Sequel to The Winner’s Curse, Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Crime is even more intense and heart wrenching than its predecessor. If you’ve read Rutkoski’s first installment in this trilogy, you know that’s really saying something. As this is a sequel, there are obviously some spoilers for the first book in this review.
The end of The Winner’s Curse saw Kestrel broker an alliance between Valoria and Herran. In The Winner’s Crime, Kestrel must deal with the repercussions of her actions – most pressingly, her impending marriage to the prince. Kestrel still manages to remain herself and act autonomously despite the restraints of palace life and expectations. She may have given herself up as a means to achieve peace, but Kestrel refuses to be powerless, and begins to spy for Herran.
The Winner’s Crime is, in one word, devastating. This novel is equal parts beautiful and painful, and Rutkoski’s writing is inspired. Her words as as resplendent as the delicate sugar sculptures Kestrel eats. The moments between Kestrel and Arin are so fraught with tension and things unsaid (well, things Kestrel won’t allow to be said). There is so much back and forth with these characters – when they speak, they never quite manage to align perfectly. Kestrel keeps the truth of the alliance from Arin, and that secret divides them at first emotionally, and then physically. The court intrigue and clandestine rendezvous (and an ingenious method of passing along secret messages) were brilliant, and more successful than many other a YA novel…just saying. This is obviously due to the fact that Marie Rutkoski breathes life into every word on the page, and makes sure to stab you right in the heart whilst she does.
And then, the ending. I was struck dumb by it, and spent roughly ten minutes staring at my book, mouth agape. No betrayal cuts as deep as when it’s done by someone you love.
Goodreads: 4.5 / 5 stars