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BOOK REVIEW: The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski

BOOK REVIEW: The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy #3) by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy #3)
by Marie Rutkoski
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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?

Unpopular opinion time. I just don’t care.

So, this probably comes as a shock to a lot of people. Me, Chelsea, rating a book within one of her FAVORITE series of all time anything below a four. Well, that, and everyone and their cousin thinks this is the best book in the trilogy.

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While this story had it all, everything that I could EVER want and everything that I DO want: Action, peril, war, angsty romance. I mean, in a nutshell? This book was perfect….

But it wasn’t perfect for me.

Call me whiney. Call me selfish. Call me flakey, inconsistent, or the black sheep. But what everyone hated about the first two-Kestrel and Arin’s forbidden romance slowly blossoming around war and deceit and destruction and betrayal-I shipped. That’s why I even fell in love with this series, Goddamn it! The romance! DUH!

“Yes,” Arin said, “but even so, the risk for you is still different-“
“Stop saying that.”
“It is.” His face was unhappy. “There is a difference between you and me. If I die, you’ll survive. If you die, it will destroy me.”

And my thing is this: If a series is about war, and romance is in the background at all times, then it’s like this glorious…THING when it comes to fruition. It’s a bonus, it’s a plus, it’s like everything is right in the world. Peril is the forefront and the love comes after (Seven Realms, Chaos Walking Trilogy, etc. etc.)-this is something I understand and ADORE. But when book one and two had a somewhat consistent theme (one being the best, to me)-Kestrel and Arin falling in love-then book three is about 80% war…I can’t help but say it didn’t fit, for me, and I was disappointed-and bored. I hate having to say all this and my heart is broken.

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*shrugs* But it is what it is.

“It’s not enough,” he said. It took her a moment to realize he was continuing his refusal and not responding to her thoughts, which were so loud in her head that she felt as if she’d shouted them.
She said, “What would be enough?”
Color mounted in his face.
“You can tell me,” she said.
“Ah,” he said. “Well. Me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I want…you to want me.”

This was beautiful-I had TONS of feels. It took a direction I didn’t expect and I respect it…even loved it. But the war surrounding it took what I loved away from me and I guess it’s just not what I wanted. I won’t apologize for being a hopeless romantic who thrives for more. I am sad this one isn’t a favorite, but I’m really not surprised-book three in a trilogy is almost ALWAYS my least favorite, I just hoped that wouldn’t be the case for this. BUT-this series will always hold a piece of my soul and I will continually go back and re-read about my book boyfriend, Arin.

Favorites in order:

The Winner’s Curse
The Winner’s Crime
The Winner’s Kiss

Oh, and also, why do so many fucking horses have to die??? I mean…come on. Ugh.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski

BOOK REVIEW: The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2) by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2)
by Marie Rutkoski
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

“Sometimes you think you want something,” Arin told him, “when what you need is to let it go.”


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Fucking seriously? Is this series incapable of not crushing my heart into a thousand tiny pieces after each installment ends?? A whirlwind of angst, heartbreak, heartache, doubt, and self-sacrifice to the FULLEST extent, I could barely breathe through most of this story. It was harsh. It was evil. There wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat….Agh. Who am I kidding? I fucking loved it.

Like she had broken her own heart. Kestrel felt the pieces of her heart suddenly, as if love had been an object, something as frail as a bird’s egg, its shell an impossible cloudy pink. She saw the shock of it’s bloody yolk. She felt the shards of shell pricking her throat and lungs.

This installment, to me, was more about the sacrifices we make for love. It still had the forbidden love elements, sure, but a lot of the story was centered around heartbreak for Kestrel. And, essentially, heartbreak for me. It was so hard to already be in a bad mood and try to differentiate my emotions from Kestrel’s. I think that was my biggest struggle with this story-our emotions meshed together a little too well. So maybe in a different time or place I’d have given this a five, but for my mood this weekend, I don’t feel I got that ‘5’ feeling. But I digress.

“If you won’t be my friend, you’ll regret being my enemy.”
-Kestrel

Like I said before, this story was quite vastly different from the first book. The first book was all about how Kestrel bought Arin, how Arin loathed her for who she was and how she began to open up to him. How she would take him as an escort to functions and how he began to see how cunning, smart, wise, brave she was. We got to see him break down his barriers and earlier thoughts of how spoiled and privileged she was and, ultimately, fall madly in love with her…and she him. They developed a camaraderie built on crushed hopes and unrealistic dreams, but they loved deeply, all the same. It was beautiful and magnetic and it was most assuredly a favorite of 2014, for me. And while there was still a magnetic pull to this story, it was more devastating than anything. What would it be like to give up your one true love to keep him safe? What would it be like to have him begging you to be honest, begging you to tell him what he did wrong? How would that make you feel when, in fact, he had done nothing wrong but steal your heart?

