Saturday, December 3, 2016
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
This is the third and final book in the Winner's Curse Trilogy, so lots of spoilers ahead, obviously.
First, I have to say something. When I first saw the cover of the first book, I assumed it was some kind of Gilded Age gambling book. I ignored it, until a friend I trust told me the books were really good. When I saw the final cover (and even title) I was sad because they give you absolutely NO sense of how awesomely intricate and dark these books are. It looks like it would be trashy and dumb.
As punishment for treason, Kestrel is taken to a workcamp on a tundra wasteland and Arin is left to prepare for battle against the empire. Her heart broken, questioning every choice she's ever made, Kestrel knows she must escape but even if she does - what then? She's given away Arin's trust and because of the path she chose, there is no one else left to mourn her. The lull between battles is only the deep breath before all-out war and even if Kestrel survives, is there any way for Arin's counrtry to still exist when east and west collide on its beautiful shore?
I drank this in one greedy gulp. While sometimes dragging out a romantic conciliation bothers me, this felt really right - with two very broken people trying to sort through the damage and find where to find kernels of truth and feeling that will last. I believed it. The romance is heady and lovely. This is a battle-heavy book and during the final battle, in particular, I actually found myself with a hand-over-mouth-tears-in-the-eyes moment. I tend to skim over that stuff a bit but this had some powerful moments about choice and the-greater-good and things-worth-dying-for. I liked the secondary characters in this installment, they provided some comic relief as well as some needed compassion in a book that is heavy with grief and death.
I am so glad I waited until all the books were out so I could just read all three in a rush - as one long story, the trilogy flows really well and with an ending that settled just right.