by Marie Rutkoski
To be published by Farrar Straus Giroux
on March 3, 2015
Source: Thanks SO much to Macmillan for sending me an ARC
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.My take: Loved! I was a HUGE fan of the first book in this series, The Winner's Curse, and The Winner's Crime did not disappoint. I loved it as much if not more than the first book.
My favorite kinds of books are those that are psychologically complex -- the kinds of stories that really dig deep and see what makes the characters -- and by extension, people in general -- tick.
In The Winner's Curse, Kestrel and Arin find forbidden love. The Winner's Crime features a common YA strategy -- separate and test the loving couple -- but that wasn't all. The story really questioned whether this very unlikely couple -- she once bought him at a slave auction, her people conquered his -- could ever be together.
As the book opens, Kestrel is engaged to another man, the meek son of Valoria's cruel emperor. I love Kestrel's character. She's a born strategist and in this book she will put that strategic mind to work, but she'll also question all her prior choices and decisions. I think Arin is actually the more emotional of the couple, and in this book he has to question his feelings for Kestrel and whether or not they are misplaced, if what they shared in book one was just a moment out of time. This aspect of the story was so great -- I mean, isn't there a moment in every relationship when you look at the other person and think: who are you?
But the themes of strategy and power that run through these books extend far beyond this couple's relationship. Kestrel is Valorian, and her people have conquered and enslaved many other groups, including the people of Herran. The Valorian army -- led by Kestrel's father -- is again on the move, and Kestrel is again swept up in political intrigue, trapped in the palace as the soon-to-be daughter-in-law of the emperor, with all eyes constantly on her.
So ... this book has romance and intrigue and psychological depth. What else? Really well-drawn characters. Just when I'd meet a new character and think I'd met that type of character before, they'd say or do something that surprised me. Some ... gruesome scenes. Some lovely turns of phrase -- I had a lot of underlinings on this one. A ton of emotion. And a truly excruciating cliffhanger. I can't believe I have to wait a year for the final book!