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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Winner's Kiss

Dearly beloved, the time has come to say goodbye. Goodbye to amazing characters, an amazing trilogy. Goodbye to an amazing story that now has come to an end. It pains me to say that we will close a book-series, one that I have grown to adore from the first few pages. One that I totally absorbed and got absorbed by. With the last book in the series, The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, we will be left but not without a phenomenal ending. A review about the last book in a series that has become my favorite this year!

WARNING For the ones here that haven't read the first in this series, I recommend you not to read on since there will be further developments to the characters and to the plot. This will create a less pleasant read of The Winner's Crime because you know more information than you already should. Therefore, I recommend you not to read the review of The Winner's Crime but to read the review about the first in the series: The Winner's Curse. If you're interested in the second book, The Winner's Crime, I also wrote a review about that book. Just clicking on the title will open a new page with the review on the first book. 

War has arrived and it will not be easy to defeat. 
Arin is making strategies to defeat the enemy together with his new allies. Even though he tries to convince himself that he no longer thinks about Kestrel, his mind and heart often go back to those sweet times. Trying to forget about her for good, he throws himself into a battle that might become his death.
Meanwhile the woman in his heart is somewhere in the Tundra. As a prisoner for her betrayal to the empire and her own father, Kestrel has time to feel the pain. The pain of her father letting her go. The pain of losing Arin. Kestrel starts fighting to keep her conscious and tries hard to escape what might become her death. 

This book! This book! This book! I can't believe how the author keeps writing these amazing books. If you haven't picked up the first one... what are you doing here? This is going to spoil all of this fantastic series! Also instead of reading this, go pick up the first book! Hurry!

The thing I noticed about the characters and actually the whole book in general, is that our focus changes. In The Winner's Crime we really saw how Kestrel was protecting Arin but this time she can't protect him. Kestrel is in a prison and is now suffering. In The Winner's Crime we saw how Arin suffered through her actions and now she's suffering from her actions. I really love how the characters focus changes but still has this element that attaches the change to what we already saw before.

The thing with Kestrel is that I feel it's one of the first times we really see her suffer. Yes, we saw her feel bad and suffer but this is different. She's imprisoned. Her father let het get taken away because of his beliefs. We really see how the prison feels like and how everything works in the world Marie Rutkoski created. But most of all we see how Kestrel's feelings finally catch up with the past two books. Her heartbreak is ginormous and that makes her level of suffering far worse than what we have seen before. The once strong Kestrel now seemed like a totally different character, a person without the fight inside of her, a person without her strategies. I really loved to see this side of Kestrel because it brings more dept into her character and shows the readers that she's more than a strong strategist. 

Also what I really admired with this character is that she eventually will fight. The prison tries to make the prisoners calm and without any emotion so they work harder. The battle between wanting to forget everything because of her obvious heartbreak and the will to break free is therefore a big element that'll be important for this character. We'll really see how Kestrel is fighting to be strong again but also wants to give up the fight because she lost Arin and her father. A very strong character that gives us new insight in her personality. Even though we only see it in the last book, I didn't mind that too much because it was an amazing turn.

As for Arin, also he's changing more and more. I felt like in the first book, The Winner's Curse, he was just a boy. Now, in the third and last book, we really see how everything has changed him. He's become this new man who has been through so much. Also his past will be something that's discussed in The Winner's Kiss which I think is a big asset to his character because it makes us understand more of his past actions. 

His character seems older and more mature because of everything that has been going on during this trilogy. Above that there's also the obvious heartbreak on Arin's part, however I feel like the heartbreak with this character was already obvious in The Winner's Crime. How Arin feels and what he'll do with his broken heart will take interesting turns though which I think is a good thing, but I can't tell more about that!

What I can say about Arin's character is that I'm really impressed with him. When you look at the past three books, you really see that he has evolved the most and that his thinking has become deeper and more mature. His personality is also very likable and swoon-worthy which we all know by now! I absolutely adored him, his bad sides included!

As for the relationship between our two characters, we've seen a lot of that happening already. The first book really focused on them meeting and how their relationship and bond starts to form, the second book then really concentrates on Kestrel trying to protect him and Arin trying to get her back. So as I already mentioned each book changes it's view and starts to focus on a change. It's therefore really interesting to see what the third and last book, The Winner's Kiss, is going to do with our two characters and how everything will evolve. If we'll get a happy ending or if these two will see each other again is a question you'll have to find the answer to yourself! All I can tell is that I'm really happy that the author made this evolve and have certain turns I hadn't seen coming! 

