Author: Marie Rutkoski
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review: I feel as if all reviews of The Winner’s Crime should be delivered with a public service announcement that states: yes, the ending of this book is as brutal as you have been told. The wait for the final installment of the trilogy is going to be difficult.
But if you are like me, and could not wait to read this book despite the anxiety over being presented with another final line to haunt your soul for the next year, then rejoice over the knowledge that this book is good. The Winner’s Curse left Arin and Kestrel at odds with one another; he lost in the glare of her apparent change of heart, and she unable to explain to him why she made her choice. Matters do not get any easier for them as the setting of the story shifts primarily to the capital of Valoria. If anything, the stakes only get higher as she must face impossible choice after impossible choice.
Kestrel continues to be one of my favorite characters in Young Adult literature. Intelligence is her weapon of choice; although she has to become aware that it can be used for her own good and against her. With her logical mind comes the lessons she was taught by her father, the General, in which she must calculate what and whom she will sacrifice for the greater good. And as her position in the Valorian Empire rises to dangerous heights, she feels she can trust no one.
Arin, meanwhile, is left to the waters of Kestrel and the good of his people. It is impossible not to feel a great deal of sympathy towards him, as he is pulled apart by what his image of Kestrel is with what she presents to him amongst the Valorian court. He is another character marked with a strong intelligence, yet as before there is the desire for vengeance to color his decisions — sometimes because he cannot see clearly. Unlike in its predecessor, this book does not allow Kestrel and Arin to have as much time in one another’s company. However, I thought this decision added to the impossible beauty of their relationship. Every meeting between them becomes fraught with more tension due to words not able to be spoken. I love tension in my romance, and these two bring it.
When it comes to fantasy, a good sequel should be able to expand upon the world the reader had initially been introduced to; this book accomplishes that. Politics, loyalty, betrayals and alliances have come into the picture and will undoubtedly shape how the trilogy ends. The characters travel to new lands and are exposed to different cultures. All of these elements combine with the author’s talent for getting the reader to feel the longing and anxiety of her characters. Do not go into this story with the notion that you are aware of how it will end. I promise you will be wrong.