The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski


A truly inventive and spectacular fantasy series comes to an explosive conclusion in The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski.

Winner's Kiss_CVR_lowresWar 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?

Every book in this series has been just so good: beautiful writing, tightly plotted storytelling, a rich and developed world populated with complex and intriguing characters, perfect pacing, and gripping twists, turns, and romance. The Winner’s Kiss is no exception. A masterful book in its own right, as the finale to this trilogy it truly shines — elevating everything that has come before and bringing the entire series to a stirring and emotionally powerful climax.

There are very real consequences at stake as the events in The Winner’s Kiss unfold, and the characters tackle them with a sobering realness. That’s part of what makes this book, and the entire trilogy, so compelling. Because while it is “fantasy” — in that it takes place in an imagined world and in an imagined time — it is very much a world grounded in reality. There is no magic and there are no whimsical tricks to solve anyone’s problems, big or small. Instead, there is war and humanity and compromise and negotiation and emotion.

That’s part of what makes this series so brilliant, is how Rutkoski has created this alternate world where she can tackle real life issues — race, class, war, loyalty — in a context outside our own lives. Because isn’t it so much easier to examine these things when they are not our own? When they do not face us on a daily basis? It’s a tactic J.K. Rowling used throughout the Harry Potter series, and Rutkoski has done so quite successfully here, as well.

And of course, her characters continue to be compelling reasons to return to this world. They are engaging and enchanting, and as readers we want to root for them. We want to see them succeed. The Winner’s Kiss dishes out twists and turns and unexpected challenges — but on the whole should leave readers wholly satisfied.

It is a stunning conclusion to an already brilliant trilogy. Look for The Winner’s Kiss in stores March 29th.

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