"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

23 January 2015

The Winner's Crime - Marie Rutksoki REVIEW

 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.

My Review of The Winner's Curse:
What an exquisite read. THE WINNER'S CRIME was everything I wanted and more. It was an absolutely stunning second instalment in this magnificent fantasy series that followed on from the THE WINNER'S CURSE. Rutkoski has definitely upped her game since the last book building on its fantastic foundations. The characters were superb, the world-building outstanding and the story fast paced and heart stopping. In this book Rutkoski has created an even more immersive world with dynamic characters and beautifully descriptive writing. From the first page I was engrossed back into the story, caught up in Kestrel's dilemmas, pining for Arin to make an appearance and eager to see what twists and turns awaited around each corner, on each page.

Rutkoski's writing is spellbinding. It had me transfixed. The writing blossomed from the first page, flowing effortlessly throughout, full of beautiful imaginative descriptions. It's a treat to read. Seriously, the writing is exquisite with the most intricately detailed narrative that is bursting with emotion and feeling. Mixed in with this beautiful narrative is also this immense tension. It was apparent from the start and just built and built in intensity as the story progressed to its dramatic climax. Reading it was such a nail biting experience as there's so much more at stake in this book; one wrong move, one bad thing said and all hell could break loose. The intensity is reflected in every little thing from the winding, narrow lanes of the city and the claustrophobic corridors of the palace. They hide secrets, danger, surprises and deception creating a story that really keeps you on the edge of your seat hungry for more. They also hold captive Kestrel, who is narrowed in, her wings clipped. Caged in by the palace walls, suffocated by the Emperor's grasp, she's a prisoner in all but name, with no room to fly free, no room for freedom. Throughout this book I was on tender hooks, sucked in by the suspense and intrigue. Every page was dripping in tension adding a layer of uncertainty and mystery. I flew through it turning each page in nervous anticipation of what dramatic thing would happen next. And that ending. Talk about a shocking and dramatic turn of events. It promises a new setting and exciting new story for the next book for sure.

I was drawn in by the books political intrigue, court politics and complex characters. The romance element seemed to take a back seat in this second installment; the narrative was sensual and rich with romance but other things came to the forefront and took centre stage. It was all about the politics, all about society, rebellion, unrest and tyranny. The social commentary in this book is simply outstanding. For a YA fantasy book the depth and complexity of the story is truly amazing as Rutkoski weaves important themes such as power, corruption, race, war and slavery with action, romance and drama. It makes for a captivating spectacle. THE WINNER'S CRIME raises important questions that although are set against the fantastical backdrop of this world, are still relevant today. Questions such as; Who decides that other races are inferior to others? Who decided that the rulers are in charge? What makes a good ruler, a good leader? It's deep and captivating and intriguing and it really creates this thought-provoking experience whilst reading.

THE WINNER'S CRIME has such a spectacular set of characters. In this book we find Kestrel engaged to the Emperor's son living her life amidst politics and drama in the city, away from her home, apart from Arin. She must make the best of a bad situation and is forced to make some pretty horrible decisions in order to survive in the court. Kestrel is portrayed as sometimes selfish, comfortable in her silks and rich plush surroundings but underneath all that she is also brave, intelligent and selfless. She does the very
thing she refuses to do in the first book. She wants to pave her own fate, neither marry nor be a soldier but confines herself to an unwanted engagement in order to save the lives of others - the life of Arin. It's so dramatic and romantic. Kestrel takes a stand for what she believes in and the beliefs of others, endangering her very life and freedom for the freedom of others. It's heroic really. She's so realistic and so believable and I love her for it. Yes, she's so crazily frustrating to read about at times especially when it came to Arin and her feelings for him. The total lack of communication between the two just made me want to bang their heads together and open their eyes wide to see what stands before them and admit their feelings for one other. Was it so much to ask?! Their relationship throughout this book just added to the tension filled narrative that emanated throughout. Every glance, every touch, every breath just made this book explode with sexual tension and sensuality, intense and captivating.

Now, Arin in this book is even more mysterious, even more dark and brooding than the last. Now the Governor of Herran, he must deal with the running of his homeland and the loss of Kestrel to the very empire that he hates. The seeds of discontent and discord are sown in this book and Arin is hellbent on revenge; freeing his country is simply not enough anymore. Herran is still ensnared in the Emperor's claws, suffering at his hands and bowing to his every demand, starving in their homeland while the Emperor lives in luxury. Arin is such an impassioned man, so strong in his beliefs that its hard not to get caught up in his rebellious and passionate cause. At the end I felt so much hatred towards the Emperor who is such an evil and calculated snake of a man that I was fully on Arin's side, ready to take up arms against him! The Emperor is so cold, so cruel, using others as playthings; he makes the perfect villain - someone that you love to hate. Rutkoski really has a talent for creating this diverse cast of characters that seem so familiar and realistic but also mysterious and foreign. Nobody in this book is fully good or bad (well perhaps the Emperor - he's one evil bastard) but 'grey' characters; they're all flawed but have good qualities too. They're all molded by their surroundings and their upbringing, forced to make harsh and difficult decisions in order to survive. It made the book an exciting and compelling read.

The worldbuilding is possibly my favourite thing about this book. Rutksoki has crafted such a spectacular world with a wide and varied cast of characters and settings depicting exotic, new places full of grandeur and opulence. It's rich with culture and history; it truly does paint a diverse and intriguing picture of this engrossing world and its inhabitants. The world is just so vivid and realistic but also so fantastical and tactile. It was if I could feel the soft fabric of Kestrel's silk dresses, the sharp agonising cut of a knife, smell the salty stormy seas and hear the faint tinkling tune of the piano keys. It was all so alive and intoxicating brought to life by Rutkoski's beautiful writing. This book promises exploration as we're introduced to new places; bustling, crowded cities and wild, untouched jungles. It sucked me in from the first page and the world was so engrossing, so fascinating that I didn't want to leave.

THE WINNER'S CRIME had me enchanted from the beginning. It's such a strong and breathtaking sequel and I can't wait to read what is in store for Kestrel and Arin in the next book. The stunning narrative, the tension, the strong characters and fascinating world makes this book an absolute delight to read. If you like complex characters, political intrigue and a strong protagonist you should definitely give this YA fantasy a chance. You definitely won't regret it. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited to read this one! I've heard amazing things about and I can't wait to start it.
    -Jon from Bookish Antics!


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