Book Reviews

Review: “The Winner’s Crime,” Marie Rutkoski

November 15, 2015
Review: “The Winner’s Crime,” Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Crimeby Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Bloomsbury on March, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Medieval
Pages: 416
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

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 a lukewarm reaction to the first book in the series, I had high hopes that The Winner’s Crime would be something I could warm up to a little more. Comforted by the fact that most readers seem to prefer the second instalment, I wasted no time in picking it up to see where Kestrel and Arin were headed after that enjoyable ending.

 “There was dishonor, she decided, in accepting someone else’s idea of honor without question.”
– Kestrel

What can I say? It’s always tough to review a book that you didn’t enjoy all that much. To put it simply – I was just bored throughout most of The Winner’s Curse. I didn’t care about the characters or their relationships and the plot was slow. Though the last 50 pages or so picked up and got quite interesting, it wasn’t enough to salvage the book for me.

Kestrel was somewhat interesting in The Winner’s Crime, if only for her interest in strategy games, but this grew tiresome this time around. Any individuality Kestrel possessed left her and she became the typical girl who’s torn over a guy she can’t have (despite them having the most rocky and weird connection ever).

 “Sometimes you think you want something, when what you need is to let it go.”
– Arin

Arin –oh, where do I begin with him? I just don’t like him. Never have and never will. I can’t for the life of me understand why Kestrel is attracted to him. He is so bland. And when he’s not bland, he’s stupid. He’s so quick to judge, too. I think one of the reasons behind my dislike of these books so far is Arin as a character, as well as his relationship with Kestrel. Blagh!

As for the ongoing ‘saga’ with Kestrel’s ‘friends’ Ronan and Jess – I really couldn’t care less. Despite the fact that Kestrel is always shoving down our throats what good friends they all are/were, they didn’t support or know the ‘real’ Kestrel, so how can I find the demise of their friendship a bad thing?

 “If you won’t be my friend, you’ll regret being my enemy.”
– Kestrel

There’s quite a good relationship (however small) built between Kestrel and her betrothed Prince Verex. I was holding out my hopes that there might have been a secondary love interest here (sigh), but at least there was some sort of friendship. As for his father, the Emperor, he played a good role of the villain, but his threats grew rather boring after a while.

Arin’s venture in Dacra was an exciting part of the book, despite the narrator. It was great to experience some more worldbuilding from Marie Rutkoski. I enjoy seeing the races and people she creates, as well as how they all interact with one another. I just wish more of a focus would have been on this, instead of Arin bustling around the Capital (pretty much doing nothing) for the majority of the book.

Marie Rutkoski, however, is a fantastic writer in terms of lyrical prose and descriptions. Though sometimes things get a bit to ‘flowery’ for me, I find that she can set a scene rather well and convey a lot of feeling in the most mundane of things. I only wish I could warm up to her characters more.

 “I don’t mind being a moth. I would probably start eating silk if it meant that I could fly.”
– Kestrel

My irritation with the story in The Winner’s Curse was that it was way too slow. I can’t even remember how many times I put this book down and didn’t want to pick it up again. Though Kestrel was busying herself by prying secrets loose within the kingdom, the hints and clues we got made no sense and came too few and far between. I had absolutely no idea where talk of the water pumps and bets on her wedding dresses were going. I’m still scratching my head over the dress part, to be honest.

The ending was like watching a train wreck in slow motion, and despite my boredom with 80% of the book, the ending did have me reading like a madwoman. At this stage, I am unsure if I want to continue with The Winner’s Trilogy (I was adamant I wasn’t going to before reading the ending) but after seeing how events unfolded in the last chapter or so, I might have to if only to satiate my curiosity.

One thing is for sure, if I do read the final instalment, I’ll have to go into it knowing that I will never enjoy Arin as a character, nor his relationship with Kestrel.

About Marie Rutkoski

Marie grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She holds a BA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Harvard University. Marie is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children's literature and fiction writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

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