The Winner’s Kiss

Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #3
Rating: 3 / 5 starts
Verdict: Borrow

I have to say, one of my greatest literary peeves is when a cover doesn’t match the novel.  The cover for this edition is a striking example of how to make a beautiful, stunning cover that has no place on a jacket cover.  For starters, this novel begins with Kestrel in an enslavement camp.  I don’t want to get into too much of spoilers, but let’s just say that the sleeveless, open back dress was a terrible choice.  Also, while the dress is beautiful, it doesn’t resemble a single outfit she wears for the entirety of the novel.  Her eyes should be the brown of honey, as Arin describes them in the novel, yet they don’t appear to be so.  And the sword?  Her signature weapon is a dragger.  So where in the world did they even scheme up the cover?  It’s beautiful, true, but it’s terrible.

Then there is the novel itself.  It is painstakingly slow for the vast majority of the tale.  The pace finally picks up in the last five to ten chapters, which bumped the rating up for me from this novel being a complete bust.  In fact, I think I would have loved this conclusion to the trilogy if the whole thing had been along the same lines as the final few chapters.  I do like the ending; I thought the series came to an eloquent closing, even if some of the plot lines come to somewhat unrealistic conclusions in order to give the story a happy ending.  Unfortunately, you have to wade through a lot of slow paced and low action story to get to this point, which almost makes it not worth it.

And then there is the issue of the love story between Arin and Kestrel.  While Rutkoski doesn’t drag the reunion on for an ungodly length of time, she follows every cliche in the book to keep the story arc of their romance inconclusive for as long as possible.  Some of the plot ploys she enacts are almost downright laughable.  Both of the main characters at times feel so hot and cold in this novel, as they bend their characteristics to Rutkoski’s liking in order to add unnecessary angst to the plot.

While Kestrel doesn’t wholly feel like she sticks to her character from the first two novels in the series, I think she finally comes around in the end.  While I spent a fair amount of time scratching my head at her throughout this novel, I realize everything she does is a trick Rutkoski employs in order to further advice the story.  I only wish the characters felt more real in this conclusion.

Overall, I think it’s a series worth a once read, especially for people who love the angsty teenage romance.   There was too much of it for my liking, which means I’m sure others will gobble it up.  At times, Rutkoski is so eloquent with her prose.  This novel is hindered by its plot, but you still see sparks of it here and there throughout this conclusion to the series.  I will say I was a bit disappointed with this final chapter to the trilogy, however.  I did expect more from it.

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