I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Macmillan on March 3, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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.
The Winner’s Curse was one of my very favorite books last year and so I was both excited and little nervous to start The Winner’s Crime. Almost immediately, I was thrown back into the dangerous political game that Kestrel was playing and any worries I had about whether this book would be as good as the fist were swept away. The reader knows, of course, the heartbreaking choice that Kestrel made at the end of the first book and so it makes sense that she would be, well, pretty pissed off at the world in The Winner’s Crime. However, even though life at the palace was less than fun, she still managed to be her cool and calm self, at least on the outside. A lot is revealed about the world that she now inhabits and, like a rich person collects money, she collects information in little bits in order to gain power. It comes at a cost, though, and there are times when the secrets she must keep have very painful consequences. This book was perhaps a bit quieter than book one in that it revolves largely around political maneuvering. All of the lies and the plotting seem to have one goal, but our glimpses into Kestrel’s thoughts often reveal a different goal altogether. Once again, I felt like I was peeling back a story with many layers of plot and character development and it made The Winner’s Crime an outstanding read.
I think what I admire most about Kestrel in this book is her ability to create power for herself where I could see none. Just when I thought she was trapped and without any control over her own life, she brilliantly maneuvers herself into a place where she does have some agency. It was really quite amazing and cemented my love for her poor little heart, which is viewed as cold but is, in fact, quite broken in this book. But what of love? What of Arin? Well, as many have pointed out, the second book is traditionally the place in a series where the two people who are assumed to be a couple are tested, and tested they are. Quite painfully, in fact. Once again, my heart was lifted, then dropped, over and over again. The romance was much more subtle in this book. In fact, I would say that there is much more hurt and anger than love in this one. But, that won’t stop you from seeing glimmers of hope. That glimmer is what makes the ending so very painful……again. The Winner’s Crime did not let any of the intensity of the first book go, and Marie Rutkoski’s beautiful writing creates and sustains that feeling. While it was perhaps a different kind of tension in The Winner’s Crime, it was still utterly gripping and it is going to be so painful to wait for the last book in this series.