The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar Straus Giroux: March 3, 2015
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Source: Free From Library
On Monday, I posted my review of The Winner’s Curse, and naturally, I jumped straight into book two, The Winner’s Crime. From the first page, it was clear that this was not going to be a happy book. There was such a sense of sadness and hopelessness about The Winner’s Crime, that I struggled to read it. But, read it, I did.
The Winner’s Crime picks up directly after the events of The Winner’s Curse. Kestrel is now engaged to the crown prince of Valoria; which is the price she must pay to the emperor for his agreement to back off in warring against Herran. For Kestrel, this means that she must convince Arin that she cares nothing for him, a fiction that Arin eventually believes.
The emotional distress that Kestrel feels for her decisions practically pours off the page. The author’s writing is amazing and she marvelously describes Kestrel’s inner turmoil for the decisions she’s made, for the person that she’s becoming. Nothing good happens for Kestrel. She’s constantly under the microscopic in her position as the future empress and she doesn’t want to risk letting Arin know that she is still helping the people of Herran. After all, what will Arin do when he realizes that Kestrel saved him and his people at the cost of her own happiness?
Unlike Kestrel, Arin is less adept at courtly machinations. Convinced that Kestrel could not possibly be so cold blooded, he accepts the emperor’s invitation to come to court, only to disappointed in Kestrel. The fact that readers are treated to both there points of view makes this an even more heartbreaking read. As the reader, you are aware of all the secrets Kestrel is keeping, while Arin is constantly left in the dark. The fact that Arin makes connections that the reader is already aware of well after the fact, creates a quiet sense of desperation that flows throughout The Winner’s Crime.
The tone of The Winner’s Curse makes it a difficult read, but it’s the complex characters that the author has created that compel you to continue reading. Kestrel in particular is a character with so much depth. She’s never wanted to become the cold soldier like her father, yet she yearns for his approval. The fact that Kestrel must now play a role forces her to become more like her father than she’s ever wanted to be. As Kestrel becomes a person that she no longer recognizes, she’s led further down a path she wont be able to return from unscathed. Quite simply, there is no good end in sight for Kestrel, and that in itself makes The Winner’s Curse a hard read; a traffic accident that you can’t help but glance at as you drive by.
I could say much more about The Winner’s Curse; go on about the lyrical quality to the author’s writing. But, the fact is, I’d much rather start book three, after that ending, how can I possibly wait?
Kestrel makes a lot of hard choices in The Winner’s Curse. This immediately put me in mind of another heroine that also makes difficult choices: Fire. Fire by Kristine Cashore gives readers a heroine that struggles to do the right thing and I think it is rather similar to the type of emotion that Kestrel goes through.
For more similar reads, check out my review of The Winner’s Curse.