The Winner’s Crime

20443207by Marie Rutkoski
YA Fantasy / YAFiction
4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by the first book in this trilogy, and I grabbed this one as soon as I could. I enjoyed it even more than the first! The few clunky missteps establishing the first book weren’t present in this one. It was smooth, cat-and-mouse royal court intrigue from beginning to end, and I loved watching it play out. As with the first book, I was never quite sure what would happen next, and that is the best praise I can give.

Kestrel and Arin are rarely together, which could have been disappointing, but I felt their plot lines were stronger when they were kept apart. The growing internal tension they both experienced made their decisions feel so real. Jess isn’t the dumb best friend that Kestrel assumed she was, and she pressed the flip side of Kestrel’s assertive nature with the declaration that Kestrel never does anything against her will. Despite feeling cornered and caught between horrible options, part of Kestrel’s trap is being known for going her own way, and this betrayal from her own nature was brilliant. Her internal unraveling under the unending pressure of her new life as the future empress made her character arc so believable, and I really fell in love with her in this book. Arin’s struggle to discover Kestrel’s true feelings amidst his own political responsibilities was equally moving. These characters came to life and I can’t wait for the final book!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Winner’s Crime is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas – A YA fantasy series following assassin Celaena Sardothien as she uncovers a plot in the kingdom and her own destiny. This has similar court intrigue with a bit more magic and adventure. See my review here.
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – The second in a trilogy about Alina, the Sun Summoner who realizes the kingdom’s most powerful sorcerer, the Darkling, isn’t all that he seems.
  • Rook by Sharon Cameron – A retelling of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Sophie Bellamy is pushed into an arranged marriage, then discovers her fiance is more than meets the eye. This is almost a relief, because she has a secret too. See my review here.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Katsa decides to rebel against her uncle the king when a foreign prince asks for her help with finding his grandfather. This is beautifully told and rich in detail. See my review here.
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – This quartet about four different women from fairy tales is an excellent genre-mashing epic. Scarlet becomes concerned about her missing grandmother, and reluctantly trusts a street-fighter named Wolf to see if they can find her. But when Cinder crashes into their lives, things get more complicated. See my review here.
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – Shazi swore to avenge her best friend’s murder and kill the king responsible for so many girls’ deaths. But when she volunteers to be his next bride, she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding his court of death. See my review here.
  • Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat – (An m/m romance for mature readers). Damen and Laurent have begun to build trust between them to combat the regent’s schemes, but all of it could come crashing down at any moment if they don’t continue to stay one step ahead. The plot and characters are incredible! See my review here.
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The Winner’s Curse

16069030by Marie Rutkoski
YA Fantasy / YA Fiction
4 of 5 stars

I was skeptical at first but this book won me over. At first glance it had too many tropes–the girl caught between two loves, one perfect but boring, the other fiery but impossible–the best friend who is just around to gossip, the militant father (in more than one sense), blond white people enslaving darker people, the fate of two kingdoms hinging on the relationship between Kestrel the general’s daughter and Arin the slave.

However, this book was nothing like I expected. First of all, the pacing was so fast! Instead of spending long chapters agonizing over issues, the short chapters with cliff hangers flew by–I couldn’t put this book down for long. The continually rising stakes in the cat-and-mouse games between Kestrel and Arin, Kestrel and… okay everyone she encounters, was incredibly satisfying. To have characters outsmarting and out-gambling their opponents was awesome. And it helped balance the few amateur mistakes made early on, because yes, Kestrel and Arin both had a few lapses in judgment that were exasperating. I’m still not entirely sure if I understand why they are in love–if it’s even strong enough to call it that–but I suppose everyone wants something forbidden.

