Tuesday, June 9, 2015

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': the winner's crime

Name: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski
find it on goodreads/b&n/amazon

synopsis: (spoilers for the winner's curse!!!!!!)  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.

full review under the cut that will contain spoilers for the winner's curse! 

Let me just start off by saying I read this book and the first installment of the trilogy within the space of two days. I loved The Winner's Curse as well, it was something different and thrilling and I had an amazing experience with it. However, I feel like I've been doing mostly series or duology reviews lately, and so I wanted to take this post and focus more on The Winner's Crime which, in my opinion, has more to talk about in it. That doesn't mean that I didn't absolutely love The Winner's Curse as well, as I did and this is definitely a new favorite series.

With that being said, I have to say that this is a really suspenseful read. I was actually surprised at how frantic I was as the book went on. I absolutely couldn't put it down because I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how it was going to end. I didn't realize it  at the time, but it has been a while since I read where I was this physically nervous for the characters because of the unpredictability of their circumstances. (to a lesser extent, I felt this while reading An Ember in the Ashes and Vicious, most recently) Of course, I'm always concerned for my favorite characters, but this book totally upped the ante.

Speaking of characters, let's talk about our favorite ones. Kestrel, you are one of the most interesting protags I've gotten the chance to read about. Kestrel is a truly fascinating blend of personality traits, someone who is full of contradictions, in the best way. She can be this cold, calculating, level-headed person who can remove herself from any situation and do what is logical, but she is also someone who can be hotheaded and impulsive, occasionally letting her heart rule her head. This combination is what gets her into trouble most of the time, and sometimes I just want to smack her for making the choices that she does. However, I do have a lot of respect for Kestrel, because I think that she is such a badass character, even though the weapons that she wields are not of steel, but of words and social maneuvers.

Arin. Oh Arin, you sweet, strong, stupid boy. Man. Whatever. The fact that Arin can't see how Kestrel is always trying to protect him is the source of all of the frustration in this book. Well, that and the fact that Kestrel and Arin can't seem to communicate to save their lives (literally), but we will get to that later. Arin was so impulsive in this novel, not the controlled leader that he was in the first novel. Kestrel and Arin have been changing each other from the very beginning, and the change in Arin because of the way he feels about Kestrel is evident in this book. The ending just about broke my heart for Arin, and I really hope that they can have a long chat to just hash everything out in the third novel.

As for the rest of the characters, there were some pleasant surprises and some disappointments. (not on the part of Rutkoski, of course, but on the part of the characters themselves) Verex, crown prince to the Valorian empire, was one such surprise. I was expecting him to be ruthless and conniving, like his father the emperor (who I would gladly murder), or someone charismatic and charming who would try to win Kestrel over. In truth, he is neither, but instead someone gentle, someone who can't help but wear his heart on his sleeve. I think he could be a great friend to Kestrel. As for Kestral's father, I can't even begin to explain my disappointment in his choices. It is clear, at the end of this novel, that his loyalty to the empire goes above anything, and in his mind, excuses the betrayal of his daughter. I was so mad at him, and he wasn't the only one. Jess and Ronan, who stood by Kestrel through everything in the first book, only abandoned her in this second installment, at the moment when she was at her very lowest. Maybe it was because I felt so awful for Kestrel's loneliness, but I think that their abandonment of her was unforgivable. There are many other characters in this novel that I could touch on, but these are the ones that truly stirred emotions in me.

Setting-wise, I was glad that we got a better look inside Valorian society in this novel. I like the way it feels kind of like Rome with elements of a Victorian or Regency age thrown in there. It is beautiful and brutal, completely dependent on war and social whim. I like the unusual parts of it, and I really do enjoy reading about this world. I really hope, in the next book, we get a better glimpse at the east, because in the first one it was Herran that we focused on and in this one it was the capital. The east is different and interesting, so I hope we can read more about that next time around.

As far as the plot goes, as I said before, it kept me on the edge of my seat, sometimes in a way that wasn't so enjoyable. I was so aware of how unfair all of the circumstances were that I wouldn't really describe myself as having enjoyed this book, only that I appreciate how well-crafted it is and I was completely sucked into it. I was frustrated over the emperor's manipulations, Kestrel and Arin's decisions, the inability of anyone in the story to communicate with each other and so on. It is a true testament to how good Rutkoski is that I can say I was frustrated for most of the book and still give it five stars. It is because that frustration was never arbitrary. I felt like everything that was happening was happening for a reason, even if I didn't necessarily like it. I did like the social manipulation and careful moves that Kestrel made, playing a deadly game throughout the book. Her intellect and logic sometimes astounded me, for she has the ability to see angles that I could never, ever see.

Now let's talk about the ending. Which is also known as The Cause of My Death. All of Arin's struggle and pain, all of Kestrel's drive to protect him and her high stakes risks, come to a head here. If only Kestrel's father had been somewhere else. If only Arin hadn't just barged in in broad daylight. If only if only if only. It broke my heart, what Kestrel had to do to protect them both. And then it broke my heart all over again when she succeeded in saving him, but not quite in sparing herself. If only she had told him the truth, right from the beginning! COMMUNICATION IS KEY PEOPLE! I'm just so upset that Arin still doesn't know how deeply Kestrel loves him, and that now she won't even get the chance to say to him what she so desperately needs to. And what I so desperately need is a reunion and explanation scene in the next book!!! This wait is going to be agonizing.

All in all, I appreciate how good this book is. From the fully developed world to the three dimensional and flawed characters, everything is pitch perfect. Though I was frustrated with the choices of the characters and their circumstances, that doesn't take away from how deeply I understand the quality of this book. I absolutely cannot wait for the third installment!



  1. I really need to read this soon! I really enjoyed The WInners Curse and i've had The Winners Crime sitting around for a while now. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    Also, Caroline, I love your blog and i've nominated you for the Liebster Award. I'd love to see your answers to the questions! You can check out the post on my blog for more info.
    Olivia @ Fluttering Pages

    1. If you liked the winner's curse then i have no doubt that you will love this one as well! Oh my gosh thank you so much olivia! i love your blog too, thank you so much for nominating me! ill be sure to answer the questions as soon as I can! :)


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