TITLE: The Winner's Crime
AUTHOR: Marie Rutkoski
SERIES: The Winner's Trilogy (#2)
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Childrens
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
RATING: 4/5 Stars
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.
What I Liked:
- My review for 'The Winner's Curse', the first book in the series, was okay but hardly glowing. I definitely felt like this was a big improvement to it's predecessor. One of my gripes had been the constant jumping around and unfinished moments/conversations. The constant change of character happens in this book too, but I felt like Rutkoski actually explored everything fully before moving onto the next scenario. As a result, I was completely hooked by the plot from start to finish and fully invested in the outcome.
- I guess my other problem with Book One was Kestrel and Arin as a couple. Due to the jumpy, slightly forced nature of the book, I really felt very little in the way of romance between the two of them. However, the atmosphere and chemistry between these two was totally electrifying in this book and I couldn't believe the huge difference. I actually really believed in these two as a couple and wanted them to get together. Thank goodness too, as if I hadn't then I don't think I would have really bothered with the next book in the series.
What I Disliked:
- With this book comes a huge feeling of frustration and anger. At least, it was there for me. Despite an improved relationship and sexual tension between the two romantic leads, their inability to talk to one another on a basic level wore thin pretty fast. They were so immature at times, and in the most childish way continued the petty charade of pretending not to care in front of each other, while claiming to know the other so well. Not only did I want to throw my Kindle across the room, but I couldn't help but feel disappointed that at times it felt like Rutkoski's plot was reduced to a series of misunderstandings.
- This is a really small annoyance but were there meant to be chapters? Because there weren't. Any. At all. There were just very sudden, unannounced viewpoint changes that slightly threw me every single time it happened.
This was certainly a marked improvement to the series and I definitely want to read the final instalment and see what happens. The world-building was not heavy enough to overload you, but definitely provided the information I needed and the plot was thick with twists and turns this time around. There was even an element of mystery that I enjoyed. I loved the political intrigue and the deeper meaning behind the conversations that the characters had, particularly in scenes with the Emperor who was a remarkable villain in the story. I did find myself feeling a great deal of frustration as characters missed the obvious in order to create plot points, but that cliffhanger is too hard to resist.