Friday, February 6, 2015

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski 
Release: March 5, 2015
Source: e-ARC from publisher


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 trilogy is a slow-burner. It took days, and months, after I finished the first book to truly appreciate The Winner's Curse. And the same is true for the brilliant sequel. Marie Rutkoski's characters and prose don't jump out at you--they get deep under your skin until you cannot help but love or hate them. The trilogy revolves around a general's daughter and a slave she purchases on a whim. What happens afterwards involves romance, lies, deception, and court intrigue. It's not a "fantasy", but rather a reimagining of a Roman society. Violence, conquests, and slaves are a part of their everyday life. If you haven't picked up the first book, do so now.

In Winner's Crime, Kestrel and Arin find themselves miles apart from each other and living vastly different lives. As one prepares to deny love for the sake of father and country, the other is determined hang on to the one truth he cannot let go of: his love for Kestrel. Around every corner, though, someone is watching their every step and Kestrel is desperate not to enrage the Emperor.

The plot itself is not complex, but there are so many intricate webs that Rutkoski weaves that make this a engaging and fulfilling read. I also fell more and more in love of Kestrel and Arin, and I ached for them to have a moment of privacy. For Kestrel to tell Arin the truth. For Arin to understand. The Winner's Crime also introduces readers to a few new characters, the most important being Vertex, the Emperor's son. Let it be known that I absolutely despised the Emperor, and I think a part of me wanted to hate his son as well. But I couldn't. Verex is well aware of his father's manipulation and selfishness, and he looks after Kestrel like an older brother would. I also understand Kestrel's father on a deeper level. I wish he could see, though, that he's loyal to a very black and tainted crown.

The pacing of The Winner's Crime was slower, but I was glued to each page. I needed to know what would happen, there was not a page out of place. It all felt vital to the overarching story of the struggle between Herran and the Valoria, for a society that might allow Kestrel and Arin to express the love they have for each other.  Overall, The Winner's Crime was a beautiful and agonizing read, with an ending that has me wanting more.