Sunday, 15 March 2015

Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner's Crime
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Publication date: March 1st, 2015
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian, Espionage, War, Fantasy, Romance

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)

Lady Kestrel's engagement to Valoria's crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust ...

While Arin fights to keep his country's freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.

Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner'strilogy.

A copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If you weren't already aware, the Winner's Curse was my favourite read of 2014. It was absolutely incredible and to this day I remain blown away. When I saw that the Winner's Crime was up on Netgalley I obviously snatched up the opportunity. To say I was ecstatic would be an immense understatement.

The Winner's Crime, much like it's predecessor, was nothing short of amazing. It was an incredible installment in what I truly believe to be one of the best (unfinished) trilogies ever. I have so much love for these books.

Firstly, can we have a moment of silence to bask in the beauty of the writing? It would definitely have to be my favourite feature of this book. Whilst yes, the writing in the first book was beautiful, Marie Rutkoski has STEPPED UP HER GAME and this one is filled with luscious descriptions and rich world-building. It's stunning and evocative and brings every character, emotion and location to life in vivid colour. I can't get enough of it. I want to immerse myself in her words. Rutkoski also crafts some spectacular extended metaphors that weave throughout the story and make it, as a whole, all the more breathtaking.

Upon completing the Winner's Curse I was obviously eager to continue with the story, the ending Marie Rutkoski had written left the door open to so many possibilities. I often have my reservations when it comes to this sort of thing, mainly because there are so many ways the story can be continue and sometimes I feel the one that is chosen doesn't perfectly fit. That definitely wasn't the case. I think the path chosen was fantastic. Though I did struggle a little bit in the beginning, it was a little bit slow but things start to occur in a very natural progression, and picked up quite quickly. I was engaged almost entire time, the constant twists and turns kept me on my toes.

After bargaining with the Emperor at the end of book one, Kestrel now finds herself in the court. OH HOW I LOVE COURT SETTINGS, there's just something about political espionage that gets my heart singing. Not only do these types of settings bring in interesting new characters, but it also raised the stakes for Kestrel and Arin. Now that they're both politically involved and Arin's in a role of authority, everything has become even more dangerous, and their actions can have even more fatal consequences. Not just for the two of them, but for their people too. Politics is a dangerous game and every move matters. Secrets, lies, danger and deception (MY FAVOURITES!) are hidden everywhere within this world.

With politics playing such a large role, there is very little room for romance between Kestrel and Arin. Especially considering that their love could wage a war. But the times we do get to see them individually, it is extremely evident just how much the distance and circumstances between them have affected their lives, and hugely, their rationality. Though yes, I missed the romance, it was a lovely and (I think) necessary change in pace.

The alternating point of views, though slightly awkward in a couple of areas, were for the most part fluid and transitioned smoothly. Each has a distinct voice that I felt perfectly capture the essence of their character.

Kestrel, or should I say Lady Kestrel, is brilliantly developed in this novel. She's a full-fledged woman now, she's no longer a young girl. It was amazing to see that development. Kestrel is one of my favourite 'heroines' to date. Often in YA, heroines tend to possess an element of physical power, a special ability to fight or use a weapon. Kestrel's ultimate strength is her intelligence. She posses such a strategic mind, stronger than any weapon and Marie Rutkoski uses this in such a smart way. Kestrel is very logic-minded, but in these books we see her struggle because of the nature of her relationship with Arin, placing an emphasis on just how illogical love can be. So much to the point that she sacrifices her own freedom and happiness to assist Arin, the man she loves, and the people whom he loves. I can't stress enough how much I adore her characterisation. Excuse me for a moment as I gather my emotions.

Arin's circumstances are tricky too, he's conflicted but he remains loyal to his nation and I found it admirable. His entire characterisation felt marvellously genuine. I find that often in YA novels, authors tread lightly on portraying male leads to be emotionally aware, but in this case Arin's confusion is reasonable and incredibly realistic. He's caught between the woman he loves and wants to be with, and the nation he wants to save. He's a very delicate soul, which isn't exactly the best thing to be in the middle of a war. War requires objectivity and not subjectivity. He's far too optimistic for that but slowly we begin to see these layers falling away.

