Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences. Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest. But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.
I have seen so much excitement for this book, that I couldn’t help but be intrigued by it. Then finding out it was queer pretty much sealed the deal for me. A girl who lives a lowly life, tries to keep her head down, and has secrets she wants to keep close. It sounds like something I would definitely like, so I decided to give it a try! Trigger warnings: emotional and physical abuse, gaslighting
I liked this one a lot more than I thought I was going to. I have read The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime, but I haven’t finished The Winner’s Kiss. I started it such a long time ago, but I don’t think I ever finished it. I liked the books well enough, but I did read them a really long time ago. Still, I’m not quite sure if I missed anything and I can’t quite place where this book fits into that world. I have a semblance of a theory, but I can’t say them because they venture into spoiler territory, which is frustrating haha. I’m interested to know how everything connects and whether this is a prequel, a sequel, a companion, or simply takes place in the same world. It should be interesting to see.
Anyway, back to how much I liked it. It surprised me with how good it was. It was good in a quiet way, in this book was definitely setting something up and laying the groundwork for something. But it did it in such a way that felt like the ground rumbling beneath your feet and you know something ominous is coming, but you don’t know what. You can only brace yourself and hope it doesn’t knock you over. Magic lurks just beneath the surface, but it’s covered with secrets and lies.
It worked really, really well for the book. I loved how it set everything up. It felt like everything was gone into a lot of detail, but not in an information dump kind of way. More in that rumbling ominous kind of way. The city is hiding something and that’s clear, but Nirrim doesn’t know what. She’s trying to find out, and by trying to find out, the world she lives in is brought into stark contrast. It was really, really interesting and I really liked how it was done.
I honestly can’t believe that I was straightbaited. I was getting so frustrated, because this book was supposed to be queer. But, it did turn out to be very, very gay! I promise there’s a f/f romance! And it’s an amazing f/f romance. It’s a complicated relationship, with a lot of snags and struggles, but the two characters go together so well and they care about each other so much. I loved seeing them together.
Though, there is homophobia in this world, which was a bit suprising for me. I’ve realized that a lot of fantasies I read make queerness something normal and just something that is. Because it’s fantasy, if dragons and magic can exist, than so can complete acceptance of queer people. It was a bit jarring to see a fantasy world that wasn’t like that. I don’t think it’s a necessarily a bad thing, just something I wasn’t the biggest fan of. Though, that is just my personal opinion!
The twist at the end was brilliant. It was so brilliantly done and it came together in such a brilliant way. It was just so brilliant all around. I was completely shocked and at the same time, everything lined up so well, that I wasn’t shocked. It was so smart and it made those ominous rumblings explode into a full blown earthquake, rock slide, hurricane, and so many other things. It tied the pieces together and it set up the next book in a way that has me wanting it really bad even though it won’t come out for a really long time.
The writing was also really unique. It was very poetic in a way and I thought it would irritate me the longer I got into the book, but it worked in the book’s favor a lot! It added to the mystery, to Nirrim’s wanting, to what the world really is.
There were so many things I liked about this book, but I can’t go into detail about because they’d all be spoilers. I’ll just say that this book has really cool magic, an intricate, secret laden plot, a f/f romance, fantastic characters, and a plot that builds in such an amazing way. I really, really liked it!
Thank you for reading!