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
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on 3/3/2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
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Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.\r\n\r\nThe 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.\r\n\r\nAs 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.
Oh Arin and Kestrel, you rip my heart to shreds! The Winner’s Crime picks up where The Winner’s Curse leaves off, and you will spend the book wondering how they will get back from where they go. This book is no slumping sequel. Nope, you won’t find any Middle Book Syndrome here, folks. Rutkoski masterfully crafts a story that evolves from a gushy, first-love fantasy romance to action, political intrigue and mysterious deaths, cultivated by politics so twisty and turny, it will make your head spin. Plus perhaps some kissing behind a curtain or the gentle brush of a hand across a cheek. And oh, those plot twists! So many of them I didn’t see coming. I would think someone was one thing, and they would be another. I thought one thing would happen, and instead something else would. I changed my opinions of characters and their loyalties too many times to count, and overall, it just made me breathless. Trusts are broken. I’m deliberately being vague because SPOILERS!
“She took a whitened sip of chocolate, the cream cool and pillowy against her lips.”
Can we talk about Marie Rutkoski’s writing for a second?! She continues to amaze me! Everything in The Winner’s Crime was so vivid, that I began to wonder if she did things (like drink hot chocolate) solely for the purpose of describing them in her books. Who am I kidding, she probably drinks hot chocolate to drink hot chocolate!
“Tensen cupped his hands and opened them wide as if scattering seeds to the floor. It was the Herrani gesture of skepticism.”
I mean, who thinks to add these kinds of details in their books? GENIUSES, THAT’S WHO. She also includes more about the cultures, right down to their different hand gestures and body language. It was like a movie playing in my brain. The level of world-building in The Winner’s Crime was astounding and wonderful. Stephen King without being all windy. There is also more history of their world in the story, and questions from the first book are answered, while more still are being asked. Kestrel is so much more conniving in this than she was in The Winner’s Curse. Where before she was falling in love and doing things for their love, in The Winner’s Crime, she’s sacrificing for more than Arin. Her time spent as his political prisoner in the first book has given her a new perspective on the Vallorians’ rise to an empire. She is taking all the things she’s learned being the general’s daughter and the prince’s betrothed for espionage, negotiating trades and playing a real life game of Bite & Sting. I hope she wins. Kestrel and Arin have so many obstacles to overcome to find any measure of happiness and there’s not much kissy-kissy time in this book, since most of it focuses so much on the things going on around them, and they are apart for much of the novel. Both have lost trust, in each other and themselves. The emperor is evil, and Kestrel’s bravery regresses a little bit, mostly because she’s not sure how to achieve her desires, I suspect. She’s semi-spinning her wheels, mourning her decisions and missing Arin. I’m just not sure how they are going to do it. Usually an author leads me down a path and I can see where the story is going. Not the case with Rutkoski; she has managed once again to keep this reader in the dark and yearning for the third book. Haven’t started this series yet? WELL, YOU MUST.