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.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – Marie Rutkoski is the queen of beautiful prose.
I would recommended reminding yourself of what happened in the first book before embarking on The Winner’s Crime – I found myself a little confused in the beginning, having forgotten all about the treaties and alliances and who belongs to what land – but a quick skim of the first book quickly set me straight.
The stakes are upped immensely in this instalment – Kestrel is under the eye of the Emperor at all times, with her every move under surveillance, while Arin is now the governor of his people, whose resources are slowly being bled dry due to the treaty with Valoria.
I find Kestrel a problematic character, and I don’t necessarily like her all that much, although I understand her motivations. But I like that fact that we do have a problematic female character – a complex, intelligent, well constructed individual with conflicting loyalties.
The author doesn’t shy away from the atrocities committed in order to conquer a nation – from torture to masterminding how best to destroy them, we are reminded again that there’s more to the Valorian court than pretty dresses and impending nuptials.
The last ten percent of the book really upped the ante – it was brutal.
The book ends on a rather bleak note, but sets us up for an exciting sequel – although I can’t see how they [Arin and Kestrel] are going to win – you know, overthrow a corrupt ruler, save a nation, reconcile after they’ve each had a hand in killing the other one’s people – I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing how the author resolves it all.
ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.