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?
Disclaimer: This is the final installment to The Winner’s Trilogy, so I suggest you read the first two books, before even thinking of reading this review, for there might be spoilers. Be warned!
Well, The Winner’s Trilogy has always had a special pace in my heart – majorly because The Winner’s Crime was one of my first approved ARCs on Netgalley and one of the first reviews I posted on this blog (Yeah, I am quite a sentimental reader :D) – and that fact that it became one of my favorite trilogies wasn’t such a bad reason either!
“He’d missed every thing that had mattered.”
Here’s the thing about cliffhangers – you don’t get to decide when that feeling of rage and helplessness that comes with knowing that the cliffhanger won’t be resolved till next year – and that’s what killed me about waiting for this book!
But I have to be honest, it was a little difficult to remember everything that had happened in the previous book, taking a little time for me to orient myself, but was I patient enough to go back and re-read the book? A BIG FAT NOPE. I remembered quite clearly what I felt when I reached the end of Winner’s Crime.
The Winner’s Crime ended with Kestral being banished and Arin moving forward an alliance to go against the Valorian empire – and the heartbreak of so many misunderstanding between them, well mostly in Arin’s mind about Kestral and with the first few pages, I remembered the frustration, the ALMOST physical urge to shake some sense into Arin for what he perceived to be the truth!
“You are changed,” he murmured, “and you are the same. Honorable. I honor you.”
While Arin is making strategies for a war with his “prince” Roshar, Kestral is trying to survive being in the work camp – but does she loose her courage? No, she doesn’t even with the anguish of her father’s betrayal, she perseveres, but the worst is for her to know that everything she did for Arin will now forever be unknown – even Arin himself would never understand the sacrifice she made for me.
And it made me weep – I kid you not, there were a few tears shed on my iPad when reading this one, especially at the first few chapters. Kestral is fully and totally BROKEN – a female protagonist, who became one of the female protagonists I admired, not only for her strength but for her intellect, and it broke me to see her broken.
“There is a difference between you and me. If I die, you’ll survive. If you die, it will destroy me.”
Arin, oh my, Arin was amazing – he is literally the BEST HERO EVER! He wears his heart on his sleeve – and the focus of his world is Kestral – everything he does, every breath he takes, every decision he makes, the focal point is always Kestral!
(Isn’t that SWOON WORTHY?)
After being away from each other, throughout most of The Winner’s Crime, both Arin and Kestral are re-united early on – but that reunion is heartbreaking (just warning you!) – I never really expected that they would ever meet in such circumstances, not that I expected a happy reunion with the way everything went down in previous books.
“It was him or you,” he said softly. “You had to choose.”
Her gaze fell to the wet grass beneath her, the wrapped bandage. She thought of her past. Her whole life. “I want better choices.”
“Then we must make a world that has them.”
There are two facets in this book – on one side you have an imminent war in front of Arin and Kestral and then, on the other side we have the pleasure of seeing Arin and Kestral build their relationship from a foundation of mistrust, cynicism and a whole lot of misunderstandings.
But they learn, boy do they learn from the past – and that is the part that I freaking ADORED!
And as usual, Marie Rutkoski doesn’t disappoint either – the writing just SIMPLY FLOWS – there is a sort of hypnotic quality to it, that makes sure that your attention never really does waver from it – I can’t even tell you – I started this book, and I just ended up reading it in one go – I am not kidding, I only slept because I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open and believe me , I TRIED!
This is the perfect conclusion to a fantastic series – a book that is classified under YA Genre, but definitely nothing young about it – and that’s why it’s on my all time favorite series list ❤
Can’t wait to see what Marie Rutkoski comes up with next – although it will be really hard to top Arin and Kestral in my book 😉
“They’ll find the right words to describe you.”
“Oh, that’s easy.”
“It is?” It seemed impossible to name every thing she was to him.
Kestrel’s expression was serious, luminous. He loved to see her like this. “They’ll say that I’m yours,” she told him, “just as you are mine.”
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