Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime

Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: March 12th 2015
Rating: 4/5 
Goodreads // Book Depository

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

If I had to choose three words to describe this book they would be dark, political and sly, but in the best way possible. Having read the first and not being overwhelmingly impressed by it, this was a welcome change in atmosphere. It was made clear in this novel that this isn't a love story, it is a story of a nation at war, of politics and of relationships, whether it be between cultures or people. If you loved the first book, you'll love this even more and if you didn't I'd say give it a go anyway because I was extremely impressed. 

To keep this review tidy (as I have a lot to say) I'm going to work in sections. Spoilers will also be found after the cut, so you've been warned!

The Writing & Plot

Marie Rutkoski has seriously improved (in my opinion) in her second novel. She sets up the rest of the series (trilogy?) with a clear and compelling writing style that I enjoyed immensely. The entire story is more tightly bound and the plot is clear, though it seriously gets you thinking. Rutkoski has moved away from the romance plot that she set up in the first book The Winner's Curse and I'm glad. Among the minority who wasn't a fan of the romance elements, I was glad to see the focus change. 

Unlike the first book, where I was able to guess almost all of the plot twists, this book contained genuine surprises. I found that I was working at the same pace as Kestrel when she was perplexed with the connections between other characters instead of being way ahead of her.

The Characters

In the first novel, I was not a fan of Kestrel nor Arin though this changed through the course of this book. 

Kestrel gets vicious, she gets serious and she plays the political game with skill beyond her years. She weaves lies with the truth, and Lady Kestrel gets things done. The Emperor is not a nice man, and Kestrel is scared but she is also extremely brave. I think the biggest change I saw in this book in comparison to the last was that Kestrel grew up a lot. As she's making these strategic political plays, she is questioning her actions and realising there is more to the world than Arin and her high-society lifestyle. We saw a glimpse of this side of Kestrel towards the end of The Winner's Curse but I was glad to see that Marie Rutkoski continued down this path with her character. In the course of the novel, Kestrel made a lot of decisions she wasn't proud of, and she did a lot of things she didn't want to do but the alternatives were much worse. I was glad that we got to see just how smart Kestrel really is within this book. Lady Kestrel possesses the beauty and grace of an Empress, but she also possesses the smarts of a political veteran and the heart of a warrior. I can't wait to see how she continues to play the game of war, and how she manages to get out of the situation she's left in at the end of the book.

Arin, I liked a little less than Kestrel in this novel but I found that I was looking forward to his parts of the novel just as much as her's. While Kestrel was torn between Valoria and Herran, as well as the East, Arin was very much focused on his own people. He made smart decisions, and though I didn't agree with someone I do see how Marie Rutkoski has set this up for the next book to play out. I wanted to scream at him sometimes, and tell him to sit down and think for just a second but alas he figured almost everything out in the end (though it was kind of undone - thanks Kestrel). 

Risha is another character I wanted to mention. The realisation of her being an assassin intrigued me, and was a surprise that excited me. Unexpected by both the reader and the Empire. I am interested to see what part she plays in the future.

The Romance

Back-benching the romance in this novel was a smart decision on Rutkoski's part as I found that I enjoyed it a whole lot more. I yearned for Arin and Kestrel to sort things out, though I knew nothing could come of it. It is made clear on every single page of this book that it isn't not a happy one, and a happy ending is as unlikely as the Emperor bowing down to kiss a Herrani slave's feet. 

The Ending

The ending of this book sets up yet another change in the next novel. We have seen Kestrel go from a General's daughter with a soft spot for a slave, to an Empress-to-be favoured by the Emperor himself, and now we see her as a prisoner. Weak and broken, but not completely down for the count. I can see a plan formulating in her mind, and I'm exited. 

I can't wait to see where this goes, but after reading this I know for sure I'll be finishing the series.


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I received a digital copy of this book for review from Netgalley in exchange for an honest and comprehensive review. All opinions and views expressed are my own and are completely true. Receiving this book for free in no way impacted my judgement.

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