Title: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Synopsis (mine): Kestrel is in the heart of the Empire playing at out smarting the Emperor while attempting to keep Arin alive and struggling to discover what type of person she wishes to be. Arin, for his part, is doing everything he can to keep his country free and afloat, even if it means sacrificing himself pieces of himself to do so. Will playing these games of deceptions drive them together or further apart and more importantly will they make it out alive?
I waited to read “The Winner’s Crime,” so that I could purchase it at the NoVa Teen Book fest where I was lucky enough to hear Marie Rutkoski speak on several panels. She was absolutely brilliant and her intellect shined as she explained how characters and her world came to fruition. I adore this trilogies first two installments. Rutkoski’s world and characters are amazing but it’s her elegant, nearly poetic prose that really captured my attention. Her rich attention to detail brings this world into sharp focus and makes it a standout selection.
What I liked: There were many parts of “The Winner’s Crime,” that I found to be absolutely brilliant; however, the thing that stood out to me the most was how Rutkoski developed her main character’s Kestrel and Arin, especially Arin. “The Winner’s Crime,” is solely about developing these two characters into who they need to be to defeat the Emperor. Kestrel’s development was much more subtle than Arins. Again, we encounter her using her wits to play the game, only this time, she’s not 100% sure what she is fighting for, her country, her love; what was right, or what was wrong. Her struggle felt organic to her character and not like a contrived plot point used to create false tension. The stakes are high for Kestrel and for once she’s not the smartest player in her game.
While I enjoyed Kestrel’s transformation, Arin’s was the most interesting if not frustrating character progression. Though he refuses to see some core truths about Kestrel, his sacrifices move him from an angry boy to a man of strategy. In “The Winner’s Curse,” Arin is a handsome boy who ultimately chooses love over the good of his country, but in “The Winner’s Crime,” he’s ready to take the mantle of leadership.
What I didn’t like: I wish there had been more interaction between Arin and Kestrel and am hoping for that in the next book.
Overall, this fantastic both technically and entertainment wise. Each page will suck you in while simultaneously ripping out your heart. 5/5