Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Standalone/Series: Second book in The Winner’s Trilogy
Genre: Fantasy – Young Adult
My rating in stars: 4 stars
My rating in words: Really liked this book
What it’s about:
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.
“You can’t see both sides of one coin at once, can you, child? The god of money always keeps a secret.”
Sometimes it’s possible that the sequel is so much better than the first installment. That is definitely the case for the Winner’s Crime. While I thought the Winner’s Curse suffered from unlikeable protagonists, unbelievable motives and an overwhelming cliché romance, the sequel took all those issues and fixed them.
The Winner’s Crime is darker and deadlier. We learn more about the world and the politics and this allows for more suspense and higher stakes. Kestrel is walking a dangerous line and could be caught at any moment. That danger is constantly present here and helps increase the pace a lot.
Talking about Kestrel, this book is really her time to shine. She is very intelligent and has a strategic mind that was mostly only hinted at in The Winner’s Curse but that becomes a major part of the story here. I thought her motives also became more clear and I just generally liked her more than before. Arin however… I like him, but he should take some notes from Kestrel and think before he acts. He was pretty frustrating in this book, and I like how his attitude was addressed this time.
“How did you ever survive, little slave, with that mouth of yours?”
The romance was put to the backburner here, which I think did the story some good. I’m actually shipping Kestrel and Arin more now than I did in the romance-heavier prequel. Though they still fall under one of my least favorite tropes: the lack of communication and general idea of “I have to keep these huge important things a secret from my loved one because of his/her own good”. Seriously guys? Seriously?
I also love how this book improved on the secondary characters. They are more developed and the relationships between them and our main characters are given more attention. Kestrel’s father and her relationship with him gets a bigger focus in this book and it felt so real and heartbreaking. I also really like the additions of the power-hungry Emperor, the puppy-loving Verex and his friendship with Kestrel (please don’t hurt him Marie!), and of course the mysterious Roshar. We do have minimal Jess and Ronan and when we do get them they are just frustratingly annoying. Understandably so, but still annoying.
All in all, I liked this book. It was a good second part in the trilogy though I do kind of feel this could have been just one book instead of a trilogy. Then we would have at least been spared of that monster of a cliffhanger. How could you do that Marie, how could you? At least book 3 is out already because waiting a year to find out what happens next would have been brutal.
“I don’t mind being a moth. I would probably start eating silk if it meant that I could fly.”
“An emotion clamped down on her heart. It squeezed her into a terrible silence. But he said nothing after that, only her name, as if her name were not a name but a question. Or perhaps that it wasn’t how he had said it, and she was wrong, and she’d heard a question simply because the sound of him speaking her name made her wish that she were his answer.”
“There was dishonor, she decided, in accepting someone else’s idea of honor without question.”
“Sometimes you think you want something,” Arin told him, “when what you need is to let it go.”
“She’d felt it before, she felt it now: the pull to fall in with him, to fall into him, to lose her sense of self.”