Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Published March 3, 2015 | Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)


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.

Rating: ★★★★★

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. Continue reading “Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski”

Waiting on Wednesday (#41)

The Winner's CrimeThe Winner’s Crime
by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #2
Publication Date: 3 March, 2015
by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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.

Add to Goodreads graydividerHonestly, how can I not be waiting on The Winner’s Crime after that crazy cliffhanger at the end of The Winner’s Curse? This trilogy will be the death of me if feels can kill (we all know they can). Unfortunately, I felt the first book’s cover was better. The blue of the dress on this one is a little too…neon? And the arrangement of the typography isn’t as striking as the first. Oh well, I still trust the insides will be beautiful!

Which book are you waiting on this week?


Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's CurseThe Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1
Publication date: 04 March 2014
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 355 pages
Source: Library

Goodreads | The Book Depository | Amazon

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Rating: ★★★★½

The Winner’s Curse had been one of my most anticipated books of 2014 and I’m delighted to say that this book definitely lived up to all its hype! Gorgeously written, masterfully plotted and equipped with beautiful characters, there’s no doubt The Winner’s Curse is a shoo-in for my favorites list.

Although this might not be a big concern, JZ brought up something to me worth mentioning about the synopsis of this novel. After reading the blurb, she thought Arin was literally a ‘young slave’ – the little kid sort of young. I’ve got to admit that the synopsis actually can be interpreted that way and cause some confusion but just to clear that up, incase any of you readers thought the same thing JZ did, Arin, the slave Kestrel bought, is young man young, not little boy young.

Moving on, here’s a little history of the story that you might need. Kestrel, the protagonist is a high-class citizen of Valoria, the empire mentioned in the synopsis as one “that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers”. Arin, the slave she impulsively buys is from Herran, a country the Valorians finally seized after a bloody decade-long war. In the book, all Herrani were slaves, as the Valorians decided killing them off would be a waste of resources.

This story concentrated a lot around its characters and their relationships, which unfortunately, caused the world building to be slightly lacking as compared to other fantasy novels. However, the cultural information provided of the two main races (Valorians and Herrani) was incredibly rich and vibrant. In my opinion, the great show of the people’s lifestyles and history largely made up for the vague world building since it really brought the story to life.

As for the characters, Kestrel was a protagonist like no other. Neither impetuous, rash nor hot-tempered (most of the time), she’s a far cry from many young adult main characters that are usually extremely physically capable and rather reckless. Instead, Kestrel shone through her intelligence and amazing critical thinking skills. What she lacks in brute strength, her brilliance made up for it.

Next up, Arin. He’s a rather complex person with contrasting gentle and brutal sides, a result of his nature clashing with the effect of hardships he had gone through since his country had been invaded as a child, throwing him into a life of slavery. This caused quite some conflict within himself and what he believed in and is also the catalyst of a few of the bad decisions he had made. I loved how Rutkoski built up Arin’s character so uniquely and made him a puzzle readers would be dead set on solving.

The romance between Kestrel and Arin had amazing dynamics and their relationship progressed completely realistically, starting with the expected hatred of a slave towards his/her master then moving on to friendship, gradually followed by love. Like every evil heartstrings abusing author though, Rutkoski won’t let happy moments last long. So do be prepared for heart-breaking plot twists and crazy action just when you think there might be a little peace.

One last bit worth mentioning was that in The Winner’s Curse, there wasn’t a definite main villain. Honestly, all the ‘bad guys’ in the book had perfectly understandable – though not always justifiable – reasons behind their actions. Moreover, in books like these where one of the characters’ father is high up in the military or has a lot of power, they are usually portrayed in a negative light with little to no familial feel in the father-child relationship. However, the love between Kestrel and her father was very much palpable in The Winner’s Curse. Yes, they still had their disagreements but under it all, it was clear-cut they truly are family.

All in all, The Winner’s Curse was a beautifully written book with intricate characters and a plot that would draw you in and not let go. The ending had me reeling in shock and feels and left me desperate for the sequel, which unfortunately, is only to be released in 2015. Despite the few minor issues in world building, I would say this was an otherwise flawless read and as soon as you have time (or if you don’t, make time for this), it’s recommended that you read The Winner’s Curse and experience its marvelousness for yourself!