Title: The Winners Crime
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy (Book 2)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
“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.”
Review: 5 Stars
Note: Contains spoilers for Book 1, The Winners Curse
The Winners Crime picks up a short month after the previous books tense gut wrenching conclusion. Kestrel is now living in the Valorian capital, preparing for her upcoming marriage and unsuccessfully trying to let go of Arin. In The Winners Curse Kestrel came to view her culture through an increasingly clear and unbiased focus, but was not in a position to change things on a grand scale. Now as all parties converge at the capital for a season of prenuptial festivities Kestrel finds herself in a position to affect real change in her society, not only does this come with great risk to her own safety, but has the potential to ruin her most important relationships. Kestrels actions are a complete betrayal to her beloved father, a man whose affections are still paramount in importance to her. She also is compelled to keep her dealings a secret from Arin (for far different reasons) and so finds herself lying to the two most relevant people in her life in order to help atone for the injustices Valoria and it Emperor has committed against its neighbors.
The journey is a cruel one and come the end we see all of Kestrels closest relationships take a dark turn. She is alone and betrayed, the backs of those that matter most turned against her regardless of what side of the conflict they were on. The last six chapters are a fast-paced clusterf*ck of pain and betrayal that ends with a cliff-hanger.
Now that I’ve said all that…I LOVED this!!! Though The Winners Curse was more romantic (which I missed here) and (due to the rebellion plot in the last half) more action packed, I enjoyed that this was a different kind of book. Full of espionage, court intrigue, angst, and impossible choices that cyclone around Kestel and Arin as they bludgeon their own hearts to set their worlds right.
While some thought this ended on a hopeless note, I have to disagree! There was a key thing that needed to happen for Kestrel and Arin to find themselves in the same place again. It happened in this book. I could not be more encouraged or excited for where this sets things up for The Winners Kiss when its released next spring. With full on war about to break out and an inevitable reunion between Arin and Kestrel, I feel confident both action and romance will be back on the menu.
Some favorite quotes:
He saw her honsety with him. She offered it like a cup of clear water that he drank deep.
Her tears glinting in the dark.
Her fierce creature of a mind: sleek and sharp-clawed and utterly unwilling to be caught.
Arin saw Kestrel step between him and punishment as if it meant nothing, instead of everything.
“Arin?” Tensen called through the memories.
Kestrel had thought she’d known what her choices had cost her, but when the prince had kissed her she sharply understood that she was going to pay for this for the rest of her life.
“You accuse me of wasting lives. I could, Kestrel. I could waste them in the thousands, the tens of thousands. I don’t. I try to minimize enemy casualties.”
“Only so that you can enslave people afterward.”
His mouth thinned. “I think we should finish our game.”