Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

Once you begin The Winner’s Trilogy, it is impossible to put down. It begins with The Winner’s Curse—previously reviewed here—a story of national unrest, secrets and ultimate betrayal. The second book, The Winner’s Crime, focuses on political intrigue. The finale, The Winner’s Kiss, includes a full-scale war that the previous books were building towards. All of this happens with the relationship of two star-crossed lovers at the forefront.

Though angst-filled, troublesome and seemingly doomed, the love story between Kestrel, the Valorian General’s daughter, and Arin, the Herrani slave Kestrel buys within the first pages of the series, is impossible not to support. At times their story is difficult to read, especially during the second book, but in the end all you want is for these two tortured souls to find happiness with each other.

If you prefer books without romance, this series is probably not for you. Even so, there are plenty of other features to be enjoyed. Kestrel and Arin are at the forefront of the series, but the author drives their actions with a great setting and political backdrop. The setting of the series feels like it could be of our world, during the Middle Ages, but it is a land all its own. The side characters bring their own depth to the story. The Emperor is terrifying, his son is appropriately not-terrifying, and the friends Kestrel and Arin make all have something to bring to the story.

The author depicts realistic battles and shocks with life-shattering secrets. Rutkoski gives the story the right level of risk, and isn’t afraid to kill important characters effectively. She also writes a brainwashing/memory loss plotline well, in an emotional and gripping way. (It is difficult to find any book, movie, etc. that can make a memory less plotline anything more than an exhausting obstacle introduced in a situation that would otherwise have no conflict.)
For a book with an equally endearing and angsty romance, try For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, reviewed here. For a read-alike with a similar Earth-like setting and political backdrop, read Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers, reviewed here, and the rest of the His Fair Assassin series.

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