The Winner’s Kiss Review: Can They Just Kiss and Make Up

May 18, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

The Winner’s Kiss Review: Can They Just Kiss and Make UpThe Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #3
on March 24th 2016
Source: Publisher
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. 


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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20 responses to “The Winner’s Kiss Review: Can They Just Kiss and Make Up

  1. I didn't really like the way that their relationship was broken up because of Kestrel's amnesia. Like, FINALLY Arin had realised that she was actually awesome and had helped him so much and then they couldn't get together because she didn't remember him T.T

    I also mourned the loss of our awesome Kestrel, as well. And not just because her memories changed. I just feel like SHE changed a lot. Like, she was suddenly fighting and using weapons, and I was like: NO. Because I had loved the fact that she wasn't a fighting girl SO MUCH. *sigh*

    Roshar was the best part of this book, hands down. I want a whole series about him.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one overall, lovely! <3
    My recent post Two Problems in A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

    • Yeah, that was so frustrating! I mean if Kestrel never got amnesia would they have still gotten together? It\’s pretty questionable because that\’s the only way they seemed to move past their issues with each other. I\’m glad to hear it wasn\’t just me when it came to her amazing character. I loved Roshar too, especially when he revealed that he liked men! Thanks Chiara!

  2. I've been pretty torn about my feelings for this. I think I mostly agree with you- I probably would give it a *slightly* higher rating, but only because I DID feel satisfied by the actual end. A lot of it was kind of draggy, just waiting for the action to start. Which is ironic because usually I am okay with not as much action? But in this series, I think it just kind of needed something "more" at the end. Still, I am at least happy that I wasn't angry at the book? That is how low my standards for series finales have become- if I am not raging and throwing things, it was a success!
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  3. fullybookedreviews

    I've forgotten so much of what has happened in the series, I may need a serious recap before I dive into this final instalment. It's a real pity about all the melodrama in this one though – it would frustrate me as well!

  4. Lmao Jeann I totally agree with you about the amnesia stuff! It was like a complete 180 turn in the book that I did not see coming, and I was just like "wtf is happening???" XD LOL but the latter half was wonderful – I really enjoyed the end especially haha.

    • Oh man, I was just so annoyed in the early half of the book that I couldn\’t really enjoy the ending! Maybe I should have just skipped to the ending XD I liked how it ended too though.

  5. Aww! 🙁 I'm sad you didn't love this one as I adored it even with all the angst and drama, but I can definitely understand why it was a frustrating series ending for you, Jeann. I'm sorry, because I know you've enjoyed the rest of the books in the series. At least you didn't outright hate it?
    In any case, I hope whatever series ending you read next will blow you away! We need to get you to read some amazing series endings. 🙂
    Lovely review, Jeann!
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    • I actually didn\’t realise it was going to turn out to be such an angst-ridden drama from the first book, and I\’m kind of disappointed it turned out that way! The ending was worth it though. Thank you Nick! I just finished the Colors of Madeleine trilogy and it ended really well!

  6. sumlynnnguyen

    Wonderful review, Jeann! I can definitely understand what you mean about the angst caused by the endless misunderstandings. I know a lot of people really loved The Winner's Crime, but though I really enjoyed it I was also frustrated. I think TWC2 was my least favorite book of the trilogy for that reason. And oh gosh, the amnesia arc caught me off guard too! The fact that Kestrel was very different from how she was in book one and two didn't bother me as much as it did you, but I see what you mean. I initially gave this 5 stars on Goodreads when I first read it (I think it was just because I was glad A and K finally got together after all they've been through) but now with some time to really thinking about it coupled with reading your review I may downrate it a little lower, haha. I guess I'll see when I start writing the review! XD
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    • Thanks Summer, so many people loved the 2nd and 3rd book but I was just taken aback by all the relationship drama. It was annoying that\’s where it headed. The amnesia thing was just so annoying and seemed like a cop out – like there wasn\’t anything better to write about. There was though with the war and everything, and it was so easily solved. Oh man, sorry to spoil your enjoyment lol. Looking forward to your review anyhow!

  7. Bieke (Nelly B.)

    I just glanced over this review because *gasp* I haven't started this series yet, but I do hope to soon! I hear raving things from this one constantly so I'm kind of sad you didn't seem to have enjoyed it quite as much. 🙁

  8. Kelly

    I can see how the amnesia would have been frustrating- it wasn't my favourite narrative choice either- at least not how long it carried on. I definitely agree that The Winner's Curse was the strongest book in the trilogy in a lot of ways. It is a lot more steady in its story line.
    My recent post Ten Books I Picked Up On A Whim

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