The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski | Book Review

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski | Book ReviewThe Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #3
Also in this series: The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Crime
Also by this author: The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Crime, The Map from Here to There
Published by Macmillan on March 29th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Love & Romance, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, General, Romance
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon

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?

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski is absolutely a book worth putting on hold at the library. It is a book worth walking over to the library to borrow. In fact, it is even worth buying. YOU GUYS! So, I was walking to the library to pick up my holds and the librarian gives me the three Jenny Hans that I had on hold and is like, hey bye. And then I was like oh can you check for The Winner’s Kiss, my phone texted me that it is ready to be picked up. I totally felt like a demanding patron. IT WAS WORTH IT THOUGH. I got to walk home and immediately crack open the final book of the Winner’s trilogy. This book was full of feels. I loved it totally.

When The Winner’s Kiss opens, Kestrel is on her way to a prison camp or a gulag. She has been sent there after her father discovers a letter declaring that she is the moth and that she loves Arin. Arin is back in Herran with his people, just waiting for the Valorian attack. Roshar happens to be there too. Somehow, Arin finds out that Kestrel is in the camp even though all the empire believes her dead. And so, a rescue effort is mounted. From there, The Winner’s Kiss delves into military strategy as the people of Herran and their allies must fight for their freedom from Valoria. Not only is there character development, but the plotting is intricate and exciting.

Of course, I have a real soft spot for Kestrel. I love that she is not a total badass with every weapon ever. I love that she has a brilliant strategic mind. I also thought she was brave and courageous in a number of little ways. She faces her fears and does not ever go down without a fight. She is stubborn too. Or maybe you could use the word tenacious instead. If you want to have Kestrel’s affections you really have to work for it. Finally, I thought that she was so vulnerable in The Winner’s Kiss, especially when it came to her betrayer of a father, the General. He was a real douche and seeing Kestrel come to terms with her emotions was painful and moving all at the same time.

Arin really comes into his own as well. He feels like more than just a love interest for Kestrel. He has his own point of view parts, well, third person point of view. So, Arin is leading the Herran revolt. He has this vengeful god speaking to him and guiding him. Yet, he isn’t sure which god. Also, he hasn’t really come to terms with being so connected with such a vengeful god quite yet. Anyways, so, Arin has a few things weighing heavy on him. Sometimes, too, it feels like he forgets his importance to the movement when Kestrel needs him. It actually is kind of romantic, how he drops everything for her and how hard he works to build the trust back between them.

Finally, I thought I would touch a little bit on Roshar. He is Risha’s brother and a prince in his own right. He is there to help Arin win in his fight against Valoria. Granted, Roshar is not without his own motivations. Anyways, so his character is very well written and just so incredibly interesting. He is full of confidence and attitude and even has a pet tiger named Arin in order to goad the human Arin. I basically loved Roshar’s character and want him to have his own book. For real, I bet you can’t read this book and come away not liking Roshar.

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkosi wraps up The Winner’s Trilogy perfectly. I mean she hands us the best possible ending on a platter. I loved how invested in this trilogy I was. I loved how real it all felt as I was reading it. AND OMG MY EMOTIONS WERE SO INVESTED IN KESTREL AND ARIN and thank goodness I am so satisfied with the ending. Believe you me, this was absolutely worth the length and the time to read and finish up the trilogy.

Other reviews of The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski:

Andi’s ABCs – “utter perfection and possibly the best of the series

Read Sleep Repeat – “swoony and ended off the series so well

Ivy Book Bindings – “a seamless blend of romance and politics

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I was so very invested as well. This book gave me so much anxiety. I loved every second of it!

  2. Great review! Thanks for linking to my review, I’m glad we both loved this one!

  3. GOD I LOVE ARIN & KESTREL! I’ve followed their journey since the first book came out a few years ago, and Rutkoski has not disappointed me since!! I also loved the lyrical, unexpected motif of ARIN & his god. I found Kestrel’s journey in breaking away from her father to be heartbreaking but beautiful. I’m glad you loved it too!