He saw her honesty with him. She offered it like a cup of clear water that he drank deep.
Her tears, glinting in the dark.
Her fierce creature of a mind: sleek and sharp-clawed and utterly unwilling to be caught.
Arin saw Kestrel step between him and punishment as if it meant nothing instead of everything.

I was so emotionally charged while I read this story. I was covering my mouth, gasping out loud, and pulling my hair out. There was never a good end to this story. I knew that. Kestrel knew that. Arin didn’t, but boy did he begin to see it that way. The King was an evil, conniving son of a bitch, and he was the main reason I couldn’t breathe through this story. He watched Kestrel’s every move. He watched Arin’s every move. He watched his son’s every move…and when Kestrel’s father came back into the story, it only added an extra layer of oh shit and me pulling more of my hair out.

“Lower your voice,” Kestrel hissed at Arin. “Stop being so-”
“Inconvenient?”
“Frankly, yes.”
His smile came: quick, true, surprised by itself. Then changing, and slow.”I could be worse.”
“I am sure.”
“I could tell you how.”

Loyalty is key. Stay loyal? Stay alive. Who’s the most loyal to the crown? A general would be, one would think. Name a general-Kestrel’s father. Name someone who isn’t truly loyal to the crown-Hmmmm, Kestrel? Add Arin to the mix. Add a little emotional angst because Arin just doesn’t know what he did wrong. Maybe add some deceit, lies, betrayals. Put them all in a palace with spies and evil knights who do the King’s bad deeds behind closed doors. Add some sneaking around and trying to help Arin out, secretly, behind the King’s back…and what do you have??? You have one of hell of a story on your hands, my friends.

Pain seared from forehead to cheek. Red flooded Arin’s left eye. He was blinking, he was half-blind, he was desperate to know if someone can still blink if an eye has been gouged out. He wept blood. His face had split. He could feel air inside the parted flesh, and his hand instinctively went to it.

Lies. Lies lies lies lies lies. Secrets and secrets and misunderstandings and assumptions and lots of heartbreak. Hope….bleak hope. And then that door closes on you, too. I still think book one was way more addicting for me, but I also think my mood was effected this weekend for my own personal reasons. I WILL be reading this series again before the final release, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to be giving this a five next time. Read these-they are beyond beautiful and the writing is still so poetic….and they’ll rip your heart to shreds, just like mine.

 

 

*****

COME TO MAMA

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I’ve been waiting a year for this Muaha!

BOOK REVIEW – The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Curse #1) by Marie Rutkoski

BOOK REVIEW – The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Curse #1) by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse (The Winner's Curse #1)
by Marie Rutkoski
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

“Plot away, Kestrel. Survive. If I hadn’t lived, no one would remember my mother, not like I do.”
Kestrel could no longer deny sleep. It pulled her under.
“And I would never have met you.”

This book was….I don’t know, perfection? I needed to be reading this book more than I needed my next breath. Yeah…I was that deep.

I will admit that when I chose to read this, I was skeptical as to how much I would like it. It’s one of those books that just starts out so oddly, for my taste, and then from there on you never know what you’re going to get. Plus the ratings were stellar-so, OF COURSE, I’d end up being the black sheep. But that did not end up being the case-not in the least. In fact, I’d say that I am more in love with this book than humanly possible-If I could, I would start re-reading this RIGHT NOW-I loved it that much.

“I could stay,” he said. “I could leave tomorrow.”
“No. I want you to go now.”
“Do you?”
“Yes.”
“Ah, but what about what I want?”

I think the best part about this book is how it all begins-Kestrel and her friend, Jess, are in the market looking around. They are wealthy and money doesn’t mean much to them (though, Kestrel is not snotty about it-at least, not as bad as some characters are portrayed in other books). So, when they see slaves being bid off in an auction, Kestrel and Jess stop and sit down to watch the spectacle just because they were passing by-nothing more. Then, a beautiful, well-built (obviously strong and unnatural for someone supposed to be a slave) boy is brought up to the stand being bid off as a blacksmith…and when no one bites, someone who can sing. This piques Kestrel’s interest because she loves to play the piano-she loves music. She starts bidding for the boy and ultimately ‘wins’ him.

Music made her feel as if she were holding a lamp that cast a halo of light around her, and while she knew there were people and responsibilities in the darkness beyond it, she couldn’t see them. The flame of what she felt when she played made her deliciously blind.

