The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Wow. I’m still reeling from this book. As this was the sequel to The Winner’s Curse, I had pretty high expectations. In terms of plot, my expectations were met (again, I had really high expectations!) It starts were we’ve left off, Kestrel is engaged to Prince Verex, the emperor’s son, in exchange for Herran’s freedom. Trapped in her own web, Kestrel feels powerless. Until, that is, the Herrani arrive. Only two of them, the Minister of Agriculture named Tensen and newly appointed Governor Arin. Arin confronts her immediately at her engagement ball, asking for the reason she left him, why she’s marrying the prince, why Herran’s free, and Kestrel answers nothing. She’s scared, confused, and doesn’t want Arin to get involved. Better he be mad at her than dead. But Minister Tensen takes a stealthier approach. At an art gala, he and Kestrel successfully make a deal, and she is Herran’s newest spy, known as “Moth”. As Kestrel desperately tries to break free of her own trappings, she uncovers a slough of secrets and realizes they one she holds most dear might just have the biggest secret of them all. I loved this book, but I can definitely see why some others wouldn’t. This book was, plainly, just setting the stage for the final book, The Winner’s Kiss, so naturally there isn’t a lot of action (although I suspect the next book will make up for this). It’s mostly court intrigue and spying, which is really different from the action-packed first book. However, the slow stage setting isn’t so bad, because it really gives us a window into other new characters’ world and dilemmas and even more into Kestrel and Arin’s life.

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