The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

five dragons

I am not the type to fall helplessly in love with most YA books because it’s so easy to do them badly, but holy crap this series is so underrated. If you like YA and emotionally demanding books you need to read this series.

I hate that no one I personally know has read this series, because I want someone to fangirl (or fanperson?) with. Until then the readers of this blog will have to put up with my squealing, but that’s pretty much what this blog is for so no complaining, peasants.

I read this partly as an audiobook and partly as a physical book and the two parts were separated by a couple weeks. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I’ve done it at least four times this year. Also, I want to point out that I didn’t switch to the physical book because I didn’t like the audiobook. I actually love the audiobook so much, the narrator (Justine Eyre) is perfect. She has great accents and can evoke such emotion that it feels like you’re there in the book. Absolutely recommend Justine Eyre. I switched because I fail at life and didn’t quite finish the audiobook in time and then my library membership expired (yes, that happens) because I no longer live in the same city (to be fair I had it for a year after I moved away) and only happened to find the physical book in my new local library.

Now to the story! I wildly enjoy Kestrel and Arin as a pair and unlike many YA romantic bits they actually have to fight for their relationship. It isn’t like many other books where it’s a “forbidden” love because of something dumb like money or mildly disapproving parents. Kestrel OWNS Arin. He is her slave and while that means something different to Kestrel than it does to most people of her station it still has bearing on their relationship. Obviously if you’re reading this review, I’m assuming you’ve at least read the first book, so you know that by the end of the first book Arin is no longer anyone’s slave, but Kestrel in a way becomes his for a time.

Moving forward and their relationship is even more tangled. They don’t own each other but the emperor owns Arin and Kestrel in a sense and there’s nothing either can really do about it. The whole time I was wondering why the emperor was allowing Kestrel to continue on as she did when it’s fairly clear that she doesn’t want to marry his son, but it’s made clear that it is in large part a favor to her father. She mostly tries to figure out what her role is in all of this and succeeds and fails in equal measure. Arin has one of the best lines in the book: “How can the inconsequence of your life not shame you?” And the vehemence with which it is said in the audiobook gives it even more power.

In the last fourth of the book there comes a time when Arin demands to know the truth about Kestrel. I can see Arin’s feelings in this as Kestrel does a good job of hiding how she truly feels. It’s one of the few books where it actually seemed like there was no choice. Either for Kestrel or for Arin. I honestly don’t know how this series is going to be wrapped up. **spoiler alert** Kestrel’s terror during the scene with her father is so horrifying it takes my breath away. She is literally begging him for help and all he does is turn her in. Maybe that’s how this story will be able to end: Kestrel gives up on her “people” and goes all the way to Arin’s side. Hmm. Or Kestrel’s dad had to act that way to save her. IDK. **end of spoiler**

I’m so emotional about this book and this series. That was quite a cliffhanger and none of the bookstores or libraries near me have the last one. How am I supposed to survive! Wait, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel because I just found it on libro.fm (like Audible, but better because it helps keep local bookstores going) so maybe I’ll get a membership after all.  I’m looking forward to finishing this series and there damn well better be a happy ending.

I would recommend this for any of the YA readers out there especially if you want a story that will make you feel and won’t stop until long after the last page is turned.

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