The Winner’s Crime (Winner’s Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]
Previous Installment: The Winner’s Curse
NOTE: Summary contains spoilers for the previous book in this series.
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.
It’s now been several weeks since I finished this book, and I am still unsure how to write this review. I didn’t go in to The Winner’s Crime with blinders on – I knew this book would be painful to read, based on the ending of the previous book – and yet it still managed to sucker punch me more than once. My heart broke not only for Arin, who just honestly doesn’t understand why Kestrel is agreeing to marry the prince, but also for Kestrel who is sort of caught in a no-win situation. Usually books that have you rooting for the main couple give you something good to hold on to, but that did not happen here. Arin and Kestrel are so very far apart at the end that I’m unsure just how things can possibly be fixed for the better – and I’m not just talking about their relationship.
First off, since I listened to this one on audio, let me give a little mini-review of the audiobook. The Winner’s Curse was actually the first audiobook I listened to in its entirety, and thankfully the narrator was the same for the sequel. She does a nice job with the pacing, and while she does do accents for the characters when they are speaking actual dialogue, it wasn’t off-putting at all and actually helped distinguish between their direct quotes and their internal monologues. She also did a good job with the more suspenseful portions of the story, keeping the mood intense and holding my attention, which is not always an easy task. All in all, I’m glad I went the audio route; this was a good audiobook, not just in the story, but in the production as well.
As for the book itself, I really want to avoid spoilers, so I’m not actually able to talk about too terribly much. I do want to say that Prince Verex really grew on me. I didn’t think I’d like him, since I wholeheartedly ship Arin and Kestrel, but he was charming and sweet and – like Kestrel – really just stuck in a bad situation. I do have to say that, at times, Kestrel was kind of irritating. She’s kind of stupid, and also extremely blind when it comes to her father, and yet you can’t help but feel for her predicament; she loves Arin, but can’t be with him, and honestly is trying to do what she thinks is best in order to keep him safe. However, that whole trope – hurting someone to keep them away from you in order to keep them safe – actually is one of my least favorite in existence, so. That didn’t help my feelings towards her at times, either. The character I honestly loved throughout this book was Arin, because he just made me feel for him. He’s another one who’s trying to do what needs to be done to help his country, but is also trying to reconcile his relationship with the woman he loves, even though he knows he shouldn’t. And good grief, that scene on the balcony? For something that didn’t even have an actual kiss, it was stupid, STUPID hot. Unf.
All in all, The Winner’s Crime was exactly what I wanted it to be, angst and sadness and pain notwithstanding. I don’t know how on earth things are going to be fixed – I don’t even know if they all CAN be – but I am definitely looking forward to the final installment. Here’s hoping there’s a little joy left for Kestrel and Arin!