The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

100-Character Breakdown: An exciting blend of war, politics, and romance. Elegantly written with deep characters and setting.

Genre: Young adult, fantasy, romance

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (March 2016)

The Winner’s Kiss is the conclusion to The Winner’s Trilogy. Start by learning more about the first two books, The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime. Minor spoilers for the first two books ahead.


The Winner's KissIn her conclusion to The Winner’s Trilogy, Marie Rutkoski brings the exciting series to a satisfying end. At the beginning of The Winner’s Kiss, Arin is in a complicated alliance with the eastern nation Dacra, and Kestrel is a prisoner being shipped to a work camp in the tundra. She struggles to escape, but the drugs she is forced to take pacify her. She begins to lose small pieces of her memory. Yet while Arin tries to forget the woman he believes betrayed him, he cannot. He must place his focus on Herran, caught in the middle of the war brewing between the East and the West.

Although politics drove the plot of book two, The Winner’s Kiss returns to the action-based focus of the first book. And while fast-paced action drives the book, its focus nonetheless remains the relationship between Kestrel and Arin. Their relationship has been the heart of this series, from the romance to the political and war-based conflicts they find themselves in the middle of. The reader is drawn to them as their relationship grows even more complex and they become more intriguing as characters.

Meanwhile, the world building further expands as we see elements of Herran and the rest of the region that we haven’t yet. Rutkoski’s precise world building has made this region a character in itself by this point in the series. The book is very focused on the action of the war, but, especially in Herran, the political intrigue still has its place. Herran has dealt with a lot of instability in the series, and Rutkoski uses the final book to examine the country’s fate and how its identity has changed. Beyond the vivid characterization of Kestrel, Arin, and the world they live in, The Winner’s Kiss solidifies Roshar’s character. The way Rutkoski uses him as a foil to one of the other characters is both an artistic and powerful way to help the novel progress. Besides the Dacran queen, who sometimes felt undeveloped and unnecessary, every character in the series receives the development they deserve and some sort of resolution by the book’s end. Rutkoski succeeds in her conclusion to this elegantly written series. The world she has created is one readers will undoubtedly enjoy.

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