Aside from those two we were introduced to some incredible secondary characters, my favourite being Prince Verex, to whom Kestrel is now betrothed. I'd been very skeptical about the introduction of a prince purely because I did NOT want there to be a love triangle in this series. I was also quite scared he'd be a douchebag, because let's face it, a lot of princes are douchebags. Luckily, he was quite the opposite. He was a very reserved and charming young man who loves animals, and secretly dreams of becoming a doctor.

This is the part of the review in which I'd usually discuss the ending of the novel, however, MY HEART HAS BEEN RIPPED OUT OF MY CHEST AND THROWN ONTO THE FLOOR. I can't. It's too much. That ending was insanity. Though I disliked what happened to the characters, I love the direction this trilogy is heading in and I can't wait to see what unfolds in the next instalment.

I guess it's pretty safe to say that I am infatuated with this trilogy. The Winner's Crime was everything I needed and more. Political intrigue, secrets, deception, blackmail and betrayal lie hidden around every corner of Rutkoski's richly imagined world that I have become so very invested in. The conclusion was incredibly intense and has paved the way for a finale of epic proportions. If you haven't already started this series, I'll tell you this: you're missing out.

5/5 keys to my heart!

Memorable quotes:

“An emotion clamped down on her heart. It squeezed her into a terrible silence. But he said nothing after that, only her name, as if her name were not a name but a question. Or perhaps that it wasn’t how he had said it, and she was wrong, and she’d heard a question simply because the sound of him speaking her name made her wish that she were his answer.”

“Arin hadn’t fallen asleep on the deck of his strangely still ship, yet, it felt as if he’d been dreaming. As if dreams and memories and lies were the same thing.” 

“If you won’t be my friend, you’ll regret being my enemy.” 


    I need the sequel nowwwwww :'(
    I need Arin and Kestrel to sit down and talk. Honesty, folks! Just try it!!!

  2. Man, I really need to get to this series SOON. Haha

  3. I really want to start this series, it looks amazing! Might as workshop on the bandwagon, great review!!
    Naomi @The Perks Of Being A Bookworm

  4. I do need to start this series- should definitely try to get to it soon and join the vast majority of fans I keep encountering for these books. Thank you for the review! Made me decide this series is worth a read.
    Mary @ Logophilist

  5. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. You don't even understand how difficult it was for me to write this review and remain coherent. I need the sequel YESTERDAY. I can already tell it's going to be an epic conclusion, and I can't wait!

  6. It's an incredible series, I'm sure you'd enjoy it! Thanks! :)

  7. This series does have an immense amount of fans, but it's incredibly well-deserved. I hope you enjoy the series whenever you get around to picking it up! And thank you for all the kind words! :)

  8. I completely agree with everything you've said here Maddie! The slow burn is killing me, and I'm not sure how much more of it I can take! Like you said, I just want them to be together, you know?

    And Kestrel! She's such an amazing character, and I absolutely love her. She reminds me so much of Annabeth (who I adore) with her strategizing and scheming.

    for sharing Maddie and, as always, fabulous review! ♥ I'm not
    sure how we'll live waiting for book three though - especially after
    that horrible cliffhanger! *sobs*

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

  9. Oh my goodness yes! I'm so glad you loved this one. It's making me a billion times more excited to read it. I have no idea why I still haven't gotten around to it but now I know I have to as soon as I possibly can!

  10. Ahhhh, I hope you love it too! I've heard a couple of different opinions on it, but I felt it was perfect for me! :P

  11. I ship them so hard it causes me physical pain. And oh my gosh, I never realised, but what you said is so true - she really does remind me of Annabeth! :O I can't believe I've never thought of it before now! Strategizing and scheming are my favourite.

    The wait for the next book is going kill me. THAT CLIFFHANGER WAS KILLER. I hate it, but I also love it? I think you know what I mean. :P

    Thanks for all the kind words, Zoe! We can sob about our feels together! *wipes tear*


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