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.
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on March 3, 2015
Source: the publisher
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.