I enjoyed the first book in the Winner’s Trilogy, The Winner’s Curse, and gave it 4 stars (or cups, using my new blog rating scale). Maybe 4.5. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I loved the characters, but I wanted more world-building. I didn’t feel like I could completely ‘see’ Herran and Valorian society.
Well, I definitely got my wish in The Winner’s Crime. There’s a map, which everyone knows is vital to a good fantasy novel. If possible, the writing is even more beautiful. The characters continue to be amazing and the world has been wonderfully fleshed out. Also – can we take a moment to appreciate that women in Marie Rutkoski’s world are not just princesses and maids? They are engineers and bookies and skilled dressmakers and soldiers.
This book made my heart hurt. So much of the conflict in The Winner’s Crime is internal and Marie Rutkoski’s beautiful prose only makes the character’s doubts and inner turmoil all the more poignant and heart-wrenching. This series is dark. The romance is important to the story, but it is just as complex as the plot with all its betrayal and war and torture.
I adore Kestrel as a character. She is strong, but not in the traditional female warrior way. She is smart and clever, but she’s still naïve. She makes mistakes, she gets caught, she harms the people she loves both accidentally and intentionally. She is complex and real in a way that more YA protagonists should be.
I also love Arin, who is just as complex as Kestral. He faces similar challenges, but their goals and methods don’t always align and that causes great turmoil for this couple. Their love is a slow burn, with the potential for great destruction – for themselves and their nations. It’s glorious and heart-breaking to read.
To sum The Winner’s Crime up: I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. If you haven’t checked out this fantastic YA fantasy series, please do. It’s dark and beautiful. Not sure how I’m going to survive until next year, when the final book comes out. 5 Cups of Tea.