Simply Nicollette's review for The Winner's Trilogy will contain spoilers.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book.. like a lot.

"I spent ten years as a slave. I couldn't be one anymore. What did you imagine, tonight, in the carriage? That it would be fine for me to always be afraid to touch you?"

For the most part this book was pretty slow-paced, but I didn't mind this at all. It only made me fall more in love with this world and the characters within. I loved Kestrel and Arin, our main characters, because they were both so different but so much alike at the same time. They love their people, they're both brave in their own right, and they fight for the things they love - all things I truly admired.

Their romance played a huge role in this book and I LOVED it.

"He had threaded desire into the braids, had wanted her to sense it even as he dreaded that she would. He had met her eyes in the mirror and didn't know, couldn't tell, her feelings. He only knew the fire of his own."

It was such a slow-burn romance between these two.. To say they have a complicated relationship would be an understatement. They hated each other, resented each other, liked each other, loved, betrayed each other. . . Honestly the list could go on forever. I think that is why I fell so in love with their relationship because even though it was obvious that these two characters were bound to fall in love, I still couldn't predict some of the things that happened between them. It felt incredibly real, give their circumstances. I don't know guys.. I'm just really invested in this couple, and I'm positive my own boyfriend thinks I'm crazy for it but I have no regrets!

"Kestrel had bought a life, and loved it, and sold it."

There is so much more to this story than just the romance between Kestrel and Arin. This world is interesting, all of the characters bring something special to the story, and the politics are so intriguing! This is my first book I've read by Marie Rutkoski and I found her writing to be great! There was a lot of detail and the dialogue flowed nicely.. Like I said, it was a slow-paced book but the action/twists were all well placed to keep it interesting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I've heard nothing but great things about this series so I can't wait to read the rest of it! If you're a fan of dystopian stories then I definitely recommend this book to you - it has everything you could possibly love!

"You don't, Kestrel, even though the god of lies loves you."


- - -

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This review will contain slight spoilers. If I can even call it a review since I'm just going to try to work through all of my feelings while writing this. . .

This is how I feel right now:

"Isn't this the one about the boy who becomes a man and saves his people? I like that story."

The Winner's Curse was more of a romance than anything else, but in The Winner's Crime the story becomes more serious about the true world these characters live in. It's brutally honest. I'm not going to lie, there are some books where politics are extremely heavy throughout the story, and therefore become boring for me.. but that was not the case with this story. It was all about the politics in this book, and yet it was so intriguing. I hated the empire and I hurt for the Herrani.

There was no doubt that Kestrel and Arin represented hope for this world in every way.

"It seemed to Kestrel that her life had taken the shape of a folded knife, her heart a blade inside a body of wood."

I have never felt so lonely while reading a book.. and Kestrel is beyond lonely in the capitol. It broke my heart seeing her friendship with Jess dwindle. Then when she finally sees Ronan again and where it led him. I felt so much pain for Kestrel in this book. She's a warrior though, that's for sure, because if I was her I would have broken down a long time ago, but she found a way to become even braver and more intelligent.

Her and Arin have truly grown up. They aren't those blushing teenagers who we knew in the last book. They become so much more.

"Everything Arin had done, from the Firstwinter Rebellion to his last stand against the Valorian general, had changed nothing. His people still belonged to the empire."

Which brings me to our poor, poor Arin. . . Who is still perfect in every way. He's just as lonely as Kestrel, but maybe not as much, because his grief overpowered every other emotion of his. His grief over losing something he loves and over feeling so helpless when it comes to Herran.

We get to know Kestrel and Arin on a deeper level. We even get to revisit some of their thoughts from the first book, which I enjoyed. They carry a lot of weight on their shoulders throughout this story and to be honest, even after finishing the book, I still feel some of that weight.

"Kestrel, when did I do it? I keep asking myself when I did the thing that was beyond your understanding. Was there one thing that made too many for you to forgive me?"

The romance was subtle. I'm still very much invested in Kestrel and Arin's relationship though, and they continued to break my heart. Their relationship becomes more complicated. If they were able to trust one another then a lot of their problems would be solved, but of course they have a long way to go before that happens.

