Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ARC Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Curse, #2) 

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: March 3rd, 2015

The Winner's Crime is tragic. Unlike Game of Thrones, where the train wreck disasters are interspersed with complex political motivations and nearly shrouded from the reader, The Winner's Crime blatantly opens the flood gates of impending doom from the start itself and though the reader knows what the inevitable, terrible conclusion will be, they are forced to watch the entire sordid tale of despair and irony unfold without the added benefit of side politics to distract them.

Frankly speaking, I just wasn't a fan of this form of storytelling. I adore Rutkoski's prose and her ability to seamlessly weave glimpses of the past--The Winner's Curse--into the present. Moreover, her gift for metaphor wins me over every time and the simple pleasure to be gained from reading her words is unrivaled. Yet, The Winner's Crime is a slow-build novel which, for me at any rate, offers very little to love beyond the prose and impeccable characterization. I wanted politics. I wanted passion. I wanted assassinations.

The Winner's Crime picks up shortly after The Winner's Curse ends with Kestrel on the verge of marrying Prince Verex and Arin reclaiming Herran as the governor of his people. With Kestrel's impending nuptials, the Governor of Herran must travel to the Imperial Palace to be present during the proceedings prior to the wedding. Arin, who knows nothing of Kestrel's role in securing a Herrani treaty, believes that she is following through with her upcoming marriage in order to gain more political power and wealth. Suddenly, the Kestrel Arin though he knew is no longer the same woman standing before him. For Kestrel, revealing the truth of her role in Herran's freedom to Arin only leads to a dead-end. After all, she is stuck in a marriage of convenience, torn between her desire for Arin and her life-long wish to please her father. The tension between the two is painful, at times, for the truth lies between them, as wide and deep as the ocean, and the doubts and misconceptions that they share only grow with time.

And that, truly, is why I am not as big a fan of The Winner's Crime as I could be. I don't relish the drama that is built up after multiple compounding misconceptions and, frankly, felt as if Rutkoski could have used the palace setting to enrich the political machinations of this world. Though Kestrel does her best to use her power to help both the Herrani people and the people of the East, the only true individual with power is the emperor. Everyone has either been bought by the emperor, living under his thumb, or killed by the emperor, dying under his hand. It's a black-and-white world of politics, one that Kestrel struggles--and fails--to succeed in. As far as the political sphere is concerning, The Winner's Crime barely moves pieces into place for the grand finale. Arin and Kestrel remain as estranged as ever and with their relationship slowly falling to pieces over the course of this novel, the future remains bleak.

The Winner's Crime does, however, introduce a new host of characters. Verex, Kestrel's future husband and the prince, is a difficult character to like at first but I thoroughly enjoyed the development of his friendship with Kestrel. Risha, the Eastern princess who has grown up in Valoria and, ironically, is an integral part of the plot despite having very little to say throughout the novel. The manner in which Rutkoski wrote her into the plot and made her such an important figure, albeit an often silent one, amazed me. Tensen, the Herrani minister of agriculture who arrives at Valoria to represent Herran. Although Tensen seems to be loyal to Arin and Herran, his vision of what is best for the governor often clashes with the reader's vision of what is best. And, of course, the emperor himself. Rutkoski writes the emperor to be every bit as ruthless and cunning as expected--a true villain to defeat--though his weaknesses and flaws are never revealed.

Instead, what becomes increasingly evident as the novel progresses, is the weaknesses of Arin and Kestrel. Arin, who keeps wanting to believe the best of Kestrel even when she treats him with disregard and without any of the former affections she used to exhibit for him. Kestrel, who yearns to make her father proud and constantly puts a man who has disappointed her over men, like Arin, who have cared deeply for her. Arin, who is so consumed by thoughts of Kestrel and her impending marriage that he often fails to see what is right before his eyes. Kestrel, whose association with Arin causes her to lose her lifelong friendships despite the fact that Arin himself doesn't know the truth about Kestrel's feelings for him. It's all such a complicated emotional web, and though I love it, I also hate it for the wreck it made me by the end of the novel.

While I am not a fan of the tactical devices employed in The Winner's Crime, namely the endless list of misconceptions Arin harbors towards Kestrel and the lack of resolution concerning them, I couldn't put this book down. Personally, I enjoy the middle books which lend themselves to hidden clues and hints of the impending finale, unlike The Winner's Crime where the conclusion seems open-ended and tragic, but The Winner's Crime is compulsively readable and for fans of The Winner's Curse, will not disappoint in the least.


