The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Rating: 4 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "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?"
Review: This author's writing feels like a seduction. As Arin and Kestrel fall further under each other's spell, the reader falls further under the spell of the writer. I admire her lyricism and was definitely invested in Arin and Kestrel's relationship. Congratulations to Ms. Rutkoski on making me want read a romance trilogy!
I was impressed with how she conveys how many layers are present in most relationships, even though most of us don't have so much drama in our relationships as Kestrel and Arin. I think most people can relate to having one person bring you both comfort and anxiety, among other things. I don't know if I'm making sense, but basically I thought the depth and complexity of the characters' emotions in this book (and series) were excellently and accurately done. It's pretty rare to find a YA book with this level of emotional intelligence, I think.
That being said, the plot definitely is not as strong as the relationships she writes about. The war was secondary to the romance, which was fine, I guess, since the romance was the central focus here. But I thought the second book really upped the political anty of this series, only to have it fall to the background again in this book. It was still a good, solid read with some strong moments of suspense and action. It just wasn't on par with her characterization. If only the plot was as strong as the characters this series could be really great.
Review in a GIF:
Bottom Line: I probably won't read this series again, but it was a good romance, a solid trilogy, and I'm glad I read it once.