February 24, 2015

The Winner's Crime - Marie Rutkoski

[Note: This is the second book in the series, so there might be slight spoilers for the first. Feel free to check out my review of the first book, The Winner's Curse, instead.]

The Winner's Crime Marie Rutkoski book cover
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Publisher: Farrar, Strous & Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || ARC
[I received this book for review, but it in no way influenced the opinions expressed below.]

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them. (from Goodreads)

Readers of this blog will know that I had lukewarm feelings towards The Winner’s Curse, predecessor to this sequel. I liked it, but it didn’t reach the level of adoration others afforded it. Well, prior to reading The Winner’s Crime, I reread The Winner’s Curse and liked it much better the second time around! Fresh from the staggering events at the end of the first novel, I went straight into The Winner’s Crime.

After the whirlwind of events in The Winner’s Crime, I’m changing my tune. Marie Rutkoski can count me as a fan of this series, a fan who desperately needs to know what happens to Kestrel and Arin in the series finale. 

What changed? How did this sequel manage to sway my feelings in a completely opposite direction? 
The answer can be broken down into three things: characters, plot, and emotions

First, characters. When I talked about The Winner’s Curse, I referenced the detachment I felt towards both Kestrel and Arin. I admired them, particularly in terms of their skills, but there was no real connection with either one. I’m not sure if it was the combination of being familiar with who they are, or seeing them truly tested with life-or-death stakes, but The Winner’s Crime somehow managed to forge an emotional connection for me with both Kestrel and Arin. I felt Kestrel’s desperation to escape, her resignation to doing the right thing, the way she fought for some form of independence. I felt Arin’s pain and sorrow, his stubborn determination, and his desperation to find a way out. The connection to both main characters was definitely an essential part of my falling in love with The Winner’s Crime

Second, plot. I really enjoy a story that’s filled with twists and turns. I love it when the main characters face difficulties that seem impossible to overcome, danger that threatens to ruin everything at any given moment, or a villainous character with tremendous power. The plot in The Winner’s Crime is filled to the brim with twisty deception, feats of bravery, moments that hit every aspect of the emotional spectrum, and it’s all ordered in such an utterly perfect (if emotionally frustrating) way. I devoured the entire novel so quickly, eager to keep flipping the pages and find out what happens next, which is always a good indicator of plot flow and reader investment in my case. 

Third, emotions. I already hinted at this in the previous paragraph, but there are just so many feels in The Winner’s Crime. It won’t surprise readers to know that after the events in the last few chapters of The Winner’s Curse, both Kestrel and Arin are experiencing a ton of emotional turmoil. Throw in the new dangers that lie in wait for them both, and the emotional spiral have a dizzying effect on reader feels. Readers will feel sad, happy, angry, afraid – and Rutkoski’s not afraid to ramp up the intensity of each one. By the end, I was wrung out and gobsmacked and craving more. 

The Winner’s Crime seriously changed my mind, in the best way, about the entire trilogy. The story reeled me in right from the start, and I tore through it, flipping page after page until I hit the end. Rutkoski definitely took the seeds of her story in The Winner’s Curse and encouraged them to sprout into something new and alive in The Winner’s Crime. I can’t wait to see the entire trilogy reach full bloom in the finale, though 2016 seems waaaaay too far away.


  1. Yay :D Gorgeous review Alexa. <3 I am so happy that you loved this sequel. It was just so good, wasn't it? Sigh. And so evil! Ack. It's heartbreaking. Yet I loved it, hah :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweetie. <3 Fingers crossed the wait for book three will be quick :)

  2. YAY I am glad to hear it changed your mind. I liked the Winners Curse, but didn't seem to love it like many, many others. I am so excited to read this one though!

  3. I loved it so so much! Though I was hoping they.. you know, had the Talk about what happened but nothing :( It's gonna be terrible, waiting for the 3rd book :'(

    Ps. I tagged you here! :3 -> http://frannieinthepages.blogspot.it/2015/02/candy-book-tag.html

  4. So excited to pick this up! I'm reading The Winner's Curse right now so I'll be all ready to buy the second book at the McNally Jackson event for the book next week!

  5. Nicole @ Nicole's Novel ReadsFebruary 24, 2015 at 2:42 PM

    I am so excited about the sequel. Can't wait to get my hands on it next week.

  6. I completely agree! I wasn't wowed by the first book in the slightest, even though I liked it, but this one blew me away. Everything was just so much more intense and captivating, I couldn't put it down. Arin, sigh, and Kestrel were so awesome. Rutkoski definitely had my wrecked over them when all was said and done.

  7. Danielle @ Love at First PageFebruary 24, 2015 at 8:50 PM

    Beautiful review, Alexa! I'm glad you were able to go back to The Winner's Curse and feel more strongly about it the second time, and that The Winner's Crime was even better for you. I'm terrified to read this book because of that emotional turmoil/cliffhanger. I might wait to read books 2 and 3 back to back! :P

  8. Christina @ Between BookendsFebruary 25, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    I had the same problem with the first book. I really liked it, but I didn't feel connected to the characters enough to completely fall in love with it. I'm so glad to hear you felt differently about the sequel! I can't wait to read it, but I almost want to wait until closer to the 3rd book's release date since I've heard everyone lamenting the ending.lol

  9. Oh, I am so glad to hear this! Like you, I had trouble with The Winner's Curse. Not that I didn't like it, but I just wasn't in love with it. But reading this... I am so excited! Because I really wanted to like it, I liked the idea of the series, but I was just kind of "meh" about it. I am so excited to read The Winner's Crime now, thanks for the great review :)

  10. Yay! Glad things clicked for you. I cannot WAIT for book three!

  11. Lena @ Addicted 2 NovelsFebruary 27, 2015 at 1:48 PM

    Yay, I'm so glad you liked THE WINNER'S CRIME! I'm a little sad you didn't initially feel connected to the characters in THE WINNER'S CURSE, but you can't win them all, am I right? I think I read the first book feeling like it was a modern version of a Jane Austen classic. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, perhaps? I just really love Kestrel, lol.


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