Review: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski
Publication date: Mar. 3, 2015
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Category: Young Adult - Fantasy
Source: Received ARC from publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: 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. (Adapted

The good
If The Winner’s Curse was all about the divide between Valorians and Herrani and more importantly, bringing Kestrel and Arin together, then The Winner’s Crime is all about the calculated moves of war and keeping the two lovers apart (sad face). I get it though. The world is expanding, the story is growing and Marie Rutkoski has certainly given her readers a rich fantasy series to immerse themselves in. There’s a tentative treaty between the warring nations, thanks to Kestrel’s bargaining. Arin is the governor of Herran but it’s a farce. His people are still starving and they are still under the Valorian Emperor’s thumb. At the palace, Kestrel is holding up her end of the bargain. She’s engaged to the crown Prince Verex but she knows she’s under the watchful eye of the Emperor who is far more evil than I anticipated.

With fantasy books, heroines tend to be physically powerful. They have some special ability or they know how to fight. Part of what makes me love Kestrel and what makes her stand out is that her ultimate strength is her intelligence. She’s astute, clever, can put together the pieces of a mystery and pragmatic. There’s a scene in the previous book where she explains to Arin how she won the duel and he responded laughing, “You’re terrifying!”. And you know what? That’s what’s awesome about her and it continues to show in The Winner’s Crime. She uses her mind but she also has a lot of heart. It’s seen in the inner turmoil she feels regarding Arin, the desire for affection from her father and the compassion she shows to others.

But while Kestrel feels like a chess master, Arin often felt like a pawn in everyone’s game. It’s not his fault though! Arin is smart too but leads with his heart more than his head. It seems like the entire cast of characters — Arin’s trusted advisor, the Emperor, the prince, Kestrel’s father and even Kestrel herself — believe they should be apart. But Arin continues to seek the truth from Kestrel and even though these moments are few, the tension and longing between them leap off the pages. But Arin has a few tricks up his sleeve too and he hasn’t given up on absolute freedom for his people. Arin and Kestrel may be on opposite sides right now but there’s hope that their paths will eventually converge. (At least, they had better!)

(Super minor) Reservations
There’s a lot of miscommunication between Arin and Kestrel. Either someone is misinterpreting the other’s words, missed chances or secrets. A part of me recognizes that it's necessary but another part of me thought there were a bit too many moments of crossed wires. I mean, can two people seriously get it so wrong every single time? I guess it’s possible. I just love Arin and Kestrel together so much that I can’t help but feel impatient for it.

Do I recommend?
I do! I love this series. The ending of The Winner’s Crime is heartbreaking (I still can’t believe it!) and I seriously cannot get my hands on the last book fast enough.

1 comment

  1. Ah, The Winner's Crime, AKA the book in this series that had me falling head over heels in love! I liked the tension, the growth of these characters, the expansion of the world, just everything (and yes, even the drama that ensues between our two leads)!


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