Now the plot! The story finally starts with the war. In the first book there wasn't really any case of war. Everyone lived peacefully but then of course, there was the rebellion which had set things in motion. In The Winner's Crime we then saw how the empire and strategists were trying to overpower each other and get the best out of their situation. And then we finally arrive at the last book and it's really time for war! 

I actually have to say that I really looked forward to this. Especially now we have a new game piece: the east. Arin had been trying to make them his allies and also succeeded in doing so. The thing I really love about the east is that they bring other habits and also new views on war. I just really adored their influence on the story. It really comes together as one coherent concept that's very realistic: every land has it's own habits, own strategies and own views. That's no different in this book! And I really loved that because the habits and the things they wore are so much different from each other. 

However with every war there are allies and when everyone works together they start to take over their habits. This is something Marie Rutkoski also took into account and also wrote out for the readers. If there's anything I'm really happy that the author really made detailed sceneries that we could then read and really view with our fantasy. The fact that she also paid attention to those habits and spend time making these differences was therefore very appreciated. 

Another element in the plot is that we'll also get some more action in this book. Although I think we already had some action in the past books, The Winner's Kiss' focus really is on the war between the Empire and the rest of the lands. With war I think we all expect more than one fight and more action than we've had before. The author came to our aid and also really brought us scenes of battle. Not only the good kind but also the loss and the new strategies! I've always been a fan of the strategies, and once again the author doesn't leave us without them.

The only thing we'll be seeing a lot less in this book is the betrayal and the games. This is probably because the war has already begun and everyone has taken sides. There's no need to betray people or to play games. Did I miss that aspect? Not really. I find that the book didn't really need it just because the war really takes up the plot and makes sure we've got enough elements there to keep us busy and entertained. 

Next to war we'll also see the two main characters be on their own path. Arin is already in the war, but Kestrel is imprisoned. I think it's an asset to the readers to also live through the sort imprisonment that the Empire sees fit. It really brings a lot of other and new details and characteristics that we can pin to the empire. As for Arin, as I already mentioned he's already in war but he'll make sure that the readers will get a good view on how the east will react and claim their space in war. Which is also a very nice thing to read about! Both characters will just make sure that more details and characteristics of other lands will become known. Even though it's the last book, I really enjoyed getting to know the other lands even better!

Another thing I absolutely adored in this book was the past of Arin that got a little bit more revealed. Arin will tell tales of his past and also his gods will be around. These little elements are things that really define Arin and make him who he is. Therefore reading into his past and getting to understand (at last) why he did the things that he did, is something readers will find amazing. Also the part of his gods will be more important in this book and really makes Arin's character even better.

As for Kestrel, we know her heartbreak and as I already said she's imprisoned. The Winner's Kiss is finally going to add more to the bond between her father and her. Some questions will be answered and readers will not be disappointed at all! Their relationship as well as both characters will be talked about and seen more so that we'll finally be able to understand what went wrong and why. I think that's a nice element to close this series off with because I think this was something that defined Kestrel's personality.

Does this mean that we won't be seeing some Kestrel and Arin action? Who knows. I can't really say much about that, especially because that's just the fun of the book. However I can really say that I'm absolutely amazed and happy with how the book ends and how the trilogy is closed off. After a long ride of 3 books with so much loss and games and betrayal, I think it's safe to say that readers will not be left disappointed. At least I really wasn't! 

And with this review, this series ends! I can't believe that it's over and it also really pains me to think of that! Marie Rutkoski has given me a new series to treasure and also and ending I never came close to. The Winner's Kiss has surprised me in many ways and the author has once again showed us that she can keep exciting us. This time I felt that the focus has changed once again and claims the war as theme. I have to say I respect the author a lot to refocus her theme in every book but still make it one coherent trilogy. As in all other books, we'll be able to enjoy strategies and see them being executed with it's effects as we get a closer look onto the war. 

As this is the last book in the trilogy, a lot of remaining questions get answers and new questions still arise which I think is an asset to the book. The author keeps making us guess and question certain characters but also certain situations. And speaking of characters, they surprised me even more! It's amazing to see them grow even further and play with their demons during the times of war. 

Lastly, there's still the part where the trilogy is written with an all-knowing-persona but once again the author won't give everything to us. There's still so much room to speculate or even to be surprised because things turned out totally opposite than what we might have expected. I absolutely loved that effect in this story. 

To conclude I think it's fair to say that this is an outstanding ending that's both thrilling but also very satisfying. Even after two books the author has given us a worthy last book that still gives us all the things we loved during the story. I am in tears! This book (and this entire series) is absolutely magnificent. A huge recommendation!

"Some kisses come at a price."

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