The Winner’s Trilogy
By: Marie Rutoski
Overall Rating: ★★★
Kestrel is the daughter of the Valorian Military General. Arin is a Herrani slave turned rebel. Their paths cross, they struggle with their feelings for each other, and they obviously hate that they’re both Slytherins who want to live in a better world. Without going into spoiler territory you’ll run into: A d-bag Emperor who wants to rule the world, lots of moody, spoiled white aristocrats, and some weirdly specific bug-related metaphors.
I did not enjoy this series as much as I wanted to. Kestrel and Arin had sooooo much potential as characters and as love interests, but they fell short. The story was a jumbled mess full of miscommunication, lies and deception – which usually I find really appealing in stories. If you’re into insta-love or simplistic YA novels, you might want to give these a try, but overall I’d say stay away if you have other TBR options.
*It was really hard for me to not just put “NOTHING” in this section. But, being as unbiased as I can…here it goes. I may end up ranting at some point. Who knows.
(Some of) The Supporting Characters
You know you’re in for a bad time when you fall in love with the unimportant secondary cast, but here I am, telling you that the main characters suck and you will live for all the supporting characters (except for Jess. She can go die in a ditch). They have personality, swagger, and stick to their motives and goals, unlike some characters, which I will get to shortly. I loved Prince Verex and I wish he was in more of the story. I also lived for Eastern Prince’s sass and wit. But that’s not saying much since not many of the other characters have an ounce of personality. Even the Emperor, regardless of how evil and cruel he is, was a more developed character than Arin or Kestrel.
The war and battle scenes were the only thing keeping me going while reading these books. No joke, it was a struggle to get through 300 pages and if there weren’t a handful of good fighting scenes I would not have survived. If there’s one thing this series got right, it’s the war and the battle strategy.
The Main Characters
KESTREL WAS MY GIRL. I had SO much hope for her as a heroine. She started off as the Slytherpuff I never knew I needed. She was cunning and smart and tried to use her talents to help those around her…but then she had to go and ruin it. She doesn’t grow or develop through the entire series. Instead, she slowly regresses into someone you would have met on page one, book one – second-guessing herself, and not trusting her instincts. Not to mention that really unnecessary memory-loss moment she has, which only works if you’re Peeta Mellark and have a cute game you can play to remember what is real and what isn’t.
…And then there’s Arin. Talk about a tall, dark and handsome Slytherin who’s perfect on paper but sucks IRL. He’s set on freeing his land and his people from the Valorians and his inner monologue tells us he thinks he’s clever enough to see truth from lies. BUT, he proves again and again and again that he CLEARLY DOESN’T KNOW WHAT A LIE IS. He’s kind, he sings, he can fight, and he’s beautiful. But there is no depth to Arin or his motives and he is a bit of a wet noodle.
The Love Story
Okay, so let’s start of with the disclaimer that this starts off as insta-love but then takes a turn into weird, angry “I don’t know if I want you” love. It’s frustrating and annoying and not at all something I enjoyed. Book One, Kestrel and Arin hate each other. They spend like 5 afternoons together and then all of a sudden they’re in love. Don’t forget that at this point, Arin is still a slave, owned by Kestrel, and he’s planning to overthrow her father and taking over the city…so like WTF ARE YOU THINKING ARIN? This just ping pongs out of control in books two and three, with Kestrel and Arin both denying then not denying their feelings. It’s eye-roll worthy. Then there are some weird romance vibes going on between the Eastern Prince and Arin. Then some weird romance vibes between Arin and the Eastern Queen. Apparently, everyone has the hots for Arin, but Kestrel is the only one who lies to herself about it. It was like a really bad car crash that you can’t look away from.
The Ugly Truth
I wouldn’t recommend this series unless you are really patient with your main characters and have some free time you’re willing to throw around. There isn’t much depth to the story or the characters, but you may like the warring bits like I did.
Talk To Me
Have you read this series? If so, what did you think of it? Will you be adding this to your TBR?