The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Description:

Published: March 29, 2016

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 –

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I love how the author, Marie Rutkoski, starts off the final book exactly where the second one ended. No wasted time rehashing the past happenings. It’s like READY, SET GO!

As with the  other two books in the trilogy, I had the audio version and the narrator, Justine Eyre, does a magnificent job with the voices of all the characters and makes it a very pleasant listening event.

Besides the descriptions of the battles of  war, the author, gave us more in depth development of several secondary characters which made the book richer and gave us a better insight into their actions.

I am fiercely in love with all things Kestrel and Arin. Their relationship struggle in the novel was so real. Finally a YA book where it’s not the fantasy world keeping them apart, but actual real relationship bumps that plagues us all: break down of communication, acknowledgements of individual changes and growth, trust issues, accepting faults along with strengths, understanding personal struggles, guilt of hurting the one you love the most, forgiveness, and above all, mutual respect.

Our protagonists, Kestrel and Arin, experience a lot of growth as previous choices finally reach shocking, climatic consequences, many of which I was unsure how they’d move past. I definitely didn’t expect the changes Kestrel underwent; she is both the same and vastly different, exploring physical and mental strength of female characters.

THE WINNER’S TRILOGY is one of my favorites. I love the way the whole series comes  together as a whole and this last installment is fantastic and I’m really satisfied with how everything came about.

I HIGHLY recommend this series.

Five stars *****

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The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Description:

Published: March 3, 2015

Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement… if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Review –

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I know that when stating the  theme of a book it should always be put into a complete sentence but to me it is simply LACK OF COMMUNICATION. So, I guess I would say “The lack of communications between people, specifically men and women, can be devastating.”

Kestrel does what she thinks she has to do to protect Arin and his people, so she agrees to marry the Emperor’s son and soon after the Emperor catches her in a lie and says there will be punishment but makes her wait for it. The punishment comes when the emperor has someone slice up Arin’s face with Kestrel’s dagger, which the emperor had taken from her previously. Fortunately, Arin is able to kill his attacker and escape.

Kestrel  sees how horrific the consequences of her actions can be and so continues to try to undermine the Emperor in secret. 

Arin learns of some dreadful things that Kestel has done and returns to the palace to confront her and finds her at her piano but little does he know that her father is hiding in a secret room and can hear everything they say. Kestrel knows her father is there and so is guarded with her words and refuses to tell Arin her true feelings for him but does admit to the horrible things she has done. Arin, washes his hands of her and leaves.

Her father tells the emperor of the conversation between Kestrel and Arin (an enemy of the state) and they accuse her of treason and sentence her to a faraway and cold work camp and fake her death.

Arin, not knowing any of this is despondent and throws the last reminder of her in the sea, her dagger. ( I died a bit when he did that, I couldn’t believe it)

Fantastic story but would have turned out completely different if they, especially Kestrel, would have honestly conveyed their true feelings.

Can’t wait for the third installment which should be released in a bit over a month.

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The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Description:

Published: March 4, 2014

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love…

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Review –

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I generally, as a rule, don’t read books with story lines in kingdoms or empires past, present, or future.  Something about them are off-putting. Maybe it the wars that are always a part of the story. Of course, there are exceptions, like the Selection series by Kiera Cass’s   which was fantastic but I think the draw for me was that it was mostly a love story and I’m sure there are others, but they escape me now.

The Winner’s Curse is also a love story with war playing a very important part but it stays in the background for the most part. Kestrel is a General’s daughter who has only know the wealthy way of life because she was only seven when the Valorians conquered the Herran peninsula and enslaved its people. She leads a comfortable, even pampered life in the Herrani capital. Her real love is music, but with her eighteenth birthday approaching, she will soon be forced to choose between enlisting in the army or marrying.  In the first chapter of the novel, Kestrel finds herself purchasing a young male Herrani slave named Arin, who comes advertised as a blacksmith as well as a singer of some talent… little does she know that the auctioneer has expectations of placing Arin in the General’s household as a spy.

And Arin, it turns out, isn’t an ordinary slave. A son of a good family before the Valorians conquered the Herrani, he has plans of his own to get back at the foreign oppressors. Which leads to complicated places for both Kestrel and Arin when they find themselves falling in love, or at least deep adolescent lust, with each other.

I won’t go into too much detail, so as not to spoil it, but suffice it to say that things do not go well for their budding romance and there is a huge cliffhanger at the end. I have already finished book two and will report on it in the next couple of days.

Fantastic Read.

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