The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, # 2)
By: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 3rd 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Personal Kindle Library
Goodreads description--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.
The Winner's Curse was a completely blank slate for me. I knew nothing going into it, and I was so pleasantly surprised. Well The Winner's Curse ends in...not really a cliffhanger...but a place where I was dying to know what was going to happen next. So I bought The Winner's Crime immediately and started it immediately.
Ok so this isn't a spoiler, but The Winner's Curse ends with Kestrel saving Arin's life and his country by getting the Emporer to sign a peace treaty where Herran becomes a part of the empire, Arin becomes the new governor, and Kestrel is engaged to the prince. Not the best place for our completely unhappy couple. And that's exactly the nature of the entire book. This is the second book in a trilogy after all and it follows a typical trilogy arc pretty much spot on. Meaning lots of conflict and set up for the final resolution of the overall series.
So we start The Winner's Crime with Kestrel now living in the palace at the capital as she is engaged to the prince. Yet in the beginning Kestrel has very little to do with the prince at all. She is mostly engaged in conversation with the emperor, who early on establishes his dominance, intelligence, and cunning. While the important thing for us to learn through The Winner's Crime is that the emperor is an extremely formidable opponent, I was somewhat discouraged at how Kestrel went from very strategic and logical in book 1 to the creature she becomes in book 2. While she's still strategic and smart, she's very sloppy. I did enjoy how Kestrel stayed true to herself in being so against the treatment of Herran by Valoria. She can't stand by and do nothing. Again, not a spoiler because it is mentioned in the description, but Kestrel goes so far as to become a spy for Herran. Though truthfully, I think she's mainly just wanting to help Arin more than anything else.
Arin was a bit of a struggle for me in The Winner's Crime. It's obvious that the feelings he developed for Kestrel are as strong as ever. But his faith in her is not. How her decision to form a political marriage could be anything but her attempts at saving him and his country is beyond me. Yet he doesn't see it. The only thing I can attribute it to is that the majority of his life has been spent around those who have used him as a stepping stone and barely noticed. But I should think that, given their history (Kestrel did fight a duel for him after all), he would have had more faith in her and her feelings for him as well as her honor. So yeah, I found myself rolling my eyes at him a good bit.
As I've already mentioned, The Winner's Crime is a typical middle book in a trilogy and as such, not much good happens. The characters start the book both in bad positions and they end the book in even worse ones. Yet if they didn't then what would be the need for a third book?
A few new key pieces of the puzzle fall into place in The Winner's Crime though. Even though Kestrel and the prince don't start out with the best relationship, they do develop a kindredness. The east is established as the next territory that Valoria is seeking to conquer and they do become allies with Herran. But at what cost? We see the lengths Kestrel goes to for Arin without him even being aware of it. The relationship between Kestrel and her father deepens and changes which sets up some aspects for the next book. And so yeah...we advance in the story for sure.
I will say that I think Marie Rutkoski's writing was even better in The Winner's Crime. At least from the aspect of quotable material. Here are my favorites:
-Kestrel had seen how the emperor loved to shape silence into a tool that pried open the anxieties of others.
-But he said nothing after that, only her name, as if her name were not a name but a question. Or perhaps that 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.
-Kestrel didn't understand how the truth could be so two-sided, like a coin. So precious--and ugly.
-It was different to give something up than to see it taken away. The difference, Kestrel said, was choice. A limited freedom, but better than none. ...Now she knew that to give something up was to have it taken away.
I know that this review has come across as a bit negative, but that's not really how I felt about the book as a whole. Yes, it does follow the middle of a trilogy patterns where not much good happens, but plenty does happen to further the story along and of course set up for the final book in the series. I believe Marie Rutkoski's writing was even better in The Winner's Crime than The Winner's Curse. Of course, there is a cliffhanger for real with this book so I had to purchase The Winner's Kiss immediately. The Winner's Crime gets 3.5 Stars. Have you read The Winner's Crime? What did you think? Let me know!