Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publication Date: March 3, 2015 (Macmillan Children’s – North America)
Genre: YA, high fantasy, AWESOME
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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.
☆: 5/5 stars – a more internal approach compared to book 1, but still awesome.
Review: Oh boy. Where do I start? I loved book 1, “The Winner’s Curse”, in a way that I haven’t really loved Rutkoski’s books before. It felt like she’d evolved so much in all of the areas of technical novelship/novelcraft (is that a word? it’s a word now), and with book 2, while it did have a few slow areas, it was the quiet where the loud in book 1 was. This book is a more quiet, sinister book than book one – more quiet deception, less physical action, and more internal examination. And that’s what made it great (along with how it was used with all of our players). If you were a fan of “The Winner’s Curse”, you simply must move on to “The Winner’s Crime”.
I have to say, one thing that made me very happy (and to actually quantify WHAT it was took quite a bit of thought) was the fact that this particular book in the trilogy was not going to end well. Unless some magnificent trick was pulled off wherein a HEA suddenly appeared, I loved the simmering discontent, despair, and lack of romance going on. That lack of romance gave us a real look into what Kestrel’s life had become, what it was becoming, and how it was becoming by association with Arin and the Herrani.
It’s safe to say that in this book, we get to know Kestrel a whole lot better – especially when she’s been backed into a corner. And with the Valorian prince stalking her, the Herrani people and Arin nipping at her heels and heart…well, it’s a lot of corners. So we get this full-scope view through not only her perspective but that of the other characters as well. It seems like so many of our players have been backed into corners, for better or for worse, and watching them untangle themselves is like watching them trying to walk out of a minefield with all limbs intact. In this case, it would also be with all emotions and logical mind intact too, but I think you get the point – subterfuge is pretty much a mental minefield and with this book? It’s full of them. The mindgames are fantastic, as is the espionage.
The worldbuilding is expanded to the ruins of what was the Herrani Empire before/during the last war, and we get to see the sheer ruin that Kestrel’s father helped exact upon it’s people. We get a bigger view of the area map – though I did want to see a little more, Rutkoski’s definitely upped her game in this area as well, especially when it comes to getting visuals (sensory imagery). The sensory imagery Rutkoski provides in this book is one of the few “outside views” when compared to the interior processing of Kestrel, Arin, and the rest of the crew.
And that cliffhanger. I think I nearly threw the book across the room (but in a good way, I swear!), when I remembered it would be another year before the final book came out.
Final verdict? If you liked book 1, you’re going to LOVE book 2. “The Winner’s Crime” is out now from Macmillan Children’s in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!