The Winner's Crime
by Marie Rutkoski
Read: October 15 - 16, 2014
Published: March 3, 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Source: ARC from Macmillan
Tags: Fantasy, YA,
Series: The Winner's Curse #2
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
Description: Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.
NOTE: The Winner's Crime is the second book in a series. If you're new to The Winner's Trilogy, check out my review for The Winner's Curse. The following may contain spoilers for the first book. It is safe for this one.
A brief recap.
At the end of The Winner's Curse, Kestrel bargained for Arin's life - and his people - by agreeing to an engagement with the Valorian Emperor's son Verex. However, all Arin sees is that Kestrel is now engaged to the crown prince of the empire he despises, who still has ultimate control of Arin's country. Kestrel is willing to do anything to protect Arin, including keep the truth from him. Arin's good at playing Kestrel's games, and he's pretty sure that she isn't telling him everything. But Kestrel isn't making it easy for him to decipher the truth, and he's also focused on trying to keep his fragile nation from falling apart.
It should be illegal to put this much beauty and heartbreak into one story.
I become very emotionally attached to the stories I read and the characters I love, and when they suffer, I suffer. Well I suffered a whole lot for Kestrel and Arin in The Winner's Crime. It was a tough journey, and I don't say lightly that it was one of the hardest sequels I've ever encountered. I felt vast amounts of bleakness while I was reading this story, but this book is also vivid in its imagery and sharp in its impact.
Although The Winner's Crime was a lot less fun of an experience than The Winner's Curse (Curse was a romp in the park compared to this), I think it is overall a stronger book, featuring gorgeous words and themes that will tear your heart. Moths and tigers, honor and favor-keeping, secrets, survival, bargains and betrayal, are all in here. I'm now even more addicted to finding out what happens next.
Choice and consequence are themes explored in The Winner's Crime.
In this installment, we see what it is to love and protect someone on the opposite side of the line as you. What happens when you want to erase that line, or sneak past it, only to realize that it's really a vast minefield that is impossible to navigate without casualties. Kestrel is Valorian and her people have brutally conquered Arin's people. That hasn't stopped how these two feel about each other, but feelings don't mean much when your nations are at war with each other.
Kestrel is a brilliant strategist, used to planning alone and easily beating her opponents in games, but she's no longer playing a game. The stakes are real this time, and they include people's lives and hearts, family, friends and even entire nations. Kestrel spends a lot of time in her head in this book. It's where she works best, but in the end she must face the consequences for the secrets she keeps and the decisions she makes. Although it was tough, I appreciate that author Marie Rutkoski did not sugar coat Kestrel's journey, and the difficulties she and Arin face by choosing to care about each other.
I believe in Kestrel and Arin.
The romance takes on a completely different tone in the second installment. Kestrel and Arin spend time apart, although their thoughts and actions are often centered on each other. These two are so right and so wrong for each other that it's painful. Their home countries automatically exclude them from a relationship, and they are very much not in sync in this book. But it's also clear how very similar they are and how well suited they are for each other. They are both strong individually, but the way they challenge and temper each other, makes them an incredible force when united. Although the political situation in this story is much bigger than one couple, and the outlook is bleak, I haven't stopped rooting for them. I needed that to be able to make it out of this book alive!
I know that all sounded pretty scary, but you definitely need to read this book as soon as possible. It's worth it. And The Winner's Kiss is just a short 13 months away (I know, hahaha). But, the possibilities with a title like that!
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: HIGH