****(*) 4.5 stars for “The Winner’s Crime” by Marie Rutkoski
CAUTION! Potential spoilers ahead, though I will try to keep them to a minimum.
Ebullient, Joyous, Giddy, Eager, Tortured, Dissatisfied, Mad, Hopeful, Delusional, Confused, Apprehensive, Tormented, Raw, Panicked, Gutted.
All words to describe my Coat of Many Reactions while reading “The Winner’s Crime,” book 2 in The Winner’s trilogy. Overall, my emotions through this wild, gut-wrenching ride were pretty much desultory, which basically means that they were fitful and inconstant (can you tell what my dictionary word of the day is? *wink wink*). But the book evoked so many emotions, one right after the other, that I never had a moment to just bask in a single one. . . . Except for the fact that I am in serious need of chocolate at this very moment after finishing the book an hour ago.
Here is the basic breakdown of my mental breakdown:
Ebullient when the book arrived in the mail and I finally had two days to dedicate to reading it. Oh, the sweet ecstasy!
Joyous as I began the first few chapters and was at last able to dive back into Kestrel and Arin’s incredible worlds, knowing that they would soon meet again.
Giddy when Arin and Kestrel do, indeed, meet in such fabulous fashion as a secret rendezvous on a terrace during a ball. And Arin revealing all those emotions–can I get a “who-hah!”? At this point in the book, I’m thinking we’re off to a great start, because where zer iz romanz, zer iz blooming love! And getting interaction between the two as early as Chapter 8 is a good sign. I. Was. Soaring.
And while we’re on the subject, I would like to give a shout-out to Chapter 8. *slyly* You know why. It’s like Rutkoski has this gift for making you think you’ve eaten the entire ice cream cone as it melts into nothing in your hand. So tortuously awesome!
Eager: Go on, go ahead. Just. KIIIIIISSSSSS!
Tortured when it becomes apparent they can’t be together, but they must—they simply must! So I waited expectantly, because these things always turn around. They will meet again.
Dissatisfied when such moments end sans resolution and without a little something to keep me warm at night.
Mad at each instant that they were together, but either the emperor was watching, Arin was upset with Kestrel for not being honest, and Kestrel felt she couldn’t be honest with Arin because it would endanger his life because the emperor was watching. You’re ruining my ship!
But I don’t really, Arin, because I love you.
Hopeful in those brief moments where they were together and when I could see inside Arin’s head and realized that he is still completely in love with her, and I knew that Kestrel was doing all of this sneaking around because she loves him, too, and was only trying to protect him.
Delusional because I kept forgetting that this is only Book II and that she can’t resolve everything to my satisfaction so early in the trilogy.
Yeah, thanks for that little sloth. You totally led me astray!
Apprehensive when I discovered that plans were being made behind the scenes that I as a reader had yet to see unveiled. . . . This can’t be good, but I still believed it would all work out. . . . Why are you smiling at me, Rutkoski?
Confused: Wait, what’s happening? Why is he going home? No, no, that’s not how it goes. GO BACK! (this was about 12:30am this morning)
Tormented when I realized Arin isn’t coming back because of the burning flame of anger and his own torment inside of him, raging like the flames that destroy the plains. But why does he have to go?
Raw because Marie has a way of gutting you and making you like it.
Panicked as I become aware of the fact that the page number is dwindling and resolution is nowhere to be found. If I read faster, I’m sure there will be a silver lining.
Eek! Go away, truth!
Gutted as the book ends and … and … Well, I can’t spoil that for you. But suffice it to say that Book III in this trilogy better come quick, because I need answers.
Numb? Maybe numb. I can’t tell. I can’t feeeeeeeeeel!
Overall, “The Winner’s Crime” is a fantastic sequel, and Rutkoski’s writing never once lagged or became less gorgeous and descriptive and fantastically amaze-balls than in “Curse.” I still had a few issues with it, but it was more personal preference, and even then these discrepancies didn’t bother me so much because they kind of knit the story together. Of course I loved Arin and his honesty, but I sometimes became frustrated when he wouldn’t acknowledge what was right in front of his face–that Kestrel was still in love with him–and just take her in his arms and steal her away. I was desperately waiting for a moment of peaceful resolution between them that never truly came, and although I’m sure this will come in the final installment, I really, reeeeally wanted it now. Each moment they were together was like holding your breath during a long pause while each character decided what to do, and then after five minutes of sucking on carbon dioxide, you exhale and realize that nothing happened. But the author makes you want it each page, and so you keep forging ahead to get it, and their dialogues are so intimate that sometimes you come away without realizing that you didn’t get very much. So well played, Rutskoski. Well, played.
This book is a lot of things, but most of all it is a well written, beautiful piece of imagery and intricate worlds fashioned from great imagination. Rutkoski constructed a fantastically complicated plot and cast of characters that will steal your heart and, if you’re like me, steal away two days spent intensely reading and then consume the rest of your life. True story. All in all, I highly recommend this series and beg you to enjoy every minute of Arin and Kestrel’s togetherness (Chapter 8) and all the beautiful words (Chapter 8) and each complication of the plot (Chapter 8) and, well, if you hadn’t already guessed, Chapter 8. But now that it’s over, I feel a little empty. . . .
Oh, look, another book to distract me for the next year until the final installment is released. My hands have meaning again!
“Prove that you want him,” he said into her hair.
“I do,” she said, but her voice sounded like she was drowning.
His kiss was there, waiting near her lips. “Liar,” he breathed.