  1. I have heard a lot of people say the same thing, the romance (or lack of) side of this was awful but the rest was so great they couldn't help but love it. I can't wait to read it either way!

    Great review!

  2. I read and loved it sooo much!!
    I'm dying to read The winner's kiss! The waiting will probably kill me. I need Arin to know exactly what Kestrel has done and what she's risked for him and I want another kiss!!!!

  3. I enjoyed the first book a lot and I've heard nothing but praise for this one. I so need to get it. I love that despite the small problems you had with the book you still really enjoyed it. I must read this one!

  4. I still need to read the first book, but thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. I'm sorry it wasn't AS great as you wanted, but it's nice to hear it's not bad overall.

  5. Wow, I'm glad that you were able to really like this book despite the lack of intense political itnrigue. I want to pick this up again mainly for the politics, but it seems to me that it's overshadowed by the complicated web of emotions and relationships among the characters. I tried reading this and was 70 pages in when I had to put it on hold because nothing was really happening and it was all "Oh, Kestrel" "Oh Arin!" and it was driving me nuts. It means a lot to me that by the end you appreciated this aspect,so maybe I would too, eventually??

    Faye at The Social Potato

  6. "While I am not a fan of the tactical devices employed in The Winner's Crime, namely the endless list of misconceptions Arin harbors towards Kestrel and the lack of resolution concerning them"

    That's what makes me so nervous about picking this one up Keertana! Secrets like the one Kestrel is keeping as to why she's going through with the marriage pretty much give me an ulcer while I'm reading I get so stressed about them. JUST TELL HIM ALREADY! *sigh* Despite that though, I still will be reading this. Just with some chocolate and possibly Xanax on hand:) Gorgeous review as always Keertana!

  7. So I'm not the only one who compares this one to Throne of Glass. Anyhow I really like the way this is going. I have just finished The Winner's Curse and I'm about to start this one. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Amazing review, Keertana :)

  8. I haven't read Throne of Glass so I can't say. But I really enjoyed this one, it was so wonderfully done and so draining emotionally. I so wantd to hit Arin... Oh yes a lot. I'm curious to see how book 3 will be.

  9. I'll get to this series someday. Maybe when all the books are released. I have to say, I don't like the covers at all. Glad to hear you're enjoying the series, Keertana! :)

  10. Lovely review, K! For the exact reasons you listed, I am TERRIFIED to read this book. I never do well with painful romances, especially when it's due to couples not communicating or when they don't know something about the other person that we do. All I keep hearing about this book is how hard it is to read, and I know I'll probably struggle through it more than others. I think I may wait to read it when the third book comes out, that way I can treat it as one long book. :/

  11. I'm glad to see that this was a successful middle book for you Keertana. Whereas I enjoyed The Winner's Curse, you do have me a little worried about Arin and Kestrel's characters. But I'm glad that Rutkoski introduces many new characters that we have to look forward to. Once again it sounds like Rutkoski has outdone herself on her writing and world building, I can't wait to experience it again soon! Lovely review!

  12. This book is just one big ball of emotional turmoil! The endless misconceptions definitely stressed me out to no end and I felt true despair through most of my time reading this, but I agree that this book is very compelling and I couldn't' stop reading. The outer political story isn't as important to me as it is to you, but I agree that it would have been nice to have a bit more balance within the pain. But I'm dying for the final installment and hoping that this is going to remain a strong series for me all the way through. Great review - and thanks also for the great discussion about this. xo

  13. Im struggling with rather or not I want to pick this one up. I struggled with book 1 and I see there are elements in this one that would drive me nuts.

  14. I agree with your views on all the misconceptions between Kestrel and arin. They were so frustrating, so needless it seemed at times--yet I have to say that I really did feel this book is a stronger book than it's predecessor. I loved how vastly different Kestrel and Arin were in this book when compared to the last. As much as I wanted them to drop the pretenses and just admit everything to one another I love that this separation between them is making them grow so much as a characters.

    I loved Tensen and Verex--I'm fascinated by Risha. And I actually really loved where this book took Arin in the last quarter--I cannot wait to see how the addition of all those new characters will impact the final book.

    This one broke my heart but I really think it's going to make the final book truly, truly epic:)

    Great review, K!

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