Fast-paced, strategic, with an eye for efficient world-building and power plays–I’ll definitely be finishing this series!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Winner’s Curse is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Meira has lived her whole life in exile, working towards freeing the kingdom Winter from Spring’s tyrannical grip. But the process involves more than luck and magic–it pits Meira into a world of politics and strategy that might be beyond her. See my review here.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Alina’s unique abilities present an opportunity to save her kingdom from the spreading darkness–if that’s all the Darkling truly wants. This has a similar relationship between two main characters and a similar tone. See my review here.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Speaking of star-crossed relationships that could ignite a war, Karou’s mysterious past finally finds her, but in the way she least expects. This is probably the most similar to The Winner’s Curse. See my review here.
  • Rook by Sharon Cameron – A fun, fast-paced adventure following another pair of strategists as they spy, plot and slip around each other trying to free innocent victims from the violent city’s regime. See my review here.
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – The evolving relationship between the king who killed so many girls after one night, and Shazi, the girl determined to avenge them, set against the backdrop of political intrigue and mystery. See my review here.
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Mare Barrow finds herself with the people she hates most – the supernaturally powerful Silver-blooded royal family – after a strange display of her own gift. The gift she shouldn’t have, because she’s Red-blooded. Spies, plots, and twists abound as Mare navigates her new life and tries to find a way to free the oppressed Reds before she’s killed. See my review here.
  • Old Magic by Marianne Curley – Kate is inexplicably drawn to the new boy at school – and once she realizes it’s because she needs to break his family’s deadly curse, they have to work fast before he is the next victim. This is a light YA fantasy with some fun twists.

Silver in the Blood

22929540by Jessica Day George
YA Fantasy / YA Urban Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

To be honest, this is probably my biggest book disappointment of 2015. That sounds bad, but I actually plan to read the sequel! So let me explain myself…

All the right elements are there: it’s set in Romania, we follow cousins Lou and Dacia as they discover their family secrets, magic comes into play when they least expect it, and of course the cover art is gorgeous! From the blurb I expected….something completely different from what I read.

It doesn’t really matter that it’s set in Romania. Aside from (unending) descriptions of Parisian vs Romanian dresses, there are no details bringing Romania to life. It’s any typical urban fantasy setting of small towns and forests. The family secrets and magic take 204 pages to reveal. The book is not much longer than that….so for the majority of it I was sitting around waiting for something to happen as the cousins discuss how clueless they are, too. By the time things start happening, there’s been enough foreshadowing to remove the tension from most of the climax. This story shouldn’t have felt so dull, but it was.

Finally, the end of the book bothered me simply because I couldn’t figure out the tone of this story. It’s extremely light-hearted most of the time, with a few disturbing paragraphs thrown in that unbalance it all. I liked Lou and Dacia, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of story they were in, and unfortunately they couldn’t either.

Despite all this, I’m going to stick around for the next book! This one seemed to be a lot of setup, but now that the framework is in place, I’m hoping the sequels have a bit more zip to them.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Silver in the Blood is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare – One of the chief comparisons to this novel, it has more magic, romance, and excitement. This is a really fun trilogy set in Victorian London. Tessa is a shape-shifter trying to discover her origins with the help of the London Institute’s Shadowhunters.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – The other chief comparison to this novel-this follows Gemma Doyle at a Victorian England finishing school where she accidentally unearths the secrets to an ancient power with the help of her three friends. This is a typical boarding school environment where the events between classes have you turning the pages.
  • Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede – An epistolary novel between two girlfriends as they handle English high society and a series of strange, magical events.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I hoped Silver in the Blood would be more like this…a Russian-inspired setting with dark magic and court intrigue. See my review here.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Set largely in Prague, this has more of the flavor and fast pacing that I hoped to find in Silver in the Blood. See my review here.
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – When it’s a normal girl discovering some alarming shape-shifters within her community, look no further than miss Bella Swan, the hapless protagonist in this paranormal quartet. Before the wing, claw and smoke there were just some vampires and werewolves. I found the first book to be the most enjoyable but if the characters grab you, settle in for a thousand pages. See my review here.
  • Written in Red by Anne Bishop – Meg can see the future when her skin is cut. She escapes her captors and takes shelter among the most unlikely group possible-the shape-shifters known as the Others. See my review here.

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