The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As Kestrel smiled at him from her seat on Javelin, a pink petal clinging to her cheek, it occurred to him that he might have to grow comfortable with happiness, because it might not abandon him this time.
Joyful. Thankful. Ecstatic. Wistful. Any of these words can be used to describe what I’m feeling right now, minutes after reading that fabulous ending. It was like witnessing a dream come true, right before my very eyes. I’ve waited so long for Arin and Kestrel to find the happiness they deserved, and after going through hell and back, they finally did! All the stress The Winner’s Crime gave me was not pointless after all!
Out of all the three books, this one is surely my favorite. It was evocative, gripping, and hands-down wonderful. I kinda wish the book had 1,000 more pages because I still want more of Arin and Kestrel. A glimpse into their married life won’t hurt. Hahaha. Although the ending mostly wraps up the major issues or conflicts in the trilogy, one question remains unanswered: Who will take the Valorian throne? If Marie Rutkoski were a capitalist author, she could probably write a fourth book just to provide readers with complete closure. Nevertheless, I am very happy and contented with how things turned out.
Other than the happy ending, I also adored the character arcs in this book. Kestrel in particular became very complex after what had happened to her in the sulfur mines. It truly pained me when she lost her memory. At first, it was like I was getting to know a doppelganger of Kestrel. Because she didn’t remember everything she and Arin went through, I initially felt detached towards her. However, my feelings changed for the better as she gradually regained the pieces of her past and established a stronger identity. She was back in the game of royal war, and it was stunning to see her take down the emperor with a mere game of Bite & Sting.
As for Arin, he became much more likable. I mildly hated him in The Winner’s Crime because of his inferiority complex that rendered him so blind. Thankfully, just like Kestrel, he matured so much in this book, particularly in regards to his emotional intelligence. I really admired his talent for leadership, his devotion to Kestrel, and his determination to learn from his past mistakes. Personally, there was no competition between Arin and Kestrel. I liked them equally, and it was simply because their respective virtues and flaws complemented each other.
For objectivity’s sake, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was the author’s occasional (and deliberate) use of sentence fragments. I understand that creative writers have the liberty to use sentence fragments to produce a certain effect (like what I did in the introduction of this review). However, as an editor, I couldn’t help but to wince whenever it was done repetitively. I hope that you will pardon my grammar Nazi feels. ^^ Rest assured that my love for Marie Rutkoski’s elegant writing style remains unscathed.
In the end, this is a bittersweet goodbye to an amazing, moving, and unforgettable trilogy. Special thanks to Brittney and Cheska for inspiring me to read it.