I binge-read the Winner’s Series a while ago – it was so good, I couldn’t put it down (I mean, I did because of work and stuff, but that’s pretty much it) – and was left with such an empty feeling at its conclusion (because I missed the characters and wanted more) that I had to immediately pick up another series to fill the void… which I also binge-read… and that second series happened to be six books long…. hence the titanic delay in these book reviews. Sorry not sorry! (But actually, I really am sorry.) Read on for a spoiler-free and broad review of the entire Winner’s Series – The Winner’s Curse, The Winner’s Crime, and the Winner’s Kiss. (Note – this is spoiler-free for all three books. If you haven’t read any of the series, you can rest assured that there are no spoilers for any of the books here.)
Anyone who enjoys an epic read. This series has action, adventure, rebellion, amazingly clever characters, and romance. It’s classified as a YA series, but I don’t believe the enjoyment of these books is restricted to any one age group.
The Winner’s Series by Marie Rutkoski follows Kestrel, the 17-year-old daughter of a Valorian General, and Arin, a 19-year-old Herrani slave. The two are from completely different worlds, one the conqueror, the other the conquered. Through fate (a.k.a. underhanded scheming courtesy of the universe) Kestrel and Arin find themselves bound to one another, forming an unlikely relationship that tests their loyalties to their loved ones and their countries.
Rutkoski introduces us to three bordering nations – Valoria, Herran, and Dacra – with Valoria occupying Herran and enslaving its citizens while also being at war with Dacra. Rutkoski describes each location beautifully, with (in my opinion) Herran being the most picturesque.
The characters in this series – mainly Kestrel and Arin – are incredibly intelligent and clever. Almost unbelievably so. But hey, I’m open-minded enough to know that there are teens and young adults who are as insanely brilliant as these two. I’m just jealous is all. Kestrel and Arin are well matched and really keep each other (and us readers) guessing in the best of ways.
What I Liked
These books were SUPER addicting. I really wanted to know what would happen next; hence my rapid-fire read through. I mean, I was fairly certain I knew what would happen, but wasn’t so sure that it became boring to read. And I was ALWAYS worried about the fate of the characters. (Please keep my favorites safe!) Maybe I can thank Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin for my apprehension – clearly no character is safe. Ever. Speaking of characters, the character development was spot on. I loved seeing how each of them changed throughout the series (for better or for worse).
I also loved the alternating perspectives. It allowed for good pacing (not too slow, not too fast, but juuuuuust right) and let the readers in on those one-sided secrets, which really only heightened the torture.
P.S. This kinda reminded me of a Korean Drama, so if you’re into that (cause I am) – you’ll probably like this.
What I Liked a Little Less
There was very little that I didn’t like about this series. The back-and-forth with the misunderstandings was a bit much at times. Like, come on, guys! Just communicate with each other! Use your words! **Pulls hair** But, that was part of what made the series so enthralling. I mean, it’s no fun if it’s too easy, right? (Wrong! I love it when life’s too easy! But that’s unrealistic, so…)
I also would’ve liked for there to be a bit more of an epilogue. A lot of it was open-ended, which is fine, and the main points were definitely brought to a satisfying conclusion (you all know how much I like need closure), but I feel that there could’ve been more with certain characters. Maybe Rutkoski will eventually continue the story? If not with Kestrel and Arin then maybe some of the side characters? (Pretty please?)
Overall, I’d give The Winner’s Series 5/5 stars! It was well written, the plot consumed me and I felt sad to leave the characters behind. You know it’s a good book when your heart aches in a good way.