Review: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski


Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Release date: March 24, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 484
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The Winner’s Kiss is the third and final book in The Winner’s Trilogy, which means that this review contains spoilers for the first two books. I highly recommend this trilogy so check out my review of The Winner’s Curse instead if you haven’t started this series!


Wishes don’t win wars

The empire is at war and a heartbroken Arin leads his people to battle. But he can’t forget Kestrel – or how she’s betrayed him. Kestrel is a sly, ruthless killer, caring more for the glory of the empire than for the lives of innocent people – and certainly more than for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is sentenced to life imprisonment in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for an 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.


45 stars

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was expecting big, big things from this third and final book because of how much I enjoyed The Winner’s Crime, and all of the tension and anticipation that that book contained. Sadly, The Winner’s Kiss didn’t reach the epic heights that I expected, but I have to acknowledge that my expectations were really really high. But even though it didn’t quite meet all of my ridiculously high expectations, I still highly enjoyed it and thought it was a great ending to the trilogy.

Just like the previous two books, The Winner’s Kiss is quite slow in pace but quick to read because the writing is so addictive. There wasn’t very much action in the first half of the book and it felt like 200 pages of fluff but ultimately, I thought it was still really satisfying to read. I wasn’t the biggest fan of something that happened in that first part of the novel because I thought that it added a lot of unnecessary drama to the book. Having said that, it was still fun to read and I completely respect the author’s decision to incorporate that aspect (I know, I’m being super vague).

I was a bit disappointed with the lack of action in The Winner’s Kiss. After finishing The Winner’s Crime, I was expecting lots and lots of epic action and strategy, and that’s really not what you get from the first 50-65% of the book. And this was, in part, due to all that unnecessary drama that I mentioned before. Having said that, the first two books in this trilogy didn’t have very much action either, so I can’t say that the lack of action in this finale was completely surprising. What this trilogy did have in the previous two books was political intrigue and strategy and I wanted to see more of it in this book because that’s what I associate with Kestrel and with this trilogy. Instead, it kind of fell by the wayside in favour of the aforementioned unnecessary drama. But, once the action finally commenced in the last third of the novel, I really enjoyed it. There was one thing that I predicted before the reveal, which made it less epic and exciting for me, but I highly enjoyed how the whole novel and trilogy ended.

As always, the characters were really, really great. I highly enjoyed Arin’s character in this book and didn’t feel frustrated with him at all (which I did in previous books). We got to see the good, bad, strong and vulnerable sides of him and I just loved the complexity that Marie Rutkoski brought to his character. I also liked Kestrel in this book, but I do have to say that I loved her character a lot more in the previous two books. Because of something that happened in this novel, I felt like her character was slightly different to who she had been in the past. However, the intelligent and strategic side of her was still present and I was really happy to see that. What I was slightly disappointed with were the side characters. We got to meet so many interesting characters in The Winner’s Crime and they were hardly present in this book. I was expecting them to play a greater role and was really looking forward to what they would bring to story, but sadly they barely featured in this final book. We did get a good dose of Roshar though, and he was funny and a fantastic character.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this final book, even though it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. It had less action than I thought it would have and the whole book just didn’t have the intensity that I wanted. Having said that, it was still a highly exciting and satisfying read and I definitely recommend this trilogy.


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

  1. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    I’m glad you liked this book, even though it didn’t live up to your expectations. I agree with you about the drama at the beginning but I liked the way Marie used it to kind of develop Kestrel’s character a little more and her relationship with Arin as well.
    I loved Roshar in this book, I think he is one of my favourite characters and I loved every scene with him, and every scene between him and Arin as well 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hey Ashers! says:

    “But, once the action finally commenced in the last third of the novel, I really enjoyed it.”

    That’s really good to hear. I’m about halfway through it, and was considering DNFing it. I’ll stay strong, and hopefully I’ll enjoy the last third as much as you did. Thanks for giving me strength! =D

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

    Yooo Jenna I tots agree with your thoughts! Okay like the drama aspect in the first half of the book? Boooo. It was okay, but really made the story drag for me. But then after we get over that little mishap, I LOVED IT. Sooo many feelings omg. Especially the end :’DD
    I thought there was a bit more action than the previous books! (Or maybe it’s been too long since I’ve read them LOL) Roshar is literal bae. I wish we had more page time with him! Anyhow, Kestrel x Arin 6ever ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah! I mean, I didn’t hate the beginning but it was so long and dragged out. It was just such a dramatic reunion that wasn’t necessary… The amnesia trope is a bit overdone and annoying. I just remembered The Winner’s Crime being absolutely epic and intense, despite there being not much action, and was expecting more of the same here but it was slightly underwhelming. It didn’t have the action or the same level of political intrigue.


  4. cw @ readthinkponder says:

    As much as I love The Winner’s Kiss to the ends of the earth and back, I have to agree with you re: the lack of action. Part of me justifies this because I know Kestrel was never a fighter, and I thought the way the book ended was ultimately true to her character. I still loved The Winner’s Crime better, because it had a lot of political/backstabby/action. Still, I love how the book ended; it was probably one of the most satisfying finales I’ve read in the longest time.

    But now I’m going to have withdrawal?! Marie Rutkoski needs to write another book ASAP. 😥

    (Amazing review Jenna! As always!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah I loved The Winner’s Crime so much and was expecting more of the same in this one but it didn’t quite deliver. I thought it would have more strategy/political intrigue but everything turned out really differently to what I had imagined, with everything that happened at the beginning. I thought the first half of the book was a bit of a throw-away because nothing really happened besides the reunion… which was nice but I wanted more of the same strategic stuff that was in the previous books. I still have major withdrawals though. I need like a bind up of novellas or something!


  5. Zoe says:

    THIS. I felt it dragged a bit at times because of the lack of action, but I think I was just so engrossed in the gorgeous writing I didn’t really notice that much. 😉

    And Kestrel is the best, isn’t she? I love how, even though she may not be strong physically she can still beat you in any fight with her brilliant mind.

    Thanks for sharing Jenna and, as always, fabulous review! ♥ Glad you found this to be a worthy finale. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah the first half was definitely draggy. I liked the reunion but couldn’t they have done stuff at the same time? I felt like the war was just happening in the background and I wanted to know more about it and wanted them to be more involved in it. I absolutely love the characters though so it was still super satisfying to read.


  6. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    What you’ve described here pretty much describes my experience with a lot of final books. After all the build up and anticipation from the first 2 books in the series, we’re definitely expecting this final one to be epic but it kind of sounds like that drama was put in to pad out the final book in a way. I’m a bit worried about Kestrel’s changes as you said, but I’m glad this was a satisfying ending overall. Lovely review Jenna!

    Liked by 1 person

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