Series: The Winner's Trilogy

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #3
on March 29th 2016
Pages: 484
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Some kisses come at a price.
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?

I wish I didn’t bother…yet did because I was sort of interested to see how the war would pan out. Yet everything about the book, from plot to characterisation irked me and I actually went to bed scrambling for a favourite book of mine to erase the sour taste in my mouth.


The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Crime by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #2
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 416
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Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

An installment that’s near impossible to get through, especially when the lead character – under some unmistaken belief – attempts to pay for a betrayal and ends up becoming a manipulative master of deceit, yet staying cowardly and immature when it really matters most. Kestrel went exactly in the opposite way I’d hope her character development would in the second book and I found it hard to see any form of redemption in a character I couldn’t bring myself to tolerate. Arin’s inexplicable trust in a woman who has done nothing but show indecision, coldness and petulance was baffling as well, and I couldn’t feel like I could see them as a compatible match, or even ‘fated pairs’.

There’s an incredible amount of time spent on the talk of games, both literally and metaphorically, which actually plays out in reality and war games and strategising where the courtroom mirrors the political situation. Yet I found myself getting tired of all the chess moves and the tactical retreat and advancing where nothing actually really happens right up until past the second half of the book.

Now incredibly wary of the third book, for fear of debilitating disappointment.


The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #1
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 4th 2014
Pages: 355
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Winning what you want may cost you everything you love... 
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

In a world rich with a backstory of colonisation, rampant slavery and revolution, an unwitting pair of star-crossed lovers on opposing sides find their loyalties torn. A slave boy, purchased by a somewhat pampered General’s daughter, who slowly becomes a friend and more, until an event long time in coming and a reversal of status turn their reality upside down. But because this is merely the first book in the trilogy, we’re still left in limbo at the end, even if it’s down to the excruciating story of two young people torn apart, with the fate of empires on their backs.

I’m undecided about this story, to be frank.

The best way I could describe reading Kestrel’s and Arin’s story pitted against impossible stakes is like trying to walk in shoes which are way too large for me, where their slow, near-intimate relationship isn’t quite enough to be part of the grander, epic plan even if their actions seem to demonstrate it.

For every bit that appealed, there was an equal part that made me dislike it, not least the manner in which the female protagonist has been portrayed. Yet it’s the sort of behaviour I would have honestly expected of any typical 17-year old regardless of the era or setting: indecisive, self-absorbed somewhat spineless, naive, yet with hints of gifts and a fierce intelligence that aren’t harnessed to the point of razor-sharpness and a half-developed sense of loyalty that can be shattered in extreme circumstances. My disappointment really, lies in the understanding that Kestrel hadn’t changed much from this initial impression I had of her, her poor decision-making right up to the end simply showing her innate lack of understanding of the very painful consequences of colonisation and the subsequent revolution that it created.

My mixed feelings of the characterisation don’t take away the grandness of the world-building however; Marie Rutkoski’s writing is allusive and sharp – not to mention, ambitious – enough to make any reader sail through the pages and perhaps even go through the rest of the trilogy.