The Winner’s Crime is written by Marie Rutkoski. It was published in 2015 by Farrar Strous Giroux. It is the sequel to The Winner’s Curse.
A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. 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: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin’s freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself? Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. She’s working as a spy in the court. If caught, she’ll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can’t help searching for a way to change her ruthless world…and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.
I loved The Winner’s Curse and Rutkoski’s writing and couldn’t wait to dive into the sequel. Unfortunately, The Winner’s Crime falls victim to “the sequel is worse than the first” curse. It certainly wasn’t a bad book, and Rutkoski spins a good yarn, but the fears I had when I finished the first book were affirmed in this one.
My problem with The Winner’s Curse was that I couldn’t tell where the plot would go after it ended. And The Winner’s Crime does end up taking the plot somewhere—eventually. And it’s that “eventually” that’s the problem. The Winner’s Crime is about 90% filler, 10% plot, and it shows. About halfway through the book, I couldn’t believe that there was almost no plot progression and that Kestrel and Arin were still stuck in their angsty, “s/he doesn’t love me” phase. About three-quarters of the way through the book, I couldn’t believe that there was almost no plot progression and that Kestrel and Arin were still going around moping.
Out of the 402 pages of this book, I would say only about 100 of those pages actually progressed the plot. The 302 pages just dragged out Kestrel and Arin’s romance to the point of tediousness. I wouldn’t have minded so much if those 302 pages had actually progressed the relationship, instead of treading old ground. But the book ended with Kestrel and Arin exactly where they left off at the beginning, and that was disappointing (and aggravating).
But I still loved the writing, and I do like Kestrel as a protagonist, especially when she gets conniving and strategic. There aren’t very many conniving female protagonists in YA, and it’s nice to see one do it so well. And Arin isn’t so bad of a male love interest, either. I like that he basically invents the gun for this world and that he doesn’t get overshadowed by Kestrel. Actually, I found his parts more interesting than Kestrel’s, since Kestrel’s tended to accomplish nothing or rehash old ground.
Recommended Age Range: 16+
Warnings: Some sensual situations and descriptions
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
“Are you afraid of the risk of finding out more?” said Tensen. “I hear that you love a gamble.”
“This isn’t a game.”
“Yet you’ve played it well so far. You’re playing it now.”
Kestrel set her hand on the cane blocking the door. “This kind of conversation won’t happen again. I am not one of your people. I have my own country and code…and no reason to become your spy.”