Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on March 3, 2015
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.

Going into The Winner’s Crime, I was really nervous. I didn’t enjoy The Winner’s Curse (book one) as much as I had hoped to, but the ending held a lot of promise for book two. Still, I was reluctant to read it and even put it down in favor of another book before picking it back up. In all, it took me almost a month to read The Winner’s Crime and I was incredibly disappointed.

I still liked Kestrel, but she was very, very reckless and careless in this book. As I mentioned in my review of The Winner’s Curse, she often does things without thinking through the consequences and that was especially true in The Winner’s Crime. I like how calculating and head-strong she is, how she’s willing to risk everything for what she believes in. But in some ways, she made things worse. And the ending… Wow, she REALLY messed things up in the end. I have NO IDEA how she’s going to get out of this mess now..

Now.. *Prepares to be hated…* I don’t like Arin. I don’t like him and I don’t ship him with Kestrel. When I first started The Winner’s Curse, I was told to expect lots of swoons and I knew everyone LOVED Kestrel and Arin. I was prepared for feels and for shipping this couple that everyone adored. But I didn’t. At all. Arin is bitter and broken from his time as a slave to the Valorians. That’s understandable. But he’s so cruel to Kestrel; he says the nastiest things and doesn’t let her explain. He NEVER believes her and only realizes, too late (of course), that she was doing what she did for him, his safety and the safety of his people. He’s strong-willed and stubborn and he refuses to let Kestrel into his heart. He’s also just as reckless as she is and he really put his foot in his mouth in the end. He made such a mess for Kestrel, I just can’t even.

I used to think the only redeeming thing about this ship is that Arin and Kestrel can read each other so well.. Except, if that were the case, wouldn’t Arin have figured things out sooner? And I really never felt any sparks or chemistry between them. Only once and very briefly. So… I don’t know. I just think too much has happened – too many lies, deaths and betrayals – for Arin and Kestrel to be together. I just don’t ship it. And I apologize to anyone who absolutely loves them. I promise, I’m not trying to insult them or you. I just didn’t see it at all.

My biggest issue with this book was that, in my opinion, it had Second Book Syndrome to such a degree that the entire thing felt too long and 75% of it felt like filler. There were a lot of unnecessary flash-back scenes, too. It felt like the only point of this book was to bridge the gap between book one and book three.

I wanted to like Verex and I mostly did. But I don’t feel like we completely got to know him. He seemed kind and he didn’t give Kestrel a hard time, but he’s still the future emperor and his duty is to his people, not his forced bride. I also really wanted to like Tensen, but I was always worried he was going to double cross Kestrel. I didn’t like Jess and Kestrel fighting, though I completely understood where Jess was coming from and Kestrel should have been a better, more understanding friend. And obviously I hated the Emperor… Like, really hated him. Hate isn’t even a strong enough word.

And then the ending.. Well. At first, the ending started to seriously pick up and I got really excited because that happened with The Winner’s Curse; the ending picked up so much, it made up for the rest of the book being meh and even raised my rating by half a star. The ending is what made me excited to pick up The Winner’s Crime! So I was crossing my fingers that would happen with The Winner’s Crime, too. Sadly, I was let down. While the ending started off brilliant and the book was FINALLY picking up steam, it ended up falling flat in the last few pages. I still think I’ll read the third book because.. why not? It’s only a trilogy and I’ve gotten this far, I might as well see how it ends. But I’m not dying for it, as I’d hoped to be.

I do still recommend this book because I seem to be in the minority with these feelings. Most people LOVE these books and feel all the feels for Arin and Kestrel. I just didn’t, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. I’ve had a few people comment on my feelings about this book, saying they won’t bother with it now and that makes me so sad because everyone has their own opinions, likes and dislikes and I never want to make someone feel as though they shouldn’t read a certain book just because I didn’t like it. So if you enjoyed The Winner’s Curse, definitely give The Winner’s Crime a chance. You can always DNF, but don’t let my opinion stop you – you might fall in love with this book! I didn’t, but that’s okay. I still have a lot of respect for the author; she created a gorgeous, detailed world, with characters that many people love and a ship that most people adore.


Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on March 4, 2014
Pages: 355
Format: Hardcover
Buy on Amazon

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I finished The Winner’s Curse six day ago and I’m just sitting down to write this review. I wanted to LOVE this book, the way almost all of my fellow bloggers did. And though I definitely enjoyed it, I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped to. I’m thinking it was more me than the book, though. I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life and I think that stuff just interfered with my enjoyment of reading for a small period of time — Case in point: I read 6-8 books/month in September, October and November… We’re half-way through December and I’m only on my second book of the month.

So I tried to put aside the issues I had while reading (I was bored and easily side-tracked; I went days without reading) and I decided that, if those things were me and not the book, then the book itself was actually pretty good. Marie Rutkoski is a gorgeous writer. She created a marvelous world with epic characters and plenty of twists and turns! The first half of the book was a bit slow, but it built up to a crazy second half of the book. It read like a stand-alone (meaning no major cliffhangers and though it’s part of a series, it can stand on its own just fine) and I was very satisfied with the ending. In fact, the ending made me even more excited for the second book!

I liked Kestrel a lot. She was stubborn and defiant, fighting against the two options her father selected for her future – become a soldier in the military or get married. Kestrel didn’t want anything to do with either of these potential futures; she wanted to map out her own life and do the things that made her happy. She was also very intelligent, yet reckless, at times. She did some pretty stupid things and she often did things without thinking through the consequences first. She was kind to those who didn’t deserve her kindness and she tried to treat the servants with some dignity.

I really, really wanted to like Arin. For the most part, I did; however, he definitely had his moments where he was cold and said some truly unforgivable things, especially to Kestrel. I definitely liked his rapport with her, though. They seemed to understand each other on a deeper level than could be possible, especially given how little time they spent together. It was like they could read each other. I didn’t really ship them in the beginning, though. I know everyone swooned over Arin and desperately wanted to see him and Kestrel together, but he was just too cruel in the first half of the story – not too mention all the hatred and lies that stood between them. Some of the revelations concerning Arin’s past were intriguing, though predictable.

I’m not sure how I feel about Ronan. I liked him enough to care about his fate in the end. But I just couldn’t see him as the third part in a love triangle. It was so obvious how that situation would end that I didn’t even bother giving him too much of a second glance. I really liked Jess and Benix, though neither of them was without their faults, especially Benix. Yet they didn’t deserve their fates. Enai was another character I adored. I would have liked to get to know her more and I found my feelings mirrored Kestrel’s on this one. I liked Sarsine and I hope we see more of her in book two. I’m torn with how I feel about General Trajan… Finally, for obvious reasons, I despised Lord Irex and Cheat.

I think the most fascinating thing about this book was the fact that we saw a revolution unfold before our eyes. Normally, YA books lead up to a revolution or take place several years after, not during. It was intriguing to see a different side of a revolution for once.

I LOVED the ending, though it felt slightly rushed, like the battle started and ended too quickly; however, it was still epic and crazy and insane and had SO MUCH political intrigue. I loved the ending so much that it basically made up for all my negative thoughts while reading. And the ending is the reason I rounded my rating up to 3.5 stars. It was THAT GOOD.

Overall, while I loved the characters, plot, world and writing, it did take me forever to read (11 days! That’s a lot for me..) and I felt a major disconnect with the book. As I mentioned earlier, I really think that was my own issue, not an issue with the book, so I’m letting it slide for now. I think The Winner’s Curse really sets things up nicely for the second book and I’m eager to read it and find out what happens next! I definitely recommend this book despite the issues I had because I seem to be in the minority with said issues. Marie Rutkoski is a fantastic author and I’m interested to see what she does next (outside of the final book in this trilogy).