It seems that every single problem that I had with the first book only escalated in the second. That is to say, The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski is a story that wants to be epic (and that I wanted to be epic) but only has a cast of two characters. Leaving Those That Don’t Matter to be utterly stereotypical and bland. Albeit charming.

The never-ending relationship drama

Drama isn’t bad. Not at all. It’s just not my thing and that’s why getting through The Winner’s Crime was such a struggle. Because drama is what this book is all about. (Or it sure felt so.)

After the brutal ending of The Winner’s Curse, Arin and Kestrel find themselves wanting each other yet also hating each other because of past betrayals. Trusting her made no sense, Arin himself says, sufficiently summarising the entire issue. He doesn’t understand it. And neither do I. Or, rather, as I reader, I understand it as something that often happens in YA. But as a reader, I also know that this isn’t enough.

Arin and Kestril’s relationship boils down to too much angst and pining without enough to warrant it. They just don’t share enough — interaction, dialogue, time — to convince me that all those sacrifices and all that supposed trust and all that betrayal makes sense. Kestrel doesn’t do the things she does out of some self-righteous streak. She does it for Arin. Arin, too, makes the craziest decisions for someone he himself states he doesn’t even know. That’s not love. That’s lust. I wish those kids learned the difference. It would’ve made their lives so much easier.

…and not much else

To be fair, the relationship drama with its triggers could’ve been a marvellous step towards some major developments. If anything actually happened. But Arin and Kestril’s entire relationship in this book is built on analysing each other, rather than actually working towards building one. I understand why they can’t talk or spend time together but… With nothing new between them, all that monologue gets boring and repetitive very fast. And it doesn’t improve.

The plot doesn’t advance much, either. Which is such a shame. Finally, we get a glimpse of the Empire (or the Big Bad that sure doesn’t feel so) and it’s Emperor (who got way too little screen time for a villain) but they don’t really seem to matter most of the time. Because Kestrel is too busy suffering and yearning.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

And still, it wasn’t bad

I probably make this book sound terrible but it honestly isn’t. It just isn’t for me. I don’t like books that are set in a richly imagined world but have very little interaction in that world. I don’t like books that revolve around two characters and their drama that could’ve been avoided with some basic communication. And I don’t like books that bore me.

But what I truly did like: the politics, the court life, the spying, the conquering, the rebelling. I’m just sad that the characters did not measure up. Because they are charming characters with a lot of potential. They just also like to spend that potential on things I do not like.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Trilogy #2)

The Winner's Trilogy #2

on March 3rd 2015
Romance, Young Adult

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Following your heart can be a crime.

A royal wedding is what most girls dream about. It means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin's freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself? For Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. She's working as a spy in the court. If caught, she'll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can't help searching for a way to change her ruthless world . . . and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret. This dazzling follow-up to The Winner's Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

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Also by the author: The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Kiss

How do you feel about books that revolve mainly around two characters and their love story? Do you get bored? Or is that what you prefer? Do you find a big cast of characters tiresome and confusing?

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