I was happy that we didn't get a love triangle with the new guy in Kestrel's life, Prince Verex, who I actually really liked. He was honestly Kestrel's only friend. I wish we saw more of him and got to know more about him because he was so interesting. I just wanted to thank him for being Kestrel's friend. . .

"How like Verex. How like her friend.
It gave her courage."

There were a lot of new characters that I enjoyed getting to know. The most intriguing had to be Roshar though and I have no doubt that he'll play a bigger role in the next book. He seemed to bring something out of Arin that no one else has.. Plus, he was just really sarcastic and funny in his own way!

"If you must know, I'm going to hunt a nice poisonous snake and make you eat it. You do like to ruin a surprise."

There is a lot that I could talk about - everything was so good! Such as the world building, which expanded and we saw more than just Herran. I think Marie Rutkoski's writing only improved because it was brilliant. If I could write a whole review with quotes then I would with this book. She found the perfect way to capture the emotions of each character and make you feel for them.

Which every relationship grows in this story - even the broken ones. Now let's talk about the last thing on my mind.. Kestrel and her father. My heart hurts. IT HURTS. We saw a little bit of how fragile their relationship is in The Winner's Curse, but we saw more of their past and love for one another in this book. That ending GUTTED me. I'm not afraid to admit that I cried. Legit tears.

"Kestrel," he said, "you have broken my heart."

Overall, I loved this book. Everything about it. I could talk more about how angry the emperor makes me or how sad I am over Chapter 43.. but I will spare you from all of my feelings. If you haven't picked up this series then I highly recommend doing so!

"I'm going to miss you when I wake up, she'd told him as she'd dreamed on the palace lawn.
Don't wake up."

What is going to happen next? WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ARIN THE TRUTH ALREADY? Will Kestrel forget everything thanks to her circumstances? Will I cry happy tears or sad ones? I need all the luck as I finish reading this series. . .

- - -

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once I fall in love with the characters in a series then that's it.. I will always end up enjoying the books they are in. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I loved The Winner's Kiss because I truly love Kestrel and Arin - who both share a special place in my heart now.

I loved the conclusion of their story in this book. Could it have been better? Sure. Could we have gotten less politics and more of something else? Sure. Despite a few tiny flaws, did it still manage to be fantastic? YES.

I tried to write a spoiler-free review, but I just couldn't.. I will tell you that if you're a fan of this series then I think you will be happy with this book, and if you haven't even read this series then what are you waiting for? So, last warning - this review will contain spoilers.

"It was the horror of someone who'd been dealt a winning hand, had bet her life on the game, and then proceeded (deliberately?) to lose."

The Winner's Kiss picks up right where we left off in The Winner's Crime. Kestrel is on her way to the work camp and Arin is back in Herran. It was tough reading about Kestrel at the work camp, she begins her journey there tough as ever, but then slowly begins to lose herself in this life she's being forced to live now. It was heartbreaking to see how lonely she became, how she felt like no one loved her anymore, and how she blamed herself for becoming The Moth in the first place.

While Kestrel is at the work camp, Arin is preparing to fight the war against the Valorian empire. Arin ends up FINALLY learning the truth about Kestrel, thanks to the messenger Kestrel saw at the end of The Winner's Crime. I am SO HAPPY that it was not dragged out because I don't think I could have taken any more of the pain that I felt from Arin not knowing ANYTHING.. He deserved to know. He should've known a book ago. . .

In ordinary Arin fashion - he goes to rescue Kestrel from the work camp, and that's when my heart broke all over again, as we learn that Kestrel has lost almost all of her memories while being a prisoner there.

"Who are you, that you get to know so much about me that even I don't know?"

It was hard for me to connect with Kestrel at the beginning of this book. It was hard for Kestrel to connect with herself though. She's a different person in this book, and yet she still is so much like the girl we know and love. She's still brave, strong, and intelligent. She's more ruthless and powerful now though. She's not just the intelligent, strategist, general's daughter who likes to play piano. She becomes more of her own person - out of the shadows of the court and her father. I loved her even more for it.

It was nice to see her reunite with Sarsine, which I really enjoyed how their relationship developed in this book. I always liked Sarsine and I'm glad we got to know more about her through this one. Then, Kestrel meets Roshar and I could not help but love their relationship.

"You underestimate my charm. Granted, she once pulled that dagger on me, but we've put that behind us. She likes me. I am very likable."

