The Winner's Kiss
I had such high hopes after loving the first two books, but this one felt like a big flop to me.
There are a few things I liked about the book, particularly the way that it started. Normally, I'm not too crazy about the dual POVs in random spots, but it helped keep the action/suspense and flow of the book so I'm okay with this instance.
We start where we left off, with Arin returning with the Eastern Alliance and Kestrel going to the slave mines in the North. I felt like the characterization was off with both of them in this one. I liked that Rutkoski went with the mind-altering drugs and that Kestrel had to learn who she was and what role Arin played in her life, and that he had to struggle to support her and still love her at the same time, but it felt a little too forced. Girl falls in love with boy, loses memory, has to re-learn everything about both herself and her love and eventually remembers mostly everything. I also understand Kestrel isn't the same person, but she goes from acting totally opposite to her normal self, to saying 'this is who I am' with no doubts.
Then, there's the War. It's almost like everyone lost sight of why they were fighting... there was not much mention of their fight for independence as a people and land, just more about what would happen with the alliance and what the Eastern Queen would do if they won. Even that was annoying... all the tension and build-up of Roshar's choice between his sister and Arin was a major plot point that was just destroyed at the end. It made it feel like 'why did I even bother getting worked up about this' when Roshar solved it (in his own fashion) by a stupid joke that lasted five seconds. Also, I have no idea what happened to the political atmosphere. It was SO tense in the last book between Kestrel's father and the Emperor and Verex, and this one just focused on the battles and that's about it.
I don't understand the solution!!!! These people are smart... how do they believe that by killing the Emperor everything will be solved? That's legitimately the resolution to the entire series. One death. THIS IS WAR. People should be hurt and dying left and right, but instead people get hurt for two seconds and miraculously survive. Not a single person we care about is lost (not very realistic). Do you think he was the only one pulling the strings? Do you think your people won't be considered slaves anymore because of one death? That the Valorian will leave you alone? Ridiculous.
It felt like VERY little resolution. The first half of the book was as lovely as the first two in the series, and the ending just felt rushed and too 'perfect' without actually making sense to the plot.
I still liked the series, I just really wished that it had ended differently.