The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski Review: Bigger and Better

March 13, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 5 stars, Books, Reviews

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski Review: Bigger and BetterThe Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Bloomsbury Australia on March 12, 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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.

You know that feeling you get when you reach the end of a book and expel a satisfied, warm and happy breath? That was me upon finishing The Winner’s Crime, despite the cliffhanger ending which left everything in an unresolved state.

This has been a year of amazing sequels, with The Winner’s Crime building upon the foundation of the first book by making everything better. This sequel had deeper world building, political intrigue, more romantic development, betrayals and war tactics. We experience so much more of the world with it’s three major countries: Valoria, where Kestrel is currently held, Herran, where Arin resides, and Dacra, the eastern kingdom.

She’d felt it before, she felt it now: the pull to fall in with him, to fall into him, to lose her sense of self. There would be scandal, and then there’d be war. 

While the first book was mainly focused on the slow burn romance between Kestrel and Arin, there is so much more that happens in The Winner’s Crime. Kestrel is trying to honour her father by meeting the Emperor’s wishes and getting ready for marriage to the Verex, Crown Prince, while still looking after the rights of the Herrani people. Arin travels between all three districts to secure allies for Herran and to look after his rights. Whilst all of this is happening, Kestrel finds herself in a precarious situation as a spy, while coping with her best friend Jess’s emotional distance. Although there wasn’t much action in the book, there was never a dull moment with a flowing plot filled with surprises.

Kestrel and Arin continued to dance around each other with their feelings. Their meetings seemed to be wrought with constant misunderstandings, with Kestrel needing to explain herself more than a few times after sending mixed messages. She’s trying to achieve a lot with her time at court, with conflicting interests. But even a master strategist can’t please everyone, as she’ll soon learn. I just wanted to shake them and push them together, but with a brewing war and an inevitable wedding standing in their way, the stakes are so much higher for this forbidden couple.

He, too, wanted what he shouldn’t. He, too, felt how the heart chooses its own home and refuses reason. Not here, he’d tried to say. Not this. Not mine. Never. But he had felt the same sickness.

To complicate their relationship further, there’s signs of a love square (hexagon?) creeping into the book with Kestrel growing closer to the Crown Prince and Arin getting to know the kidnapped princess, Risha. I wanted to hate Verex, but he was actually quite respectful and understanding of Kestrel’s reluctance to marry him. More than anything, Verex seemed like a victim of his circumstances, and seemed to recognise the same in Kestrel. Risha actually reminded me a lot of Nehemia in Throne of Glass, as an eastern princess held at the court. Although she’s pretty mysterious in this book, I’m looking forward to what the future holds for her.


The Winner’s Crime balances romance, political intrigue and competing agendas. It’s filled with betrayals, power plays, heart break and heart ache, with a new host of secondary characters and an expanded world. With it’s gorgeous writing and riveting plot line, this series is a must read. Just be prepared for the major cliffhanger at the end – you’ll want the next book now!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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38 responses to “The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski Review: Bigger and Better

  1. This book! I was a bundle of nerves when reading it. Naturally, I ship them – Arin and Kestrel, that is – who doesn't? So all this dancing around and pushing and pulling. Aaah, my nerves. It was all sitting on pins and needles, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like, they have to be together in the end. They have to! But it's clear things won't be easy. So you just read and think – when are they going to get together? Oh, they're meeting. What is gonna go wrong now? I'm pretty sure that for atleast half the book I was on the verge of tears from all my nerves and inner tension. 😀
    Can't wait for The Winner's Kiss.
    My recent post Review: Paper Towns by John Green

  2. I absolutely adored the first book and everyone is raving about the second book. Sadly (even though it's sitting on my shelf and staring at me), I still haven't gotten around to it. I know I know, I'm a terrible person. 😛 I will soon though! I promise!
    My recent post Why Do We Read?

  3. Oh wow! I am so glad to know you loved the sequel to this book. Doesn't it have an equally gorgeous cover to the first one as well? I just finished reading book one, like a few hours ago, and I found it to be an okay read. I am sure I will enjoy this one a lot more because it sounds like it has a lot more going on.
    My recent post Fantasy Favourites Read-a-thon: Play Me That Music!

