The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Summary: 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?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I was so concerned The Winner's Kiss would stink since the second book didn't suffer from second book syndrome and that is so rare. (And also when they tried to do that cover change, I was concerned.)
So much happens in The Winner's Kiss. It starts pretty much right where The Winner's Crime left off, and it follows Kestrel into the work camp, which was so interesting, and I would've liked to spend more time there (or at least see more of it later in, like, an information share). Kestrel is still the same and yet changed, particularly because of the events in the work camp and immediately prior to that.
The Dacrans feature more prominently in this book, especially the three royal siblings. None of them quite settled well with me. I just didn't click with them. However, I loved the further characterization of Sarsine, and she's become one of my favorite characters of the trilogy. Verex is still near-and-dear to my heart, and I seriously wish he and Kestrel had worked out because I still see him as a better match for her (my love for Slytherin-Hufflepuff pairings is showing). I did really like Arin in this book, though, so it gets points for that.
I continue to love Kestrel's scheming and how's she still not really a fighter in the traditional sense of the word.
The violence is definitely more extreme in this book. There's also a fade-to-black sex scene and talk of Roshar's romancing.
The Verdict: A solid final book in a trilogy. I look forward to whatever Marie writes next.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already have.