Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski


Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Release date: March 12, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 400
Goodreads || Book Depository

The Winner’s Crime is the second book in Marie Rutkoski’s Winner Trilogy, which means that this review will contain spoilers for Book 1, The Winner’s Curse. Please leave now because you will be spoiled and you really don’t want to be!! Just know that I give this sequel 5 stars and that you should read this trilogy!


Lady Kestrel’s engagement to Valoria’s crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust …

While Arin fights to keep his country’s freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.

Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner’s trilogy.


5 stars

How do I even begin to tell you how much I loved this book?! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that’s made me have to keep putting it down because of all the feels and the unbearable tension. It’s been a whole day since I finished the book and I’m still trying to recover. The ending had me curled up on my bed, dying from the feels. I thought The Winner’s Curse was amazing but this book just blew my mind with its brilliance.

This sequel was set almost entirely in the capital of Valoria, where Kestrel is staying with the Emperor and Prince Verex, the man she is to marry. It’s obvious from the very beginning that she is a prisoner in the palace and is being manipulated and watched by the Emperor. When court members and other high ranking members of society are invited to a really, really, really long engagement and wedding celebration, Kestrel finds herself face-to-face with the new Herrani Governor, Arin… which inevitably leads to trouble.

“I don’t mind being a moth. I would probably start eating silk if it meant that I could fly.”

The tension and the yearning was present from the very beginning of the book. I could feel Kestrel yearning for Arin and for freedom away from the stifling environment of the Emperor’s home. The atmosphere and the suspense in this book was built so well. There are a lot of mentions in this book – this trilogy – of games, and this whole book felt like one big game. It was very interesting to see the role that each character played in the game, especially because it was never obvious who was in control. We see the Emperor manipulating the game and the characters, but Kestrel was also doing her fair share of manoeuvring and strategising. There is lying, spying, secrecy and LOTS of political intrigue. The whole book was just very anxiety-provoking and I was so stressed out about everything that was going on. Yet, the plot was so intriguing and exciting that I couldn’t help but keep reading.

What I thought was the highlight of this book was the characterisation. I loved the characters in The Winner’s Curse but everything is taken up a notch in this second book. The characters are even more complex and layered and I really connected with all of them. I empathised with them and felt everything they were feeling and gosh, my heart hurt so much. There were characters that I wasn’t expecting to like, such as Verex and the Eastern princess, Risha, but they turned out to be really wonderful additions to the series and I can’t wait to see the role that they play in the final book because they were pretty enigmatic in this book.

Kestrel remains my favourite character and it hurt me how much she was suffering alone. I felt her loneliness from being trapped in the Capital but also her loneliness from being misunderstood and not being able to reveal her true feelings. I wanted to shake all of the characters and make them understand. Her internal struggle was just unreal and my heart ached for her. We also get Arin’s perspective in this book and my love for him grew as well. But he does some rash and stupid things, and I just wanted to yell at him through the pages and make him see what was in front of him. I really enjoyed his story arc and it took us to very interesting places plot-wise and setting-wise.

While this book takes place mostly in the Capital, the world continues to build and expand. The book takes us east, to Dacra, through lots of political plotting and I loved having the East involved. I can’t wait to see the role they play in the next book. We also get small glimpses of how Herran has developed since the ending of The Winner’s Curse and I thought it was interesting how that played into the overall plot. I also appreciated the map that was included in the book!

I have so much more I could say about this book but I have no idea where to start because I’m still full of so many feels. It’s probably better if I don’t say anything more about the book because the experience of reading the book and figuring everything out for myself was a spectacular one for me.


25 thoughts on “Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

  1. Trisha Ann says:

    I haven’t read The Winner’s Curse yet and so I just scanned your review here (that spoiler alert is a saviour!). But with what you said about this sequel being mind-blowing, I’m sure I should pick this book up. It’s also been a long while since a series left a lingering feeling for me since The Infernal Devices (that was like a couple of years ago). Ahh I’m looking forward to reading this series 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Haha I’m never sure if people actually see my spoiler alert! I feel like I always just go straight to the actual review but I think having it in bold helps a little. You should definitely check out this series, Trish! It’s amazing and it’ll definitely leave you curled up in bed yelling “WHYYYYYY?!!!” It’s so, so good!


  2. fiddlerblue says:

    Glad you loved this Jenna! And that I wasn’t the only one who suffered through post-reading emotional turmoil afterwards. The author brought out her A game and this is quite a masterpiece! I felt so bad for Kestrel too, and Arin, and basically every single pawn of the Emperor. I know Kestrel is smart, but she was no match for the Emperor. The atmosphere was so tense and I couldn’t stop reading to see what happens next. I’m excited to read The Winner’s Kiss!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Summer @ Xingsings says:

    Okay, the last time you described yourself curled up dying with feels was The Clockwork Princess. I know I keep saying this, but I’m definitely marathoning this series this year. 😀 AND LOL! I so understand. I have so much to say for books I didn’t like but my mind goes totally blank when a book is this good! XD

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

    But yes, I totally agree about the amount of characterization in the book. It’s so wonderful and the politics get more and more intriguing. Those moth metaphors were like “whelp save me” because like you said, the feels were too real.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Zoe says:

    SO GOOD, RIGHT? And all the feels too. ❤ ❤ Kestrel is absolutely amazing, and I love her as a heroine. She kind of reminds me of Annabeth Chase in a way – she may not be physically very strong, but what she lacks in physicality she makes up with her amazing strategic mind. And the ending. *cries* I don't know how we're all going to wait for the Winner's Kiss!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. remarkablylisa says:

    I just skimmed your review because i haven’t read this one yet but i’m glad you enjoyed it enough to continue from the first book! Personally, I thought the first book was kind of predictable and plain. It didn’t have anything as dramatic as I wished for and I didn’t feel the romance between both characters. I wrote the book off as an over-hyped book so that’s why i never read the second. Do you think I’ll like this one more than the first? And another question is whether you could check out my blog haha I made mine yesterday so I’m fairly new at it but I would love it would!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I think if you’re wanting epic action, this series isn’t what you’re after. It’s not really action-packed and dramatic like Throne of Glass is, for example. The second book is a bit more exciting than the first one, but it’s still slow-paced and politically driven. I’d still encourage you to read it because I think this is a wonderfully crafted world and series, but if the first book wasn’t what you wanted it to be, this sequel won’t really give you anything different.


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