Title: The Winner’s Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #3
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Narrator: Justine Eyre
Length: ~11 hours (484 pages)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Source: Library (Libby app)
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?
This was a great conclusion to the series with a satisfying ending for Kestrel and Arin. I like how each book in the series is very different. I think The Winner’s Crime (book 2) was the strongest in the series with its focus on court drama, espionage, and plenty of angst, while The Winner’s Curse (book 1) was the weakest for me with an uncomfortable premise and a very slow start. The Winner’s Kiss is a war story that falls somewhere in the middle for me.
Kestrel loses her memory as a result of drugs she was forced to take in prison, just as Arin comes to understand the truth about the risks Kestrel took and sacrifices she made for him. This definitely created a lot of tension as Arin was finally ready for a trusting relationship with Kestrel, but then he was a stranger to her. But eventually, Kestrel’s memories do return and they can FINALLY admit their feelings for each other without any obstacles.
Of course, they still have an impossible war against the empire to win. Kestrel’s affinity for scheming and strategy paired with Arin’s leadership and determination and reinforcements from the East might just have what it takes to overthrow the indomitable empire once and for all.
While I enjoyed this book, I never fully got sucked into the series. It’s difficult for me to pin down exactly why. It could be that I didn’t love the first book. It could be that I listened to the audiobooks when I might have connected better reading the physical books for this series. However, this was overall a solid series and I recommend it if you’re looking for some angsty YA fantasy romance.