  4. Faye M.

    A LOVE HEXAGON!?!?!?! Okay, THAT is making me really worried. Haha. But nevertheless, I'm glad to know that this book is an improvement and that we have a lot more to look forward to that the previous one. I haven't finished this yet because the pages I read were riddled with "woe is me!" but I'll finish it soon and hopefully feel what you guys are feeling about it <3 <3 <3
    My recent post ARC Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

    • Haha well there isn't really love between the outer characters which is good 🙂 LOL you are so right about the woe is me actually XD

  5. I need to read this series, I'll probably start it in 2 years time the way things are going lol I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! There's only praise for these novels it seems 🙂
    My recent post Showcase Sunday #23

  6. I completely agree with everything you've said here Jeann! The slow burn is killing me, and I'm not sure how much more of it I can take! Like you said, I just want them to be together, you know?

    And Kestrel! She's such an amazing character, and I absolutely love her. She reminds me so much of Annabeth (who I adore) with her strategizing and scheming.

    Thanks for sharing Jeann and, as always, fabulous review! &hearts; I'm not sure how we'll live waiting for book three though – especially after that horrible cliffhanger! *sobs*
    My recent post Liars, Inc

    • Oh I know, that slow burn is just so frustrating! 2 books and they're still not together yet lol. Kestrel is amazing and that's a great similarity that you've drawn! Gosh, join me in the sobbing for the next book ><

  7. I wish I could agree with you here. I mean I loved the way this story developed and it certainly seems like the grand finale will be amazing. But to me the writing seemed somehow off. I couldn't get into the story. But still glad you loved it. Great review, Jeann 🙂
    My recent post #CoverLust: Pure by Jennifer L. Armentrout

  8. YAY for loving this! I really liked it, too.

    But why did you want to hate Verex? D: He didn't hone in on Kestrel at all, which i actually really appreciated. He's in love with someone else – yay!

    UGH the misunderstandings were SO prominent in this novel, which is why it was a four star read for me, even though I loved every single other thing about it. I just felt like there were just too many, and that the outcomes were totally stupid T.T

    The cliffhanger killed me, and I cannot believe we have to wait a YEAR, JEANN. JOIN ME IN MY SOBBING.
    My recent post Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

    • SO FANTASTIC Chiara. I did want to hate Verex because he's standing in the way for Arin and Kestrel, but I suppose there's so much more than that! TOO LONG OF A WAIT CHIARA. Going to check out your review x

  9. "This has been a year of amazing sequels, with The Winner’s Crime building upon the foundation of the first book by making everything better. This sequel had deeper world building, political intrigue, more romantic development, betrayals and war tactics."
    YES YES YES JEANN! I'm so happy (but not surprised) that you loved this one! I completely agree–TWC really built on the foundation the previous book developed and I couldn't have loved that more. Here's to hoping book three won't completely ruin us!
    My recent post The Start of Me and You: Review

    • I know right, I just love sequels that seem to make everything better! So glad to hear you loved it too Lily. Fingers crossed for book 3!

    • I know, this series is so incredibly beautiful! Oh gosh, I remember liking Fallen when I first read it *shudders*.

  10. I thought it was so interesting that Verex wasn't your typical villain, too! And omg, reading the quotes you picked out makes me want to read this book all over again. *sigh* I'm so glad you loved it, too! MORE MORE MORE, Marie Rutkoski.

    I'm nervous about the last book, though. I've been reading interviews she's given that seem kind of ominous.
    My recent post Nest and Nightbird: Audiobook Reviews

    • Oh nooo ominous? Oh noooo, I'm worried too now! Verex was interesting, I think the emperor was more of a villain than he was. He was just trying to cope with his situation.

  11. I haven't even read the first book eek! Still, I'm glad that the sequel didn't dissapoint and is an even more of the win since it's better than the first! You don't get a lot of sequels being better than it's predecessors for sure! Tbh, I'm still not sure I will read this series but who knows? I chang my mind and mood a lot and your review definitely is pushing me to check it out! Awesome review Jeann! 🙂
    My recent post Bookish Traveler #2: Breathtaking Santorini…just not near the Donkeys!

  12. I did like all of the politics and deeper world building in this one, but I didn't enjoy it as much as The Winner's Curse. 🙁 Maybe it was because of the lack of action? And for some reason, the Kestrel/Arin interactions weren't too swoony for me. >_< Still, I'm pretty excited to get my hands on the finale!
    My recent post Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

    • Awwww, that's a shame Aimee! I didn't think there was much action either, and yes, Kestrel and Arin were constantly pushing and pulling away, it got frustrating. Hopefully it all resolves in the final book though!

    • I KNOW RIGHT? I loved it so much, it was even better than the first one! And Yes, the sequels are amazing so far! DYING.