The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #2 (2/3)
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 3, 2015
Genres: [Young Adult] Fantasy
4 Stars, Completed March 10, 2016
– SPOILER free –
Right now a part of me feels inclined to rebel and give this book 1 star because of all the heartache it caused me. But nah, I’ll remain sensible and fair.
You can’t see both sides of one coin at once, can you, child? The god of money always keeps a secret.
The god of money was also the god of spies.
Naturally The Winner’s Crime takes place after the events of the first installment. Kestrel is busy preparing all the events and celebrations that follow her engagement to the Valorian prince. While adjusting to palace life she’s beginning to realize that all the intricate lies she’s woven and promised have led her to her own cage in the Capital. Meanwhile, Arin is seas away seeking allies in the East to help his people gain their freedom. Unknown to Arin, Kestrel’s also aiding his cause by being the anonymous informant helping Herrani efforts. When they do meet, more lies and misunderstandings ensues between the two-and some that may create irreparable wounds in their relationship. On top of all this, despite all the wishful thinking, they recognize that they soon will have to pay a price for the dangerous crimes they have committed.
Maybe I should have taken a hint after the events of the first book but Marie Rutkoski is absolutely ruthless. I wouldn’t go as far and say she’s the female George R.R. Martin, an author infamous for killing his characters at whim and with complete disregard to the feelings of readers, but she does know how to pull at a reader’s heartstrings-the unbearable, “I can’t believe I just read that” type of pull. She doesn’t sugarcoat the mechanisms in an empire with a cunning but merciless king. She doesn’t disguise war and conquest in any other way then what it truly is: an unstoppable ugly greed that murders the innocent and ruins people. And she doesn’t allow all her characters from escaping sickness and death.
“Sometimes you think you want something,” Arin told him, “when in reality you need to let it go.”
With the illustration of the effects of wartime coupled with my heartache from the troubling turns the couple’s relationship faces, I found The Winner’s Curse to be so tragic. I’m certain half the time as I was reading this I was muttering, “No, no, no. This can’t be. Noooo.”
Arin hadn’t lied when he said that he trusted her. But that trust always came with a wrench of the gut. Trusting her made no sense. Arin knew all the reasons it didn’t. His trust was foolish. Unhealthy. To be honest, Arin didn’t understand his own trust. He wasn’t even sure if this stubborn impulse came out of real hope or was the habit of a beggar, fallen asleep with his hand held out for small coins.
However, I must admit that there were moments where a small part of me wanted to let out a huge exasperated sigh. I love Arin and Kestrel as individuals. I love their relationship. But I just hate forbidden romances so much. I know it’s petty of me to think this way but after the events of the first book when Arin’s status changed I thought that this sequel wouldn’t be a forbidden romance anymore. But because of all of the lies and misunderstandings it became even more so than the first installment. There was a lot of restless pining. Maybe those bits were supposed to be frusterating-and they were-but they also dragged the storyline for me. I know I’m probably being slightly too critical because almost all ya romances have a small degree of a forbidden romance in them. But all the longing came off as too much unnecessary angst.
Yet, even with that being said, I thought that this book was even better than The Winner’s Curse. Like I mentioned in my review for book one, complex world building isn’t necessary to make this world rich. Rutkoski manages to transform this stripped down setting in a refreshing way by focusing on the maneuvering of politics. As every other reader have mentioned, this installment explores the politics in this world in a greater depth than the first. We learn more about Valoria, Herran, and even neighboring regions such as the eastern plains.
And speaking of Dacra, we are introduced to a new, delightful addition to the cast, a character redolent to Sturmhond (Storm and Siege) and Alucard (A Gathering of Shadows), Roshar. He’s appropriately sarcastic and humorous. And I love how he was actually cleverly woven in the first book unbeknownst to readers.
Not as significant, but I also love the featuring of adorable animals with this installment. You guys know me, cute, furry things are my weakness.
I don’t mind being a moth. I would probably start eating silk if it meant that I could fly.
And lastly, I’d like to mention a character that really shined in The Winner’s Crime: Kestrel. In The Winner’s Curse, though both were equally engaging I actually preferred Arin’s perspective in comparison to Kestrel’s, but I noticed that I was looking forward to Kestrel’s segments in this sequel more. Kestrel was never the spoiled rich lady as she’s painted to be on the covers or in the synopses. I already discussed this in my review for the first book, but she’s clever and tenacious. But even more important, she’s empathetic to those around her despite her social status. I didn’t think it was even possible but I seemed to love her even more in this installment for her vulnerability but also the courageous strides she makes.
All in all, The Winner’s Crime was an important and suspenseful sequel. Why I’m giving this the number of stars I did was in part of my frustration with the myriad of misunderstandings and how they affected the romance in an infuriating way but also because this book gives the essence of a middle book. The story was fast paced and thrilling, but it did feel strongly of a filler at times. In terms of characterization and additional depth to the world and politics, this book was infinitely better than the first. But because of the reasons I named above I feel compelled to confess that I enjoyed this book a little less than the first in terms of entertainment.