|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.
Oh. My. Words. How can you describe something when you are still too stunned by a book? Despite my ridiculously high expectations on The Winner’s Crime, Rutkoski topped her first book with excellent storytelling, unexpected plot twists and so much character depth. Her writing has its own magic, a lure and power of attraction that you cannot escape from.
My love for the series actually started back in November two years ago when I buddy-read The Winner’s Curse with Sherlyn from Mermaid With a Book. Although I had some mixed feelings at the beginning of the book they quickly evaporated and I instead found myself falling for the epical world Rutkoski created. And having read The Winner’s Crime now, I cannot stop thinking about it because the story was brilliant down to the last detail.
The Winner’s Crime picks up not long after where the first book ended. Betrothed to the emperor’s son, Kestrel is literally trapped in the capital. Dazzling celebrations, endless hours of pretending to be happy, Kestrel knows she should forget about her feelings for Arin. Add to that the emperor’s cruelness and inscrutability — the dilemma is harsh. Reading The Winner’s Crime will not always make you happy. Instead, you will often find yourself feeling as though you were stuck in a nightmare and your feet will not move.
Kestrel and Arin take much more dangerous actions in this book: The story is edgier, more twisted, more emotional, unpredictable. What surprised me the most about this book is the character development of the two leading characters. Although still a calculating and almost cunning character (just like at the beginning of the series), you can see that Kestrel has delevoped a softer side which makes the story even more tragic. She can no longer be ignorant of the Herrani’s pain — the people who, de facto, have gained autonomy after years of slavery — but she is unable to reverse the Emperor’s plans to destroy the people of Herran permanently. The constant pressure on her is tearing her apart since she realizes that she is trapped in a golden cage. She tries hard to please the two most important people in her life — Arin and her father (aka the general), doing everything to live up to their expectations, yet everything she does seems to disappoint either side.
Arin, on the other hand, has become a more calculating person. Unable to deny his feelings for Kestrel, he is too blind to understand that his former lover is no longer able to reveal her true motivations and feelings openly to him because of her role in the Emperor’s plan. Seeing both characters having become stronger together in the first book but slowly growing apart now seriously breaks the reader’s heart. Since the story switches between Arin’s and Kestrel’s POV we really get a deep insight in their thoughts. I could not help empathizing with them, feeling the same pain as they do, smiling because I felt their love and passion. Rutkoski’s writing style is lyrical, poetic, sometimes distant and sterile, but it never fails to evoke emotions in you.
Also, intrigues intrigues intrigues. Lots of betrayals. So many mysteries. I am still amazed by the way small details were woven into the story, each of them crucial for the plot. Smells, careless remarks, body gestures, small symbols – you call them – they all contribute to the book’s climax. Rutkoski adds depth and subtleness to characters and plot twists at places that you do not expect, making the book a truly epic book about hope and darkness, war and peace, love and hatred, abundance and uttermost bitterness.
Just when you think that the plot cannot allow any more terrible turns of events, Rutkoski lets the book end in the cruelest way ever. There is nothing but grief which will leave a hole in your chest.
If you are looking for a book which can entertain you on a very sophisticated level and which will stir the most extreme emotions in you, I can only recommend this book to you. Scratch that, I recommend it to everyone because everyone should get apart of this piece of of awesomeness.