The Winner’s Crime by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 402
Goodreads

Following your heart can be a crime

A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. 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: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin's freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself?

Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. she's working as a spy in the court. If caught, she'll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can't help searching for a way to change her ruthless world...and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.

This dazzling follow-up to The Winner's Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

5 Stars

Fingernails were chewed. Breath was held. Expectations were exceeded.

I loved this novel. Saying it was enjoyable wouldn’t be quite right. It was painful and stressful, but also incredibly beautiful.

Not often do we see a sequel that is so vastly different from its predecessor. It wasn’t just different in plot alone, but character depth, tone and theme. While The Winner’s Curse was more focused on romance The Winner’s Crime is about politics, hard decisions and sacrifices.

The plot kept me on my toes throughout the entirety of the novel. I was enticed, entranced even, there wasn’t a boring moment. The anxiety and agony this book brought me is the testament of a very, very talented writer. Marie Rutkoski has no mercy with her characters and the tone is so dark that you cannot help but wonder if this trilogy is going to end well. I really hope it does. It has to, right? RIGHT!? This book is gut-wrenching and makes you think about it long after you’ve turned the last page.

Probably my favourite aspects of this novel were the characters and their relationship with one another. Whilst I liked the characters in the first installment I also felt a certain detachment from them. Not here. They seemed more real; I felt closer to them and understood their thoughts and decisions better. Some characters I loathed with a fiery passion whilst others I grew to love and respect and I was rooting for them all the way, which of course made the book even more excruciating to read.

Kestrel without question has now established herself as one of my favourite female characters of all time. She kicks major butt but not in the traditional sense. She isn’t physically strong or a fighter, instead, her strength comes from within: her intelligence, her strategic mind and her strength to prevail in the face of adversity are truly admirable. I loved that we got to see a more emotional side of her, as opposed to her very rational behavior in The Winner’s Curse. In front of us we have a seventeen-year old girl who has lived in safety and comfort her entire life and whose biggest problems used to be the navigation of high society drama. Kestrel has always remained sheltered and thus detached from the people around her, but suddenly that safety blanket is taken away. She is thrown into a new and changed world in which she has to try to find her way and realize that the only person she can trust is herself. It’s the story about a girl who is lost, confused and is desperately trying to find out how far she is willing to go for what she believes in and the people she loves.

I also loved Kestrel’s relationship with the other people in her life. Her relationships with her father, Jess and Ronan were heart-breaking and I just wanted to crawl into my bed and cry for a good long while.

It was interesting to see the direction in which the author took Arin’s character. In this installment he appears more emotional than Kestrel. Deep at heart, beyond the ruthlessness that is demanded of him in this time war, Arin is vulnerable, soft even. He isn’t a strategist, instead he follows his heart and his instincts which doesn’t always end well.

Another strong point of this book is the beautifully poetic writing style. The extended metaphors, vivid imagery and symbolism really elevated this novel and felt completely natural. Certain scenes and situations might have seemed underwhelming and inconsequential in the hands of less skilled writer but Marie Rutkoski truly holds her own.

The Winner’s Crime is a novel about loyalty and faith and what happens when you lose them. It is masterful. If you haven’t started this series yet and like YA Fantasy then I highly suggest you pick it up.