*The Winner’s Crime is the second book in Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy which begins with The Winner’s Curse. As such this review contains major spoilers for book one!*
“The winner knows her whole line of play. But Kestrel saw only one move, and maybe the next.”
Kestrel knew the cost would be high when she petitioned the Emperor of Valoria in an attempt to save Herrani lives. Months later outward appearances suggest that Kestrel has everything she could want. Her gambit to offer Herran independence as a colony only serves to better help Valoria while Kestrel’s shrewd strategy brought her to the attention of the Emperor. Engaged to Valoria’s crown prince, Kestrel is privy to countless parties and celebrations while all of Valoria admires the future Empress.
To Kestrel, it feels like nothing so much as a well appointed cage.
Kestrel longs to tell Arin the truth of her engagement. But with stakes higher on both sides, Kestrel is no longer certain she can trust Arin–if she ever could.
Arin thought his problems would end when Herran won its independence and he became governor of the new color. But independence as a reality–as more than a word–is a difficult thing. Leading an entire people is harder still. Arin buries the hurt deep, wrapping it in distrust and doubt. But once Arin thought he knew the truth in Kestrel’s heart. As he learns more about the machinations at work with Valoria, he wonders if he was ever truly wrong.
Navigating the complex alliances and threats of the capital, Kestrel comes to know the ruthless nature of life at court as well as her own heart. But despite years of training and loyalty, Kestrel heart no longer belongs to Valoria. It may not even belong to herself as she sets herself on a treasonous path to save her both the country and the man that never should have captured her love.
As lies multiple and deceptions wear thin, both Kestrel and Arin will have to face shocking truths as they answer for their deceptions and crimes. For both Kestrel and Arin, the greatest of their crimes may be not knowing their own hearts in The Winner’s Crime (2015) by Marie Rutkoski.
The Winner’s Crime is the second book in Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy which begins with The Winner’s Curse.
This story greatly expands the fraught world of intrigue and political machinations readers explored in the first novel as Kestril and Arin move through Valoria and lands unknown. The stakes have never been higher for either Kestrel or Arin.
Although there is still abundant action, The Winner’s Crime is an often introspective story as both protagonists try to make sense of their own hearts and motivations. After years of following her father and her empire without question, Kestrel begins to wonder if there might be more to honor that doing what is expected. Arin, meanwhile, stews in an untenable combination of responsibility to the Herrani and regret at having lost Kestrel.
The Winner’s Crime is a brutal, emotional read as both Kestrel and Arin deal with the ramifications of their unlikely association in Herran. Rutkoski’s prose continues to dazzle with rich, elegant descriptions of the decadent world of the Emperor’s palace. The shifting dual perspective between Arin and Kestrel is also used to excellent effect as this book once again highlights how much can be said between two people without uttering a word.
The Winner’s Crime is another stunning installment in a series that continues to impress.
Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, A Wizard of Earth Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
*An advance copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher*