Review | The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

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GOODREADS SYNOPSIS: 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 themPUBLISHED BY: Farrar Straus Giroux on March 3 2015FORMAT: ARC

RATING: ★★★★★

(An ARC of this was provided by Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC in exchange for an honest review.)

Having agreed to marry the Prince and become the future Empress, Kestrel begins to learn how to play the game of politics against a backdrop of lies, secrecy and intrigue.

Darker, deadlier, full of conspiracies and secrets, Rutkoski most certainly does not disappoint. The atmosphere here is breathtaking, full of mystery and doubt, weaving a tale that holds you captivated and on the edge of your seat. [...]
Kestrel's strategic ability and intelligence allows her to fight back against those that seek to use her as a piece in their games, but it's clear that here, in the center of Valoria, she may just be in over her head. Nevertheless, she tries to outwit the Emperor and his armies, even when it becomes clear that friends and allies are things she can no longer rely on.

Kestrel is intelligent, fierce, full of courage and determined, and would absolutely be able to rule a country. I love how her skills are not just used to entertain herself in high society games, but are absolutely essential to her survival. Her wits and intelligence are one of my favourite things about her. She's such a complex heroine, at once both selfish and caring, sharp and stubborn. Every move she makes is truly an attempt to act in everyone's best interest, even if it's not so clear at times.

Arin, I grew to like less here, though. I found him unreasonably mulish and sometimes he seemed to disregard everything he's worked so hard for because of Kestrel. While he cares deeply for the Herrani, he would certainly sacrifice their security (if it can even be called that) just for Kestrel. I didn't like his attitude, and while his character is now suited to his position, I find I still liked him better as the slave who acted like a Prince.

Even though I'm rooting so hard for them, Kestrel and Arin's relationship took a backseat to the treason, backstabbing, lies and political games, and I was gripped by this book because I could clearly see that there is absolutely no promise of a happily ever after. Everything seems to be working to tear them apart, and the misunderstandings and refusals to listen frustrated me, but in a good way because it added to the suspense and thrill of it all. The twists and turns in the plot are unpredictable and surprising and the ride is full of ups and downs that you don't see coming.


This book was so different to the first, and it's clear that the third will be different again and I am absolutely thrilled to read it.


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