Book Review: THE WINNER’S KISS by Marie Ruktoski

Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 2/5 stars
Series: Yes - final book of trilogy



the winner's kissWar 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?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I liked the previous two entries in the series far more than I’d anticipated (I’d fully expected to hate THE WINNER’S CURSE and not read any further), which made this book such a disappointment. I’m afraid there are some SPOILERS following, but they’re the predictable parts of the plot.

My main problem was the lack of pacing (and the plot that went out the window in the middle section). The book starts out full of promise in the middle of the action – the war. And then it tanks out. Arin goes to rescue Kestrel and the war is forgotten. There is no fighting, no tension or concern that the enemy forces are closing in. Just Arin upset that Kestrel can’t remember him, and Kestrel unsure what she feels for Arin. For at least 200 pages they just mope around doing nothing, saying nothing. It was so dull, and I almost DNFed (then decided I’d got to the final book, so I might as well finish).

I was most annoyed by the fact that the war had just been ignored. There were a few mini-battle scenes – mainly near the beginning – but it was as if the enemy knew that Arin and Kestrel needed time so retreated despite that being the illogical move. A lot of the enemy’s moves seemed rather illogical.

There was no chemistry between the leads, and the entire book lacked any real emotion. It felt like drifting in a world of white. I couldn’t care less whether they got together or not, even though you know they will.

The action scenes were very disjointed. Every other paragraph, there’d be a scene break to switch between Arin and Kestrel (so we knew what was happening). This meant it was impossible to follow what was happening (so no tension despite end-of-scene lines that were clearly supposed to be dun dun duh!). It probably would have worked so much better had the chapters alternated between them, so that the in-scene tension could rise, along with the ‘oh now, what’s happening to the other character?’ tension.

The action itself, because of this jarring effect and how little I came to care about the characters felt really bland. Arin was against a faceless enemy and I lost track how many times his ‘sword opened the belly’ of whoever he happened to fight. He never seemed in any danger – and don’t even get me started on this god of his who seemed to suddenly turn up and talk to him.

There was a weak stab at including some political/other-than-battle tension with a ‘are our allies really just here to steal our land?’ plot line. Which, you know, is the reasonable assumption – and the most likely outcome. But of course, that doesn’t happen (as you’d expect). Unfortunately, the way this comes about felt like a very lame, oh no it’s the end and I need to undo this tension ploy. I would have liked this book so much more if the allies had stolen the land (as was their right under their laws, and would have been more in character) and left it there. They could have even squeezed another book out of it.

All in all, a really dull, bland ending to the series.

Read my reviews of other books by Marie Ruktoski

The Winner’s Crime (this series):

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