Series: The Winner's Trilogy #3
on March 24th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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?
This book contains spoilers for the previous books.
It’s like I’m always fated to dislike the end of trilogies, no matter what goes down and how perfectly it ends.
That’s what happened with The Winner’s Kiss – while I liked the last 150 pages or so, the rest of the book was a total, cliched drag which I found disappointing.
Now I knew Kestrel and Arin were going to be angsty, just looking at their constant misunderstandings and communication problems in The Winner’s Crime. Like everyone else, I wished they would just kiss and make up, which – not really a spoiler – does happen in the aptly named Winner’s Kiss.
But what happens to get them there, is a whole lot of angst and melodrama as they reminisce about the past and gradually work out their problems. Arin starts off hating Kestrel for what she’s done and writing her off as dead to him, while she’s suffering and being tortured in a prison. To take the pain away, she’s heavily drugged, which eventually causes amnesia and she loses her memories and her sense of self.
He’d seen this before. All the ships that shattered against the rock of her determination. How she’d break herself too, if she must, to get what she wanted.
My main issue with the book is that the Kestrel that we’ve grown and loved has really lost herself in this book – her intelligent, strategic and calculating mind gets muddied up with a scared girl who is lost and confused. I’m not used to her being a victim of her circumstances and her father’s ignorance, and it seemed unnecessarily cruel and also frustrating. Even until the end, I don’t think she really became that girl again, and I mourned the loss of a great non-fighting feminist woman.
The amnesia angle also frustrated me to no end, because there was such a large emphasis on it in the book – instead of focusing on the impending war and fighting amongst the Herrani soldiers, Arin and Kestrel spent 300 pages of the book lamenting about their past transgressions and re-discovering their affection for one another. I found it to be incredibly cliched and a convenient way to make them work things out – when there were clearly bigger problems outside of their relationship.
She wished that she’d had the courage that very moment to tell Arin what she’d finally known to be true: that she loved him with the whole of her heart.
After a torturous 3/4 of the book when they finally put the past behind them, I was glad to see them finally move on to the war and to the moment that we’ve all been waiting for. There’s been so much sexual tension throughout the series that it all lives up to it in the end.
I enjoyed the bromance between Arin and the eastern Prince Roshar, and the witty banter between them. If it wasn’t for the prince and his witty, sarcastic remarks, the romantic drama in here would’ve been too much to bear.
Thankfully, the ending does redeem the book for me, where I felt the conclusion to each character’s journey was done perfectly. Everything comes full circle and ends on a high note.
The Winner’s Curse was definitely the strongest of the series and I felt the sequels were filled with romantic drama and tension that was thankfully resolved in The Winner’s Kiss. While most of the novel was frustrating to read because of the things Arin and Kestrel had to work through, the sweeter moments in here definitely made it worth it for me. The conclusion ties off everything perfectly and I’m glad it ended well.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a review copy of this book.