May 25, 2016

REVIEW: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2)

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2), by Marie Rutkoski
Publish Date:
March 3, 2015
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Format: paperback, purchased
Genre: young adult fantasy romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

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 don't think there's a book in the history of ever that made me as crazy as The Winner's Crime. I was wooed by the characters in The Winner's Curse. I was made to feel badly for their situations and to celebrate their triumphs. I especially fell in love with them as they fell in love with each other. And all this made The Winner's Crime all that more frustrating. 

Our characters - Kestrel and Arin especially - are struggling to define what is "right" and "good" and especially "true." Kestrel is now engaged to prince Verex even though her heart still belongs to Arin. But, Kestrel knows that she has a better ability to save him and his people if she continues to play the role that has been thrust upon her by the evil emperor. And that includes pretending that she couldn't care less about Arin. 

My heart broke over and over and over again for Kestrel. She may be the strongest female character I've ever read about. She made so many difficult choices in The Winner's Crime, all in the name of love. She loves Arin, and wants him and his people to be happy again. She feels that her people have gravely wronged his people (which they SO have), and she wants to make it right. She may be only a 17-year-old girl, but she's brilliant and clever and driven by a moral compass that always points true. 

Arin is trying to match up what he knows about Kestrel in his heart with what he sees with his eyes and hears with his ears. He's terribly confused because these things don't match up. And Arin is increasingly more and more heartbroken. He and Kestrel are both completely miserable through this entire book, but I felt like it all had to happen that way. HEAs can't come easily if you want them to be truly fulfilling. Arin had to go through all his doubt and hatred of Kestrel in order to appreciate her and love all that more later. 

We encounter several awesome side characters in The Winner's Curse. Roshar, Verex, Tensen, Risha - they all add so much more richness to this already abundant storyline. Over the course of the book, we visited so many different parts of this world that Marie Rutkoski created - all of them very different and interesting. The characters and worlds and the complex story of love and betrayal and trust absolutely captivated me. And that ending.. 

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