Series Review: The Winner’s Trilogy

Series Review:

The Winner's Trilogy

4.5/5 stars

Hi y’all! So in preparation for the North Texas Teen Book Festival, I finally gave in and read Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Trilogy! And holy smokes I am so glad I did!

First, let me begin by saying how I am so very glad that I waited to read the series until it was concluded. I would have died had I not been able to just move on to the next book. Then again isn’t that why we love series? They keep us on the edge of our seats, anxiously awaiting the release of the next book. Rutkoski definitely did that.

The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy 1) by Marie Rutkoski


Publication date: 3/4/2014

Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction- Dystopia

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Okay, so I had heard wonderful things about this series.  I hadn’t picked it up until after the release of the third, and final, book of the series.  When I first began reading I was worried because I was not invested in it. At all. I was wondering what so many people saw in the book that I was just totally missing.

Kestrel was fairly unlikeable. She was hard to relate to, didn’t seem to have much depth, and frankly, just annoyed me quite a bit.  Arin seemed much more interesting as a character and I was hoping I could at least connect with him a bit since Kestrel was fighting me at ever turn.

I was considering adding it to my DNF pile and walking away, but all the stellar reviews of the series kept me from putting it down.  Obviously something gives and makes the story captivating.

It took a while but it totally did.  The last 35% of the book completely changed my opinion of The Winner’s Curse.  I could see why everyone kept raving about the book.  I became invested in the story, I couldn’t wait to find out what was in store for Kestrel and Arin.

Overall, the book wasn’t a standout for me, but it kept me interested enough that I wanted to continue the series.

The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy 2) by marie rutkoski

The Winner's CrimePublication date: 3/3/2015

Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction- Dystopia

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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.

The Winner’s Crime was fantastic.  I had problems and reservations about Kestrel in The Winner’s Curse but I felt like I got to see a new side of Kestrel in The Winner’s Crime.  I connected with her and felt for her.

The Winner’s Trilogy is certainly one of those series that make you ache in the best way.  It’s not a light, fluffy story.  There are a ton of moments that just make me want to cry but I couldn’t stop reading.  It was hard watching the characters I’d come to love struggle with their surroundings, lives, and each other but Rutoski does an incredible job showcasing it.

Y’all. Rutkoski’s endings have my eyes bugging and curses flying out of my mouth.  She knows  just where to perfectly place the dagger so your heart feels like it’s shattering.  If I would have had to wait for The Winner’s Kiss I would have died. So much happens. So many feelings and emotions were experienced.

The Winner’s Crime was a massive improvement from The Winner’s Curse for me, even though I ended up enjoying book 1.  Crime was so heartbreakingly beautiful.

The Winner’s Kiss (The winner’s trilogy 3) by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's KissPublication date: 3/29/2016

Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction- Dystopia

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Some kisses come at a price.

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?

Brilliant. That’s the adjective I that comes to mind when I think about describing The Winner’s Kiss. This book destroyed me. It built me up again.  I really, really loved this book.

All of the tensions of the previous books come to a head as the characters find themselves. I thought it was an absolutely amazing conclusion to a series that had me on the edge of my seat.

My heart hurt from page one of The Winner’s Kiss. It broke for Kestrel and Arin.  I am astounded at how much I love Kestrel compared to how I felt about her in The Winner’s Curse.  The conclusion was perfectly suited to the series.


I would definitely recommend the series to someone.  Although I would preface my recommendation with a waring that you may dislike Kestrel at first and have problems connecting with the story and characters but keep with it, because it is completely worth it.

Rutkoski does an amazing job at building a world that keeps you captivated with it’s rules and customs.  Her characters grow exponentially through the series.  I went from not connecting with Kestrel, and not really liking her, to crying for her and loving her.  And I’ve always loved Arin – hubba hubba- but his character is stubborn and tough and ugh, I love him okay.  The Winner’s Trilogy left me reeling once I was finished.  The series is by no means light, it’s full of angst. But with the angst is triumph and courage.

If you’re looking for a book that is going to make your heart break and be healed at the same time then I would think this series would be for you.




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