I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Also by this author: The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Kiss
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Also in this series: The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Kiss
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on 2015-03-03
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Buy on Amazon
I am writing this review in 2014 and here you are reading it in 2015, makes me feel kind of like a time traveler in a weird sort of way. Some of you might be asking, why read a book like The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski so early, even though it does not release for five more months (from my date of reading) and I would answer that sometimes in life you go through a severe rough patch and certain books are like balm to your soul. This book is a balm to my soul. Even though it was an emotionally draining, heartbreaking read, ultimately I am so glad that I read it. I am glad I was able to take time and read a book that I have been anticipating more than anything. I am so pleased with this dark edition to the Winner’s Trilogy. Rutkoski works her magic again with this painful sequel, but know that it’s so worth your time and emotions.
Remember how at the end of The Winner’s Curse we were all like OH NO A LOVE TRIANGLE MAYBE FOR BOOK TWO? And it was heartbreaking and sad and we were like on edge for book two? For The Winner’s Crime? Lol, that is NOTHING compared to this book. Like, I feel a bit pathetic for my feelings at the end of that book, knowing what happens at the end of this book. Oh my goodness. Okay, so check it. Marie Rutkoski takes Kestrel to Valoria, to the heart of the empire, as Kestrel gets to know her fiance Verex and begins to plan for her wedding. She is right under the thumb of the emperor. Meanwhile, Kestrel is right under the thumb of the emperor who is this megalomaniac who wants complete power and control. He is the worst.
Meanwhile, Arin is the governor of Herran, and so, as governor, he has to come to Valoria for Kestrel’s engagement ball. He sends the minister of agriculture, Tensen in his stead. Kestrel begins a dangerous game as she works in tandem with Tensen to obtain information about a secret that could impact all of Herran. MEANWHILE, there is the war still going on with the east, with Dacra. There’s a Dacran princess, Reisha, who lives as a prisoner at the Valorian court. This book pretty much makes me think of that phrase about the best laid plans of mice and men, and you guys, I can see some groundwork and foundation being laid for book three, after reading The Winner’s Crime and I am so EXCITED. For serious, this book really moves the series along and does not at all feel pointless like several second books.
To be a little crass, I am just going to say that Kestrel is a boss bitch. For real, I love this girl. She is tough as nails. She’s fierce. She does not let her emotion cloud her judgment. She is not at all weak. I mean, she’s not physically strong or anything, but her mind is just so tactical and sharp. I really respect it. Everything she does is for a reason. Kestrel is the sort of character who balances on a knife’s edge, tip too far either way and she’s going to get hurt. So, how she maintains that balance is quite the spectacle to watch. If you liked Kestrel’s maneuvering in The Winner’s Curse, you’ll love it in the sequel. Honestly, my heart hurts for this self-sacrificing girl, caught up in schemes that are bigger than her or Arin, but could affect many, many people. I just love her, that’s pretty much the point of this paragraph.
I think my heart kind of hurts more for Arin than it does for Kestrel. He has the wool pulled over his eyes. In the last book, we were all pumped a little tiny bit because Kestrel had negotiated a treaty that won freedom for the Herrani people which means that Arin isn’t going to be put to death for the rebellion. However, he doesn’t realize this. He doesn’t realize that Kestrel must act a certain way to save him, and so, he’s left thinking that she hates him and ugh, it’s so sad. Anyways, so Arin takes the brunt of physical pain in this book. Let’s just say that the Valorian court leaves it’s mark upon Arin. I just, my whole soul hurt for the majority of the scenes with Arin. He’s just so straightforward that it’s kind of like he doesn’t seem to totally understand the dangerous game Kestrel has gotten herself into and sort of puts her into jeopardy. Not on purpose, but he just doesn’t get why she’s pushing him away constantly. I loved the emotions his character continually evoked for me, though.
The Winner’s Crime takes us to Valoria itself. It shows us the empire. It shows us plainspeople conquered through poisoning. Remember how the last book hinted at war in the East? WELL WE GET TO SEE THE EAST with this book. We get to see the proud Dacar people who do not let any foreigners in it’s nation. We see tigers. We see some intense torture. We see all manner of different people. I love the world that Rutkoski is building for us, and how we get to explore more and more pieces of it. I am reminded of the world building in The Girl Of Fire And Thorns trilogy which is absolutely the best compliment I can give. There’s definite tactics and warfare in this book, and the laying of the possibility of tides turning.
Okay, so there’s a little bit of kissing in this book, but more than kissing there is tension. There is this feeling that something is going to happen and that like a house of cards, everything could come crashing down on Kestrel and Arin. There’s so much chemistry between the two. It’s hard to see Kestrel push Arin away, and in the end, the romance is so much more painful than The Winner’s Curse, but you guys, I kind of have this feeling that maybe this book is the price we pay to hopefully earn a happy ending with book three. Maybe we have to go through all this pain and maybe Kestrel and Arin have to endure trial by fire to come out the other end with some semblance of happiness. There’s this scene between the two that’s utterly perfect, as they pass each other on the wharf, I think it was, and they don’t know it’s the other, but they feel that person’s loneliness and it’s just so perfect, to see them orbiting around each other. Oh, my goodness, all I can say and end this review with is that I am just so desperate for a big payoff with book three.