Published March 3, 2015 | Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
GOODREADS | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY | AMAZON
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE WINNER’S CURSE.
Following your heart can be a crime
A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. 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: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin’s freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself?
Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. she’s working as a spy in the court. If caught, she’ll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can’t help searching for a way to change her ruthless world…and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.
This dazzling follow-up to The Winner’s Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.
I would like to say this book had too much romance, but then I’d be a hypocrite because I enjoyed everything between Kestrel and Arin so, so much. Even if many moments threatened to shatter my heart. And if you thought the schemes and trickery in The Winner’s Curse had been intense, the entire plot of this sequel will blow your mind to Mars.
At the end of the first book, we weren’t really left with an antagonist as Valoria was generally seen as this huge impending force of doom, Kestrel’s father was still someone she loved and his actions had (mostly) good intentions, Irex had been outsmarted by Kestrel (then died), and Cheat wound up dead. But fear not because you will soon meet the emperor of Valoria, a conniving prick and all-time pain in the ass. His despicable nature, in my opinion, can definitely hold a torch up to the King of Adarlan from the Throne of Glass series.
And if you’re familiar with the latter ruler, you now have a pretty good idea what monstrosity Kestrel and Arin are up against.
In The Winner’s Crime, everyone seemed to be acting upon what they feel would best protect those they love. Which in turn led to a convoluted web of deceit, feelings of betrayal, and lots of heartbreak. I loved how Marie Rutkoski could still navigate the crazy web she spun so perfectly and although there were so many things going on all at once, you would never feel lost.
As for the romance between Kestrel and Arin, it played a humongous role in the plot and though usually I would shy away from stories like that, this one had a perfect combination of epic life-altering decisions and tiny actions that spoke volumes. In short, it concocted a flawless recipe to shatter hearts, piece them back together but only to destroy them again.
Of course, the story didn’t only revolve around Kestrel and Arin (though they were excellent at hogging the spotlight and I’m not complaining at all). Verex, the crown prince of Valoria, and Risha were pretty spectacular too. I won’t go into details because of spoilers, but all I can say is they are rare gems to find in Valerian court.
Then comes the plot which was… intense. Crazy. Horrifying. So immensely brilliant. Reading The Winner’s Crime was akin to watching an episode of Sherlock (the TV series). There were a gazillion tiny pieces that contributed to every single plot twist and not a single one left me disappointed.
The world-building was also further developed in this sequel and you’ll get to see more of Herrani and Valorian culture and beliefs, both of which were incredibly fascinating because Marie Rutkoski is genius who excels at that aspect of world-building. Even better news, there’s also a map in this second book! I’m one of those who believes every fantasy book should come with a map. Period.
Overall, The Winner’s Crime was simply crazy good and cunningly wonderful. The romance was perfect (and heartrending), the plot gripping, and the world-building a step above the first book. It was definitely not a disappointment and actually, exceeded my expectations. With that cliffhanger and harrowing ending, I really can’t get The Winner’s Kiss, the final instalment, in my hands soon enough. Being the insane fangirl that I am, I already preordered it. Don’t judge.