**Warning! If you haven’t read The Winner’s Curse which is the first book in the Winner’s trilogy by Marie Rutkoski, there will be spoilers ahead. You can read my review of the first book instead if you haven’t started the series yet!**
The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski is the second book in the Winner’s trilogy. It picks up right where the first book left off and it’s easier to feel immediately engaged in the story because of the past familiarity with the main characters Kestrel and Arin and the world in which the story takes place. The Winner’s Crime is entirely heartbreaking in every way and I felt SO MUCH while I was reading this book. Days later, I’m still crushed by the ending and I cannot wait for the third book because there is so much unrest with the second installment.
Kestrel spends her time in the Emperor’s home and advises him on wartime tactics for the Valorian people. Kestrel is intelligent and her real life plotting and planning is the perfect equivalent to her love of strategizing and winning games. Kestrel always tries to stay a few plays ahead of her opponents but with the Emperor, it often feels like she just can’t catch up no matter how hard she tries. She’s still torn between her alliances for her people and her father, the general of the Valorian army, and Arin and the feeling that his people, the Herrani, deserve their freedom. She’s faced with some really rough choices which usually amount to her needing to choose the lesser of two evils. Arin has tried to reach out to Kestrel several times, putting his heart and his position on the line, but it’s to no avail and it’s slowly driving him insane.
There’s one particular scene which takes place in Kestrel’s practice room that caused me to audibly yell “No! No! No!” I hurt my hand by involuntarily banging my fist on my desk because of how upset the scene made me. It’s such a well written and stressful situation for the characters to be in so I almost can’t get upset with Marie Rutkoski for causing me to take some hits of physical damage. There were so many lovely metaphors in this book, particularly involving the moths. Rutkoski has crafted such an elaborate and layered story that it is impossible for readers not to be swept away by her tale.
Final Thoughts: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski is a heartbreaking continuation of the the first novel. I’ve decided to begin referring to it as The Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy. This book is ripe with metaphors and bursting with emotion. You will not be able to tear yourself away from Kestrel and Arin’s POV’s and the ending will leave you feeling a combination of sad, angry and craving the final installment.
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. (via Goodreads)