The Winner’s Kiss Review

**Minor to Major Spoilers**


Title: The Winner’s Kiss

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy

Number in Series: 3

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Flap copy: “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?”

I actually read this a while ago, but just was too busy to write a post.

Anyways, you all know, KNOW, how much I love this series. This last book was so good, until the ending. If you don’t have the time to reread the first two books, don’t worry; through a plot devious, Rutoski actually made it okay not to remember that much.

I do love how Arin gets more time in the book. I remember reading, not sure where, that Rutoski deliberately made Arin have more page time as a way to show that since he was free, that balance of power is now shared between him in Kestrel. That woman is brilliant!

My only complaint was how quickly the ending wrapped up. A lot of people read this book differently, but for me it was always a complex romance series, so I was really disappointed that the ending of the book felt rushed and hurried.

I love this series and will probably try to convince my mom to read it, so if that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what will. Read this series!!!


Don’t Change The Cover: An Examination of the Power of Readers

Where were you when the cover of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss was revealed? If you were like me, you were angrily venting at Fierce Reads, the social media arm of Macmillan.

Old Cover
Proposed New Cover

Why do publishers do this? Why do they change book covers of a series when the cover is something all the fans love? I’ve gone over this before from a professional stance so I won’t go over here.

What I will talk about is the backlash that happened. Yes, I angrily vented. I did not however, threaten to not buy the book or slam the author. The author has NO control over the cover unless it is in their contract, and it rarely is. And if (hypothetically) a seller tells the house to change the cover or they won’t take, the publishing house changes the cover.

I have had so many series that changed the look of a series mid way through. And it SUCKS when you were a fan from day one and the publisher does this. It can feel like the publisher is devaluing you, the first readers who helped spread the word, in order to make money on those that haven’t picked up the series.

But the fans had a win with their outrage. Fierce Reads announced that the hardcover would be the old covers, in order to match the rest of the trilogy and the paperbacks would be repackaged with the new cover.

So YAY for the YA community for the win, but BOO on those that made Marie feel so bad about this whole thing.


Worth noting: if publishers had tons of money, I would have suggested printing the original cover on the back of the new redesign and then the reader could pick which cover you wanted to showcase. But publishers don’t have that kind of money.

The Winner’s Crime Review

Winner's Crime

Warning ***Massive Spoilers of the First Book***

Title: The Winner’s Crime

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy

Number in Series: 2

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Flap copy:

“Lady Kestrel’s engagement to Valoria’s crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust …While Arin fights to keep his country’s freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner’s trilogy.”

So the last book left off with Kestrel making a HUGE sacrifice to save Arin and his country from sure destruction. The feels were everywhere! And this book just picked up where the previous one left off.

Overall, I felt this was a sad book. I loved it, but it didn’t have many easy moments. Between Arin’s constantly waffling on whether he could trust Kestrel or even if he wanted to love her, to Kestrel having to deceive him to save him, I just felt the one-two punch on every page.

But Rutoski is a bona-fide genius. She has perfectly captured the essences of what a trilogy should be. So far both books in this trilogy have not disappointed, and kept the energy and intensity up. I need to read the third book, because with the ending of this one, I have NO idea how our two lovers are going to make it back together.

As I said before, I would have done ANYTHING in my power to acquire this series. I feel so jealous of her editor.

Side note: Check out the redesign of the first book in paperback! It is gorgeous!

Winner's Curse PB

Reflections on Writing as a Many-Booked Thing: Looking at Series

Last night I had the pleasure of attending New York City’s Teen Author Festival panel on writing book series. The panel included Dahlia Adler (Daylight Falls), Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy), Seth Fishman (The Well’s End), Kass Morgan (The 100), Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers), Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse), and Eliot Schrefe (Endangered), moderated by David Levithan (Every Day). 

I am so glad I went! The panelists were funny and insightful. As someone who wants to work in young adult intellectual property creation, it was very helpful to hear about crafting stories from authors and balance it against my editorial mindset.

Brennan, though a staunch trilogy supporter (I do not agree, but I would welcome a discussion with her), had the best trilogy outline:

            Step 1: Set up

            Step 2: Make-out (or complications are presented)

            Step 3: Defeat Evil

After she said that, I felt like my mind had been blown. Sometimes, as readers, we immerse ourselves so much in the plot, we miss the big outlines. Macro plot vs micro plot.

Another aspect all the panelists discussed or touched on was the nature of cannon. Everything in the first book is cannon, and though you can introduce new things, you have to explain it. Adler mentioned how as she was writing her second book, she realized that the romance she was trying to write felt forced and lacked chemistry; it wasn’t until later she realized that character was a lesbian. But because she was in book 2, she had to go back and make sure it didn’t conflict with information from book 1.

Rutkoski likened writing a series to a game: you have to find where all the pieces go. Levithan made a valid point: Of all the books in a series, Book 1 is the MOST important. It is the book that will make your readers come back. In regards to questions about if you should hold onto ideas that might work in other books, Lyga had this to say: Don’t hold anything back. You will have other brilliant ideas.

Highlights from the night include:

Twitter snap

I will be attending the all day Saturday symposium so stay tuned for more on all things YA writing.

The Winner’s Curse Review

The Winners Curse

Warning***Minor Spilers***

Title: The Winner’s Curse

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux (BYFR) (Macmillan)

Flap copy:

“Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

They were never meant to be together. As a general’s daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can’t help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other.

Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.”

Sometimes, there are books that reach and grab you, and you know these books will be big. I knew instantly with The Princess Diaries, Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I know it again with The Winner’s Curse. I originally read this book last year, but with the second book coming out March 3rd, I figured I would do a re-read.

First off, the flap copy totally does not do justice to this book. For the most part, it is right, but on the whole, it really doesn’t do the story justice.

In their world, Kestrel’s people are the conquerors. Arin’s are the conquered slaves. That is the world you are walking into. The thing that makes you love Kestrel is that she is extremely intelligent. She doesn’t have any fighting skills, and she is beautiful (it’s YA, it is rare not to find an attractive female protagonist) but her defining feature is her brilliant mind.  In a culture of military might, Kestrel is a brilliant strategic genius who will win at all costs, and this makes for a formidable will.

On the opposing side, there is Arin. I am not going to delve too much into his character since it is major factor in the plot, and everyone should read this book without spoilers. Just know that Arin is more than a match for our formidable heroine.

Side note: I love the climax of books; the heartbreak, the feelings, I love it all. This book is one big heartbreak. One impossible situation after another, and I loved every second of it.

It is refreshing to step away from a dystopian world, and enter a fantasy. I am tiring of dystopian.

If there is one YA book to read this year (pssh, would can read only 1?), let it be this one.

Final Question: Would I have acquired this book? I would have done anything in my power to get this book. I would have paid as much as I could. I LOVE this book.