The Winner’s Crime

by Marie Rutkoski
First sentence: “She cut herself opening the envelope.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Others in the series: The Winner’s Curse
Content: There’s some violence, sometimes a bit graphic, and mention of sex (but only illusions). It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

There will be spoilers for Winner’s Curse. You’ve been warned.

Kestrel handed Arin his country, a treaty that gave them a pseudo-independence from Valoria after their brief revolution. Even though she’s in love with Arin, she knows she can’t have him. He’s Herran. He was her slave. And, probably most importantly, she offered herself to the emperor to be his son’s bride in exchange for Herran’s independence.

But, of course, things are not simple. She can’t get Arin out of her head. The emperor is cruel and manipulative, which means Kestrel is constantly playing games with other people’s (and her own) lives. Especially because she wants — no, NEEDS — to help the Herrani out. By becoming a spy for them. She’s definitely playing with fire.

First: I LOVED being back with Kestrel. She’s so smart, so wily, and yet feels everything deeply. She’s just a fantastically complex character, and I thoroughly loved being in her head as she went through the paces. I loved hating the emperor (oh, man, he’s despicable). And even though Arin is pretty annoying, I enjoyed his character growth.

That said, it’s very much a middle book in a trilogy. It’s moving things forward, sure, but it’s also very much spinning in place. Kestrel, while fun, doesn’t have any character growth, really, until the end when she does something completely out of character (but leads to a pretty great cliffhanger ending). Arin did grow, however, and after he stops being moody about Kestrel, he has some pretty great scenes. It took me a while to get going, but once I did, I plowed through straight to the end which left me begging for the last book.

Even with the second-book-in-a-series curse hanging over it, it’s still a GREAT read.

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