The Winner’s Crime
(The Winner’s Trilogy #2)
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.
After having finished the first book The Winner’s Curse surprised, but not especially keen on the series, it may surprise you just as much as myself to find the sequel now cluttering up my bookshelf. That is the curse of a well-crafted cliffhanger, it makes the reader fearful of the unknown and relentless in their pursuit of answers. Which is to say that my curiosity got the best of me and I picked up the sequel, undaunted.
I was pleasantly surprised by some of the more brutal aspects of this novel, do not let the cover fool you, some of the pages are tarnished in blood. That and the introduction of the emperor, a corrupt manipulative man, make power plays and manipulations paramount to this novel’s plot. Yet while this novel is cloaked in political manoeuvring it is still a romance at heart. Though the star-crossed romance was not as overwhelming as in the first book, Arin and Kestrel’s relationship still dominates plot development.
The narrative is once again split between Arin and Kestrel. Arin, now the governor of the Herran struggles to make choices for his people and navigate a world where everyone stands poised with a knife at his back. Sadly I spent most of the novel cursing Arin’s idiocy, he was brash and reckless and did not think before he acted, which endangered him and those around him. Kestrel was the opposite, she had to weigh her decisions and her actions carefully, any missteps could cost her at the hands of the emperor. I was much more drawn to Kestrel in this second novel, her scheming and spying, though dangerous, were necessary. She was not afraid of making sacrifices and this endeared me to her.
Kestrel remains steadfast in her belief that she must maintain a façade in order to survive at the emperor’s court and keep Arin safe. Her relationship with Arin, already endangered because of her engagement, is irreversibly damaged with every lie that spews from Kestrel’s lips. While Kestrel’s lies are far from unfounded and I admired her for her dedication to her façade, she managed to tear Arin apart with her words. The weight of her pretty phrases was devastating and Arin had to learn to pick up the pieces of his shattered heart. Once again, Marie Rutoski leaves us with a cliffhanger perhaps even more jaw dropping than the first and I find myself infinitely curious.