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.
You know those books where you hit the last sentence and just stare? Yeah, that’s what happening with this one.
Seriously, my heart is in shreds. My feels are all over the place. My anxiety is through the damn roof. Please raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by Marie Rutkoski. *raises hand*
This book was the saddest, most devastating emotional roller coaster I’ve ever been on. I’ve never understood and hated characters so much in my life.
This is like Game of Thrones, in the terrible anyone-can-die type of way. Seriously, the emperor is such a Lannister, it’s not even funny. He’s basically Joffrey Baratheon reincarnated. Never have I hated an antagonist so much (except for maybe Umbridge).
If you haven’t read my review of the first book, go here. The Winner’s Crime is the second in the trilogy. Kestrel has made sacrifices since the first book in order to save Arin’s life and his people. Of course, Arin is thickheaded and doesn’t connect the damn dots and totally tortures her over it. Emotionally, of course. Though some poor sod had the skin from his fingers peeled off while being tortured, so that happened.
The entire book consists of Arin and Kestrel loving each other but lying to each other’s faces to keep the other alive. It’s terrible in the best way. The lengths that Kestrel goes to to make sure the emperor doesn’t kill the one thing she loves most…I can’t. I just can’t.
In an effort not to give away any more important details, I will leave you with this: this book broke my heart. Every single page made me want to cry. Every single page made me burst with anxiety for these characters. I actually feared for them. They definitely grew on me. I have to read a happy book now to make up for the sadness.
The writing is beautiful. It flows, it’s emotional, it’s gripping. I love Rutkoski’s writing so much, and I think it really contributes to how much emotion I felt while reading it. I also love the intricacy of the strategy and political steps that Kestrel, her father, and the emperor take—it’s very much like The Art of War.
I don’t even know how I’m going to handle book three. Its expected publication is 2016, so I have some time to prepare. I rated this book 4/5 on Goodreads—the hurtfulness and massive, terrible, unsatisfying cliffhanger at the end became a bit much.