Defiant, angry, and not fit to act as a slave should, Arin is resentful and has an agenda of his own-case the general’s home and log it away for….well, I will just say they are sworn enemies, he and Kestrel. But not just because he is a slave and she is the General of the army’s wealthy daughter-no, it runs much deeper and much farther back than that. Why? I guess you’ll have to read to find out.

Pins disappeared from the dressing table at a rapid rate. Kestrel watched small braids lose themselves inside larger ones, dip in and under and out of an increasingly intricate design. She felt a tug. A twist. A shiver of air.
Although Arin wasn’t touching her, he was touching no living part of her, it felt as if a fine net had been cast over Kestrel, one that hazed her vision and shimmered against her skin.

Soon, they start spending more time together. He as her escort, she as the escorted. Then, when she sees his recognition of one of her favorite war games on a day where he is watching over her as she plays with her friends, they start to play each other in private…and then the fun begins. When one of them wins, they get to ask the other a question-any question. But Kestrel doesn’t know that Arin is her enemy…so what might she reveal? And would Arin use it against Kestrel to hurt her?

Make me let you go.”
She looked at Arin. Whatever he saw in her eyes loosened his hands. “Kestrel,” he said more quietly, “I have been whipped before. Lashes and death are different things.”
“I won’t die.”
“Let Irex set my punishment.”
“You’re not listening to me.” She would have said more, but realized that his hands still rested on her shoulders. A thumb was pressing gently against her collarbone.
Kestrel caught her breath. Arin startled, as if out of sleep, and pulled away.

It’s not the action or the peril or even just the romance-it’s the beautiful, poetic simplicity of the words and how they are woven together so you get that feeling that you have to keep reading or you might spontaneously combust. It’s that feeling that you can’t stand to not be reading it for fear that you will miss a delicately placed interaction between Arin and Kestrel. It was beautiful, breathtaking, heartfelt, and probably one of my top two favorite forbidden romance stories, at the moment. It was such a slow build, but you didn’t realize it. You didn’t realize that every minute that passed was another moment where you were becoming more intimately entwined with these two characters and becoming more aware of the fact that one of them would have to draw their hand eventually….and you just didn’t know what kind of massacre would follow and how much it would break your heart and hurt you when it happened.

Maybe. Maybe it would have been. But as the music drained from the air, Kestrel saw Arin on the fringes of the crowd. He watched her, his expression oddly desperate. As if he, too, were losing something, or it was already lost.
She saw him and didn’t understand how she had ever missed his beauty. How it didn’t always strike her as it did now, like a blow.

Kestrel was an amazing heroine. She was determined, intelligent, and passionate….and she sucked at combat. I loved being in her bright mind and seeing how she assessed and strategized everything. It was refreshing to see a heroine who used her wits instead of brawn to win both duels of the mind and of the body. It wasn’t about who was the strongest, which she was not, and it wasn’t about the fastest-it was about who was the
smartest.

“Do you know how to play Bite and Sting?” she asked.
“Maybe.”
“Either you do or you don’t.”
“Whether I know or don’t doesn’t matter.”
She made an impatient noise. “Because?”
His teeth flashed in the late, shifting light. “Because you would not want to play against me.

And then Arin. Arin was a hothead who played the role of a level-headed slave who did what he was told. He was keen and cunning, never revealing his intentions to those around him. He was fierce and protective and loyal (but to whom? Kestrel…or his people he has fought so hard for?), and he was Kestrel’s true match in both spirit and mind-he was always one step ahead of her because of the amount of time they spent together and knew what to do to detain her. But he would rather have died, in the end, than to let Kestrel get hurt when the world she knows came crashing down-as we all knew it inevitably would.

He couldn’t see it. He thought that there must be one, then realized that the flaw he sensed lay inside him. Tonight had cracked Arin open. It had brought the battle inside him to a boiling war.
Of course he was certain that something was wrong.
Impossible. It was impossible to love a Valorian and also love his people.
Arin was the flaw.

The eloquent manner of speak, the dialogue, the situations, and romantic undertone, I adored this story. I want more more more but, yet again, I have a year to wait. It’s horrible because I was so fully engrossed with these characters. It was unreal how much I needed to be reading this story throughout my busy day. I have been getting them sporadically, already, for all my favorite books, but have never mentioned that fact in any of my other reviews-I am most definitely buying this in hardback so I can proudly display this in my forever overflowing bookshelf, and I want the GR world to know it-even if I don’t have any more room. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, addictive as crack….and look at the cover! Look at it! So pretttyyyyyyyyy……

“But am I your enemy?” Arin crossed the space between them. Softly, he repeated, “Am I?”
She didn’t answer. She concentrated on the feel of the table’s edge pressing into the small of her back. The table was simple and real, joined wood and nails and right corners. No wobble. No give.
“You’re not mine,” Arin said.
And kissed her.

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