Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

ARC: 352 pages
Publisher: FSG
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
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.

I have struggled to write this review in the last couple of days and it's probably going to be disjointed but here we go... 

First of all, I loved The Winner's Crime! I loved everything about it. 
Now that that's out of the way, this review will be split into two parts: The non-spoiler section and the spoiler section (which will be in the green box). Read the spoiler part at your own risk.


Writing. I love Marie Rutkoski's writing style. It's very readable, but at the same time there's a sophistication about that the elevates it from the typical YA novel. 

Setting and new characters. In The Winner's Curse we stayed in Herran pretty much the whole time. But in The Winner's Crime we got to see and learn more about the other countries outside of Herran. The majority of the book was set in the Valorian Emperor's court, but we got a glimpse of the East and met the Dacran queen and her siblings (I think they will have significant roles in the third book) and the war heats up and with Arin's new... invention.

And since we're talking characters, I just love how complex all of the secondary characters were, especially General Trajan (Kestrel's dad), the Emperor, Verex and even Risha (the eastern princess who was kidnapped and kept at court as a political prisoner)--there is more to that girl and I think she's going to play a very significant role in book 3.

Kestrel and Arin. These two are the best! I love their opposites-attract thing. I love how cunning Kestrel was and how she's always one step ahead of Arin. She's such a unique character. She's not your typical YA heroine in that she's not physically strong, instead she relies on her intelligence and cleverness and I love that. Arin was the opposite. While Kestrel was kind of the ice queen and the logical one, Arin wears his heart on his sleeve and reacts based on his emotions. Some of the scenes they had together when they were alone was so bittersweet because of the situation Kestrel was in and Arin didn't know what was going on. I'm so excited to see how it will all go down in book 3.

Court intrigue. The Winner's Crime was all about the court intrigue and if you love that kind of stuff, you'll be in reading heaven. 

The pacing. I read some of the negative reviews for The Winner's Curse (I was curious because I thought The Winner's Curse was utter perfection) and many were complaining about the slow pacing. If you're looking for a lot action and explosions, look elsewhere because this series is not that kind book. Instead it is intricately plotted, with a lot of behind the scenes maneuverings and the game is won through clever words. Yes, the pacing is slow (and not everyone is going to like that) but it doesn't make the plot any less exciting.

Overall. Amazing! Excellently written. Fleshed out and layered characters. Intricately plotted. Unique. Spectacular! I absolutely loved it. 

Spoiler Section.

Chapters 43-47
. Holy cow, you guys! As soon as Arin made the decision to confront Kestrel about everything, I was all, Yes! Finally! But then, he goes at the worst time.

Arin goes to the piano room and we heard Kestrel's dad watch make the noise so we know he's in the secret room listening to Kestrel play and O.M.G.!!! I was screaming shut up, Arin! Just SHUT UP!! But then Kestrel did her ice queen thing to put him off even though he might never forgive her (my heart broke for her!) and I thought she pulled it off. She was able to convince her dad that Arin was just crazy but then...

General Trajan (Kestrel's dad). Trajan wouldn't go to the Emperor and tell on her, right? I thought. Because Kestrel and her dad finally came to an understanding about each other and her father cared deeply for his daughter. That was evident.

Okay, everything is going to be cool... Kestrel's dad wouldn't go to the Emperor...ARGH!! But he did! NO!!! I should've known Trajan's sense of loyalty to the Emperor overrode everything else because he's a soldier first and foremost. But like Kestrel there was that hope that her father trusted her and would be on her side (especially since Trajan also had his issues with the Emperor). By the end of The Winner's Crime, both felt betrayed by the other and I'm really, really curious how their father-daughter relationship will be in book 3. Is a reconciliation even possible?

Verex. Marie Rutkoski could've easily made a love triangle with Arin, Kestrel and Verex and I am so glad she did not. After I was sure there won't be a love triangle, I kind of brushed Verex aside because he felt like a throwaway characters. How wrong I was! There was more to him than meets the eye. I ended up liking Verex--he reminded me of Anden from Marie Lu's Legend series. I think he just might surprise everyone in book 3.

What I think will happen in book 3: (I'm most likely completely wrong)

I think Risha, the kidnapped/political prisoner eastern princess, is the true Jadis. Verex is already in love with her--I think she's just biding her time until she can stab Verex and/or the Emperor in the throat and claim victory for her people.

Arin will rescue Kestrel from the North and together they'll work to bring down the Emperor.

Arin will end up killing Kestrel's dad with his new weapon. Before he dies, there will be a reconciliation between Kestrel and her dad.

The eastern queen will end up conquering Valoria, but she'll make Kestrel the governor of Valoria and Arin will still be governor of Herran. They're going to name their first kid Tensen.

Wah! I need book 3 now!

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