Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Playing the Long Game of Bite and Sting

"If you won't be my friend...you'll regret being my enemy."
--Marie Rutkoski, The Winner's Crime

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Pages: 416
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: The Winner's Curse
Previous Posts by Me About This Book: RSVP Early To... & The Winner's Curse Re-Read Review

Goodreads Description

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.
I mean...I just don't really even know where to begin with this one. The Winner's Curse was one of my hands down favorite reads of 2014 (even though I read it in 2013) so to say I was eagerly anticipating The Winner's Crime might be the understatement of the year. Kestrel is one of my favorite female characters (ever!) and Arin isn't too bad himself...let's begin...

While I will talk about the story and plot of the story later on, I have to let loose my feels on Kestrel because to me, she makes this book. I cannot put into words how much I love her. Her ferocity is unlike any other and she is a person who measures every word and action with the utmost importance. I love this about her. Her ability to see every move of every player and weigh the pros and cons of words and actions is nothing short of brilliance. Her intelligence is unmatched and only rivaled by others' brutality. She is kind and generous and sees people for who they are and not where they were born. This might seem like the simplest concept but in this world, it's synonymous with treason. Kestrel's strength of character in the face of adversity is a testament to the honor she believes she is sacrificing for her beliefs. Her tenacity is unparalleled to anything else in this book. She is this perfect representation of saying one thing and believing in another. Her actions are necessary in their purpose but her heart couldn't be farther out of alignment to her actions. Do actions truly speak louder than words? Kestrel shows how to be the exception to this rule. I just...I love her. I love that she fights for what she believes and what she believes in is equality. I love that she doesn't allow her previous relationships to cloud her judgement of right and wrong (at least not too much). I love that she sees the good in all people. Whether they be Valorian, Haranni, or from the East. She is witty and kind and smart. Her decisions are not easy, in fact they are the farthest thing from it. There are many times I wanted to just scream for her to tell Arin the truth or come clean but it all has to play out exactly the way it does. She cannot afford to slip if she truly wants to save those she loves. She loses so much along the way and my heart breaks for her. I want her to win. I want her to win at face value and stop paying for the sins of her father, her country, and her actions. I just want her to be okay.

The Story
While I touched briefly on the story above, there is so much that happens. The plot development does not disappoint in the way it weaves and twists. Surprsies and betrayal are around almost every corner. Those I didn't believe trustworthy surprised me, so of course those I believed in broke my heart in their lack of loyalty. Friendships are tested. Relationships are demolished. Deaths are frequent. The price of a wrong move means death or dismemberment. Our main focus of setting is the capital of Valoria where the game of court politics is in full bloom no matter the season. Treachery is rife in this life and Kestrel knows this game. The emperor is a horrific man whose actions I can't even speak of. He is not one to cross and Kestrel toes the line continuously. We are also privy to the rest of this amazing world Marie Rutkoski creates. No spoilers but I will say the expansion of this world was unexpected but I loved it! This world of dark and light, battles and treaties, is deeply detailed and I can feel myself inside this world.

The writing is, in short, brilliant. The voice of this tale is one of stark objectivity if you're not looking closely. The words themselves appear to be simplistic in nature but speak volumes more than they appear to be...kind of like Kestrel. Marie Rutkoski weaves this realm of beauty in a world of brutality. The emperor and his lackeys revel in torture and hidden ploys of violence but the writing of Kestrel and Arin is nothing short of pure elegance. The words wind their way into your mind and leave an imprint on your heart. They are visceral and emotional and just so deeply poetic that I found myself re-reading passages over and over (same with The Winner's Curse) just to absorb everything they had to offer. It is because they appear simple in sight that they mean so much more when they move you emotionally. The Winner's Crime writing is right on par with the epic poetry that was The Winner's Curse and I am definitely picking up with Marie is throwing down.

The Romance
OMG THE AGONY OF THIS TENSION!!! Marie Rutkoski. Bravo. You have won my award for the most taut line of tension between two characters I have ever read. My heart was pounding while reading any interaction between Kestrel and Arin...ALL THE FEELS, YOU GUYS. I cannot TELL you how much my chest hurt while reading these two fools (ok, not fools at all, I know) be in the same room together. You just want SO BADLY for them to talk and wave a magic wand to make their world okay and a world they can be together without persecution and judgement...sigh...but that is not their world and that is not their story. Their story is rich in secretive looks, clandestine meetings, and everything left unsaid. To know their true feelings and then see how they must act to avoid being *cough* murdered by the emperor basically is heart breaking. This forbidden love is everything those two single words can evoke in you emotionally.

The Angst
The angst??!? I mean, I can't even really complain about this because it is what makes this book and this story so deliciously tense. If we didn't have this kind of tension the book would not be what it is. So, of course (!!) I understand it but it doesn't make my heart hurt any less. Gah, I just want, no NEED, these two to be together and all the oppression to stop. This hatred for people from another land and the lengths Valorians go to in order to rule is so terrible that I just want peace. Can't we all just get along, yo?

If you love fantasy, beautifully written words, complex political agendas, romance tight with tension. and of course, The Winner's Curse...this book is for you.


  1. I am so excited to start this one! Your review has just pumped me up for it even more!

  2. You summed this up so well. The tension was CRAZY, for sure. And Kestrel. Well, she is just... amazingly intelligent and I found myself wishing I could be half as selfless and thoughtful as her if I was in her position. She's wise beyond her years, right?

  3. There really is a lot of angst in this, but it seriously made the romance for me! And, I don't know, there's just something magical about Rutkoski's storytelling. She totally won me over with this book, as she opens up the world and dives deeper into her characters! I can't wait for more of Kestrel and Arin in the next one :)


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