Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rukoski

The Winner’s Crime
(The Winner’s Trilogy #2)
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Hardcover, 402 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Genres: YA, Fantasy

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.

My Review

Arin and Kestrel are once again star-crossed, yet this time, it seems like nothing can help bring them back together. Kestrel’s engaged to the crown prince of Valoria and Arin is just trying to keep his people from starving to death. And when their paths collide, fire ignites, and everything gets burned.

Arin and Kestrel are two very dynamic and flawed characters. Kestrel is too secretive and too naïve, but at the same time, she’s ready to do whatever it takes to keep the casualties of her father’s and the emperor’s war to a minimum. Arin, on the other hand, knows his people need some sort of miracle and is willing to fight for it, yet he can’t stop making mistakes because of the girl he’s in love with. Both of their emotional turmoil and unfortunate plights had me turning pages as fast as my eyes could read.

The plot of the book was what one might consider to be part of the second-book syndrome. However, this is only true based on the slowness of the beginning and the heaviness of the political drama going on. Because, while there are a lot of action scenes that had my eyes practically popping out of my head, they’re sometimes buried under negotiations with other characters. But once I got into the flow of this ebb and weave—ebb being the action and weave being the political drama—I really found myself enjoying this book. Arin and Kestrel created captivating stories on their own, and if their stories hadn’t have intertwined, I would still enjoy reading about this slave boy who grew up to save his people, as well as this sheltered little girl who didn’t necessarily examine the consequences of not just her actions, but also others’ actions, and is waking up to reality.

What I wasn’t really sure about as I was reading was the side characters’ roles. The emperor is the prime antagonist, and at times, he just felt like the cliché villain we’ve all come to scoff at. Maybe he’ll get more depth in book three, though. Additionally, Tensen had me scratching my head simply because I couldn’t remember his character from the first book (or if he even was a character from the first book), but I did like the role he played in this one. Now the prince was a fantastic character! I really enjoyed reading about him and his untypical prince-ness. I also enjoyed some other characters that I refuse to mention because of potential spoilers.

Now, I have to mention that The Winner’s Curse and I had a love/hate type of relationship. I wasn’t sure about the slavery aspect of the book, it just didn’t feel real to me. It was a romanticized version of slavery. This book didn’t have that same feel. In fact, I think this book turned that notion on its head. There wasn’t a lot of slavery present in the book, but what was mentioned seemed true and Kestrel’s voice really captured how she grew away from her society’s ideas and acceptance towards the issue of slavery. Rukoski’s writing really managed to shape strong characters, flaws and all, into a story about a world seemingly crumbling from the outside in.

All in all, The Winner’s Crime is most definitely better than its sequel, it has elegant writing, surprises galore, and an ending that will have you begging for book three. It definitely deserves a place on your shelves!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This in no way altered my opinion/review.

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