Book two of The Winner's Trilogy
By Marie Rutkoski
Available now from Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR (Macmillan)
Read my review of The Winner's Crime
Marie Rutkoski knows how to keep you on your toes. THE WINNER'S CRIME is a tale of entwining intrigues that ends in a cliffhanger that will make you wish you had THE WINNER'S KISS on hand. (People reading this review at least a year in the future, I envy you for your ability to do just that.)
Kestrel is promised to marry Prince Verex and become the next empress, even though she loves Arin. Arin is now the governor of Herran, but that doesn't mean his country is instantly set back to rights. His country has been looted and stripped of much of his resources, yet they must still tithe the emperor. Arin is reeling from the knowledge that Kestrel betrayed him and never loved him, whereas Kestrel is reeling from all she gave up is order to keep everyone she loved alive.
I normally don't like it when miscommunication propels the plot of a novel, particularly one with romantic elements, but it works here. Rutkoski has created a situation where it isn't safe for the characters to just say the truth. There are spies everywhere, and one wrong word will get both Arin and Kestrel killed (and more people along with them). I also think it worked for me because they need some time where neither of them are the other's slave.
I enjoyed that the romance took a backseat to the politics. The court is complicated, and Herran isn't the only source of conflict. The country to the east is still fighting back, unconquered. Their biggest weakness is the queen's sister, a hostage at the capital. I cannot wait to see how that plot develops further in THE WINNER'S KISS.
Now, THE WINNER'S CRIME is a second book. There's lots of establishing a new status quo and setting up all the exciting things to happen in the final book of the trilogy. But it still works on its own, particularly a wrenching confrontation towards the middle of the book. It's an exciting book to read and a rough one, because the characters keep making mistakes that are so them. I can only hope that they get it right by the end.