Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on March 3rd, 2015
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Source: Book Tour
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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.
When I spotted this book up for grabs for a book tour, I jumped on it. The first book had caught my interest, and Kestrel has landed herself on my list of favorable girl leads. Kestrel is what kept me going in the first book, and I knew I couldn’t stay away after the last scene of the previous novel.
The next installment of the trilogy wasn’t horrible, but it did have a fair share of issues. I will more than likely finish off the series, because, once again, the ending is so gripping that it drives you to add the next book onto your wish list.
Bad Romance. The romance didn’t just bother me, it murdered a lot of my enjoyment of the novel. In the first installment, I actually enjoyed the bantering and the forbidden tryst between the two star-crossed lovers. The second book, however, wrecked any enjoyment I had for Arin. The misunderstandings and virtual slap-stick shenanigans with Arin and Kestrel came across as wearing and juvenile, instead of angsty and steamy. I still have a lot of love for Kestrel, and in all honestly, she could have carried the novel by herself without the clunky romance or the water-thin mystery plot. Her cunning decisions and her soft interior colored her as someone with a mission, while still allowing the audience to feel empathetic to her actions and emotions. However, Kestrel’s charm can only withstand so much. Her counterpart, the main romantic partner, Arin, assassinated most of her resolve and stronger qualities. Arin charges into every situation, like a bull in a china shop, and leaves everyone in the wake of his path to clean up the mess and pay the consequences.
Arin meant to come across as the spurned, tragic love interest and ended up as the dense, crass idiot. As I type this, I’m still enraged by his idiotic actions and the horrible results from his rashness. It was also infuriating to watch Kestrel have to repair his bruised ego as he wallered around in self pity, when she was the one carrying the world on her shoulders. Kestrel’s hand was forced, her heart was constantly shredded in front of her, and her integrity and loyalty was under constant attack, and while she was left to face her trials the best, a teenage girl forced into this role to save the bumbling idiot, Arin traipses around, ignoring the dire needs of his people and Kestrel both.
You know what? Fuck Arin. Fuck him and his pouting, judging fits.
Character Rescue Time!! Outside of Arin, I really fell hard for some of these characters. Kestrel is still awesome, Arin’s companion was great and his wisdom added something more to the story, but above all, I have to give some major love to the sleeper of this novel – Prince Verenex. His character completely took me by surprise as he developed and grew into his role as the kicked-down heir with a tragic, sugary sweet love story. Even though he appeared to be mostly timid, some of his advice to Kestrel was quite clever, and I often found myself mourning the leader he could have become under a ruler and parent that restrained from bulling and terrorizing the heir to the throne. The fact that he was able to keep some of his humanity intact in the face of a harsh upbringing spoke volumes for his characterization. For a character that I seemed to dismiss early on in the novel, his role and support was touching and shocking. His love story was much more compelling that Arin and Kestrel, I have to admit.
World Building. I do love the world building in this novel. Taken to a new land, and glimpsing inside a new culture in the Winner universe added an extra treat to the novel. The banter and threat of the royalty, and the addition of the tiger cub melted my heart, and I quite liked the addition to the countries and cultures.
Muddy the Story Line. Sad to say, the wonderful characters and the awesome world building was diminished by a weak mystery plot that wasn’t given too much attention until absolutely necessary. While the bitter romance was drawn out and explored, the plot was just too flimsy to support the mystery. I often felt frustrated by the regurgitation of the clues and the missing connection, when very little work was occurring to solve the tangled plot.
F&F Dynamics. The father-daughter bond was beautiful and bittersweet in this installment, and I very much enjoy that the author included a female that wanted to make her parental figure proud. Even with all of his faults, it was very realistic that Kestrel strived to please him and win favor. What person doesn’t want the seal of approval from family?
The relationship between Jess and Kestrel shattered my heart completely. So many times, the reader is treated to a sweet, tear-filled clemency scene between two close friends, but The Winner’s Crime dodged the sugary trope and full-out kicks your heart right in its little kidneys – if hearts have kidneys.
Some of the plot devices and the heavy handed romance left a bad taste in my mouth regarding the Crime. However, there was enough to still enjoy, and Kestrel is still kick-ass.