I was late in discovering The Winner’s Curse, but I ploughed through it in an evening (you can see my recommendation over at the Coven Book Club) and immediately pre-ordered this book. I spent the better part of a week anxiously awaiting its arrival, and once again, I read the book in half a Saturday.
Sequels are funny things. Sometimes they don’t live up to the magic of the first book, other times they make you fall all the more deeply in love with the characters and the world. The Winner’s Crime is undoubtedly in the second category. I devoured each page hungrily, snapping at my fiancé when he dared speak to me (the horror!), and when I finished hied immediately to the internet to see when the final book in the trilogy comes out and if I could pre-order it yet.
There’s less action in this book than in The Winner’s Curse, which means there isn’t much at all as that book was focussed more on social interactions than action. Similarly, The Winner’s Crime is filled with political intrigue and absolutely exquisite dramatic tension. The scenes between Kestrel and Arin are positively delectable, not for any sexual tension but because only we, the audience, know what both are thinking, and the misconceptions are delightfully agonizing. And every time Kestrel finds herself face-to-face with the emperor, the words they exchange might as well be blows from the way Kestrel delicately steps around – or sometimes into – the emperor’s traps.
One of the things I love about Rutkoski’s writing is the imagery:
Spring pinched the world open. Tight buds split along their seams and spilled out their colors. […] Thoughts, too, have their seasons, and [Kestrel] couldn’t stop what worked its way up through the underground of her mind. […] [The thoughts] grew like flowers with fire for petals.
As usual, though, what really made this book as good as its predecessor is the characterisation. The Kestrel and Arin we love from The Winner’s Curse are here, but we see another side to them, and to other characters, like Kestrel’s father. Kestrel grows so much in this book, and it really is a coming-of-age story as she realises how much is wrong with the world she grew up in, and that she can love her father while disapproving of what he does, but also that that doesn’t mean he’s not trying to do the right thing for her.
If you liked The Winner’s Curse, then you’ll want to read this book. Yesterday. If you haven’t read The Winner’s Curse, then you should sort that ASAP.