The Winner's Crime

352p. (The Winner's Trilogy: Bk. 2). Farrar. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374384708; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780374384715.
Gr 9 Up—A romantic's romance novel, this second volume in Rutkoski's saga picks up where The Winner's Curse (2013) ended. Kestrel, a member of the Valorian ruling class, is engaged and will one day rule the empire. Meanwhile, Arin, Kestrel's former slave, is the leader of the Herrani people, and his subjects are starving thanks to the emperor's taxes. Kestrel is torn between her need to help Arin and her loyalty to her father, a general in the imperial army. Arin, in turn, is unraveled by his uncertainties: Is the woman he loves a power-hungry liar, or is she the spy who is supplying treasonous information that might just help him save his people? Some of Arin and Kestrel's misunderstandings and missed opportunities are more histrionic than wildly romantic, and though the plot is saturated with sword fights, subterfuge, and glittering parties, it isn't suspenseful as the previous entry. Poetic passages demonstrate the depth of Rutkoski's research and talent. "It suddenly seemed that Kestrel had been an empty room, and that all of her wishes came crowding in. They thronged: delicate, full-skirted, their silk brushing up against each other." The ending finds the protagonists again divided and facing life-threatening dilemmas, each thinking of the other. The last sentence resonates so strongly that it might just be enough to sustain fans until the first line of the final volume.—Chelsey Philpot, Boston University, MA
Kestrel (The Winner's Curse), newly betrothed to the Valorian emperor's son, tries to hide her feelings for her former slave Arin, now the governor of Herran. Her divided loyalties, however, make it difficult for her to navigate the labyrinthine political landscape of the imperial court. Kestrel's strategic brilliance against her many ruthless enemies will delight fans of Game of Thrones–esque fantasy epics.

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