?
I wasn't sure about Roshar at first, what with his not-so-serious behavior and also the fact that he physically resembled Voldemort (plus, who can you even trust this trilogy?), but he grew on me in The Winner's Kiss especially. I loved how he and Arin had this bromance and how he was always pulling Arin's leg, but was also not afraid to speak his mind when he didn't approve of some of his decisions. His growing bond with Kestrel was also delightful! I'm glad that she was able to make some friends with this new life of hers. I also really enjoyed Kestrel's relationship with Sarsine. I'm always up for a good female friendship in YA books, and theirs was most certainly that.
What were your thoughts on her?
I liked her and I think her character helped give Kestrel a softness and humility that we haven't seen before. The bromance between Roshar and Arin had me second guessing their alliance at times, there was something about Roshar that felt as though he may have had ulterior motives and left me nervous that he might turn on him, especially with his sister pushing for greater influence during the conflict. The war seemed to have taken a backseat to it's characters though. You see brief snippets of conflict, but it felt a little anticlimactic overall. We have to talk about the romance.
I was quietly shitting myself that Marie Rutkoski was going to balls it up.
I was so nervous about that too! Part of me worried because I was unsure as to how they would fix their relationship but the romance was my favorite part of this finale. I feel like I could go on and on about it but I won't because I want readers to experience it on their own. The tension between Arin and Kestrel was at its peak in The Winner's Kiss and while it took some time to become emotionally open with each other, the wait was so worth it. I don't know how Rutkoski does it but every scene between the two of them was infused with so much intensity and chemistry. I loved that The Winner's Kiss was so romance driven because after the torture that was The Winner's Crime I needed this. They had a lot to work through but I feel like they came out stronger than ever and by the end, I believed in the power of their love.
How about you, Kelly?
I love them as individuals and even more so together. One of the best pairings in young adult. Ever.
I feel as though that connection Kestrel and Arin has is almost a dying breed in young adult. Two characters both with an amazing amount of inner strength and likability, who are just as strong individually as they are together. The last couple that had that same connection were Celaena and Chaol and I think that's why fans have flocked to this series too.
I'm sad it's over though.
I am too, but I love how everything wrapped up and I especially loved that Kestrel was the one who gave the final blow.
This series has never been the most action-packed, but it was still able to keep me on the edge of my seat with its strong world building and twists and turns. In The Winner's Kiss, we were finally able to get a glimpse at Marie Rutkoski's more plot-driven side, with the intense battle scenes, the politics and the climax of the book. It's not an easy ride for readers emotionally, but it's one that I believe people will love. The Winner's Trilogy is brilliant in its execution, luscious writing and ability to leave readers drowning in their feelings and for that this is a series I will revisit over and over again. I just don't see myself ever tiring of Kestrel and Arin and everything else this book has to offer.