I liked Roshar in The Winner's Crime because he brought something out of Arin that no one else did.. Well, in The Winner's Kiss I fell even more in love with this guy. He was the light of this book in many situations. He tends to hide his emotions through humor and that was something about him that I truly understood. We get to know a little more about him, and he becomes incredibly loyal to both Arin and Kestrel, despite how his relationship with the both of them began. Roshar was the voice of reason for them, and they needed that throughout this book.

"A bloodbath," Roshar said. "We retreated. They seized the beach. I blame you."
Kestrel sucked in a furious breath.
"He doesn't mean that," Arin muttered.

As the story continues, we not only see Kestrel getting to know herself all over again and get to know our lovable characters more, we see more of the behind-the-scenes strategy that goes on during a war. Politics still play a major role throughout the book, and I still found it interesting. There were a few times, in the middle of the book, where it was slow but for the most part it was still intriguing. I liked seeing these characters face problems and find a way to solve them.

Which brings me to our beloved Arin. Who is struggling with leading his people, keeping the east happy in their alliance, dealing with his own demons, and still blaming himself for all of Kestrel's actions.

"Arin, why are you so transparent? Whenever you worry, you start fixing things. Draining nasty gunk from a hoof is the least of it. I don't know what's worse, watching you do that or knowing how hard it will always be for you to keep yourself to yourself."

I'm going to be honest.. Arin scared me just a little bit in this book. He's talking to the god of death throughout this story, and I honestly wasn't sure if it was really his god speaking to him or something he made up to help him deal with his guilt? I enjoyed seeing how ruthless both him and Kestrel became though because I think they needed to in order to make a better life for themselves. Arin kills, and a part of him enjoys it. He thinks death is all that lives inside of him and at times it's a bit too much to take from reading in his POV. All of his self-pity about everything that Kestrel is going through and all he can't do for his people. . .

Besides the political side of the story, we see more of the relationships develop throughout the story. Yes, we see the amazing friendship between Roshar and Arin - which I loved. We see Kestrel and Roshar.. And then we see more of the complicated relationship that is Kestrel and Arin.

"I think of you, all that you lost, who you were, what you were forced to be, and might have been, and I - I have become this, this person, unable to -" She shut her mouth.
"Kestrel," he said softly, "I love this person."

These two have the most complicated relationship I have yet to read.. Seriously. They sure have grown up though. They have stopped betraying each other. They have stopped trying to hide their feelings for one another (well.. sort of). They have stopped LYING to each other. This world has matured them and I feel like it finally showed in their relationship. Of course they still make mistakes, but don't we all? I love their love, and I enjoyed seeing them fall back in love with each other because they were their true selves in this book.

The ending was beyond fantastic. I'm still overwhelmed with emotions from Marie Rutkoski's brilliant writing. This book is such a piece of art, from the beginning to the ending. By far one of my favorite series, and I'm sad that it's over.

Everything was wrapped up nicely. I would've liked to see Kestrel and Jess have some closure, but I think if it was added it would've been rushed and misplaced so I understand why she's only mentioned at the end..

We did get to say goodbye to Verex, who actually plays a part in the story towards the end, and I was so happy that he did not end up being someone who betrayed Kestrel! I was a little worried.. but I'm happy to report that he's still as great as he was in The Winner's Crime. I also liked getting to know Risha more. It's a shame we didn't get more of those two.

"Then be happy."
"I will," he said, "if you will."
- Thank you Marie for giving me this kind of true love without making a love triangle out of it!

Now, the last relationship that I would like to talk about because it's the one that continues to break my heart.. Over and over again. Kestrel and her father. Whew. What an ending with these two, even the scene where Arin almost killed him, which I'm happy he didn't.. It was just emotional seeing how fragile their relationship was. I have so many emotions!! It's hard for me to talk about it because every emotion Kestrel felt about her father I felt along with her, and I guess that's why it means so much to me.

"This is what happens when you destroy the thing most precious to you."

Those last chapters gutted me. Everyone got what they deserved, yes even the emperor. My review has gotten ridiculously long.. I'll end with how much I really loved this series, and the conclusion in this book. I recommend this book to everyone! I'll miss these characters. . .

She sat at the piano, touching the keys.
He smiled. "Play."

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