Book Reviews

Review — The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Book title: The Winner’s Crime
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy, #2
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Release date: March 2015
Format: Hardcover, 402 pages
Source: Library.


Read my review of The Winner’s Curse, book 1, here.


Book two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

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.

The review:

Well. Well, well well. Here are three things you need to know right off the bat: 1) I liked Crime much more than Curse. 2) I am finally on board with the Kestrel + Arin ship. I ship them so hard! And 3) That ending! *Runs around screaming until gets tired and curls up in fetal position.* Okay, it wasn’t the wickedest of endings I’ve ever read, but it hit me right in the gut and now I don’t know what to do during the entire year I have to wait for The Winner’s Kiss! (Also, with that title, there better be a ton of actual kissing involving mah ship!)

Okay. Calm down, Mallory. Let’s give these lovely reviewers the review they came for, okay?

The Winner’s Crime picks up from where we left off in The Winner’s Curse. Kestrel is now engaged to Prince Verex of Valoria. Arin is now the govenor of Herran. Kestrel and Arin are passionately in love with each other, but their situation is truly complicated. (Don’t worry, no love triangle here!) And it’s made even more so by the controlling, ruthless emperor. He is one despicable dude. (The torture scene in chapter 3 was definitely hard to stomach. I read that part when I woke up one morning when I decided to make some reading progress. Man, was I awake after reading that!)

Crime is a political novel. I love a good political fantasy, and this one kept me engaged the whole time. It mostly takes place in the Valorian capital, where Kestrel’s based, but does follow Arin from Herran to Valoria and even to Dacra. Marie Rutkoski gives us a lot of world building, and makes this fantasy world seem more concrete.

Concerning our main characters, however… Kestrel and Arin’s hot-cold relationship was infuriating. Someone seriously needs to lock these two in a room together and yell, “TALK IT OUT AND SPILL EVERYTHING AND JUST COME CLEAN, GODDAMMIT!” Kestrel and Arin are both smart, most of the time, but do act reckless and careless and are a little dense when the plot calls for it. Arin especially in terms of dense for the plot’s sake. They’re not perfect characters at all, but they’re both very interesting and are doing their best in the shark-infested waters they’ve been thrown into. I just want them to be happy, together, and the power couple I know they could be.

Kestrel’s father plays a role here, and it was nice to see another side of the war general. Until… Gah. Kestrel’s father broke my heart! SPOILER ALERT! DON’T READ THE REST OF THIS PARAGRPH UNLESS YOU’VE READ THE WINNER’S CRIME! I couldn’t believe that he turned his own daughter in! I was just starting to really like him, and I thought his love for Kestrel would make him keep his mouth shut… at least until he talked to her about what he overheard. Also, I dearly hope Arin goes to get Kestrel out of the tundra work camps. Even better, though, I hope Kestrel gets herself out of the camp and meets up with Arin who was coming to rescue her. I like strong women who can fend for themselves but I also heart true love and people who will go to the ends of the earth for those they care about. Gah. The ending. Just. NOOOOOOO!!! END OF SPOILER.

A few last notes before I wrap this up: 1) I warmed up to Verex through the book. He started of stuck-up and moody, but by the end I was like, D’aaawwww, he likes puppies! 2) Ronan. Ronan? Ronan! Ronan… Idk what to think of Ronan’s brief appearance. What was the significance of it? 3) Also, Jess. I hope she and Kestrel reconcile. Because their cut-off friendship was definitely stressful to read about. 4) I’m baffled as to why Kestrel’s wearing a blue dress on the US cover when she’s wearing a red dress in the book — which is accurately depicted on the UK cover. Like, what was the reasoning behind that, book cover designers?

The Winner’s Crime was an excellent book that really improved upon nearly everything in The Winner’s Curse. It’s definitely more focused on the world’s politics, but there’s a lot of angst to be found. So much that it is beyond frustrating! (Kestrel and Arin are the definition of a love-hate relationship.) I’m really excited (and kind of scared, too) about the third and final book. How the heck is everything going to be resolved?! If you liked The Winner’s Curse then you’ll definitely like The Winner’s Crime. I wasn’t sold on the series after reading the first book, but now I’m really invested. Marie Rutkoski, you’ve done some great work. I expect The Winner’s Kiss to be mindblowingly good. ♦

So tell me…

Have you read The Winner’s Crime? (How about The Winner’s Curse?) If you haven’t read the books in this series, would you be interested to? What was the last book you read where the two leads had an extremely hot-cold relationship? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!

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9 thoughts on “Review — The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

  1. I think this is the first review I’ve seen of this book, and it is awesome that you thought it was better than Curse because I did have a few issues with that one. Oooh, I’m SO excited for the political aspects! So glad to hear of the improvement from the first and that you liked this one 🙂


  2. I have to confess I read/skimmed this review with squinty eyes because I was terrified of spoilers. (Don’t worry. Didn’t see anything I should’ve.) But I love, love love love love political fantasies. All the intrigue and backstabbing that usually comes along with it, gah, I just love it. Haha. So I’m definitely going to pick up the first book when I have a chance. It’s literally been sitting on my shelf for a year now. xD


    1. Haha, I didn’t really go into the plot much for that reason! I actually don’t read reviews of sequels I haven’t read yet… But yes, I think you’d enjoy this if you like political games. The first book is a bit messy, but book two is where it’s all at!


  3. This is SO TOTALLY ME TOO. flails like a wailing penguin I mean, I thought book 1 was okay, but BOOK 2 WAS JUST BEYOND INCREDIBLE. The ending murdered me. I just…no. I was wailing all over the place until people told me just to chill already. haha. xD And totally agree about Verex. PUPPIES. Such a cutie. I’m pretty sure book 3 is going to break my heart. :O ARIN. PLEASE DO SOMETHING WISE HERE.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know, that ending it pretty shocking. I was like, ”What???” But, sadly, I am not shipping Kestrel & Arin more than I did in book 1 (which is, like, not at all). I don’t know, I just don’t see what Kestrel sees in Arin… and he’s often rude and controlling. He played her, acts as if he were a prince… nah, not my type 😛 But I’m glad YOU like them!! Nice review!!


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