Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Series: The Winner's Trilogy (Book #2)
Will need to read the first book prior to this one
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Release Date: 12th March 2015
Read Date: 4th February 2015
Tagged Under: 2015 read, fantasy, review copy, YA fiction, book review, 3
Check It Out: @Amazon, @TheBookDepository, @GoodReads

Book Summary

Lady Kestrel's engagement to Valoria's crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust... 
While Arin fights to keep his country's freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. 
Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learns just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner's trilogy.

Book Review [Spoiler Free]

One of the upcoming releases of March 2015 is The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski, the second book in The Winner's trilogy. I read the first book, The Winner's Curse, at the beginning of the year and while I did enjoy it, there are elements I had difficulty connecting with. But overall, there are more to like than dislike. I was fortunate enough to receive a NetGalley ARC copy of The Winner's Crime from the publishers, which I eagerly read as soon as I finished the first book. 

Last warning: please read the first book before continuing on with this review. Although it's spoiler free for this book, it will contain details regarding the first book, possibly spoiling it for you.

The Herrani's battle for independence has led to an uneasy settlement - they may keep their freedom on the provision that they still answer to the Valori and pay taxes to the Emperor. On the surface, it seems the Herrani has finally gained their hard-fought freedom. But for how long can they keep it?

Meanwhile, it seems Kestrel and Arin's lives are slowly drifting apart onto separate paths. Engaged to the Crown Prince, Kestrel's life is rife with potential political pitfalls as she struggles to maintain a dutiful and loyal facade in front of the public and more importantly, the Emperor. Arin, on the other hand, is determined to maintain his country's independence despite mounting taxes that are threatening his people's very existence. But the chemistry between the pair cannot be ignored and slowly, the two are drawn back into each other's orbits. Will they sacrifice the greater good of their respective countries for love?

The Winner's Crime definitely builds on the foundation of its predecessor and further fleshes out the troubles that were brewing in the first book. Marie Rutkoski focuses more on the political dilemmas that troubles the main protagonists rather than the romance between the pair. By doing so, she solidifies the fantastical tone of the novel and deepens the suspense as the likelihood of a happily ever after between Kestrel and Arin seems doomed at the turn of every page. And perhaps because of that, this book doesn't suffer from the second book syndrome so many other YA trilogies seem to undergo.

Rutkoski's writing once again shines through, making this another pleasant read. The sceneries are beautifully described, the prose elegant and the dialogue sharp and witty. It definitely highlights Kestrel's cleverness and how quick she is at forming conclusions and strategies from the information at hand. Yes, she realises she is playing with people's lives with her words and she often chooses the lesser evil option of the two, regardless of what other people may think of her actions. Kestrel's fast thinking is one of the things I admire about her.

The relationship between Kestrel and Arin continue to develop in this book. Thankfully, Rutkoski elects against the typical YA path of introducing a love triangle - though she could have easily inserted one should she have wished. The main protagonists have enough on their plates and plenty of opportunities of misunderstanding each other's intent without a third party blurring out the scene. The book is definitely a far more pleasant read with the focus on political troubles rather than Arin and Kestrel's relationship.

Which brings me to the main issue I have with the book. Perhaps one of the few things I found wanting from the book is that I continue to struggle to connect with the chemistry between the main protagonists. It's undeniable they have feelings for each other. That is evident on every page I read. But I just struggle to convince myself of it. Frequently, I found myself rolling my eyes at the pair, because their actions, rather than appearing star-crossed and romantic, just comes across as idiotic and borderlines suicidal.

Nevertheless, much like the first book, the action picks up towards the second half of the book, ending in a solid and decisive manner. At the same time, it also sprouts a thousand questions as to what will happen in the third and final instalment of this trilogy.

Overall: 3/5

The book is another solid read which I enjoyed and Rutkoski's writing is always a pleasure to read. However, my struggle to connect with the romance between the main protagonists did dampen my reading experience somewhat. I would still recommend this book to those who enjoy YA fantasy romances.

Disclaimer: a complimentary preview was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed above are entirely my own and are in no way affected by the source of this book.


  1. *sigh I totally love the cover but I don't normally like reading books like this. :/

  2. Aw, I couldn't really read your review because I haven't read the first book. I really want to start this series, though!

    Pearl @ AsteriskPearl's Book Blog