by Marie Rutkoski
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Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. 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…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.
“Sometimes you think you want something,” Arin told him, “when what you need is to let it go.”
Fucking seriously? Is this series incapable of not crushing my heart into a thousand tiny pieces after each installment ends?? A whirlwind of angst, heartbreak, heartache, doubt, and self-sacrifice to the FULLEST extent, I could barely breathe through most of this story. It was harsh. It was evil. There wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat….Agh. Who am I kidding? I fucking loved it.
Like she had broken her own heart. Kestrel felt the pieces of her heart suddenly, as if love had been an object, something as frail as a bird’s egg, its shell an impossible cloudy pink. She saw the shock of it’s bloody yolk. She felt the shards of shell pricking her throat and lungs.
This installment, to me, was more about the sacrifices we make for love. It still had the forbidden love elements, sure, but a lot of the story was centered around heartbreak for Kestrel. And, essentially, heartbreak for me. It was so hard to already be in a bad mood and try to differentiate my emotions from Kestrel’s. I think that was my biggest struggle with this story-our emotions meshed together a little too well. So maybe in a different time or place I’d have given this a five, but for my mood this weekend, I don’t feel I got that ‘5’ feeling. But I digress.
“If you won’t be my friend, you’ll regret being my enemy.”
Like I said before, this story was quite vastly different from the first book. The first book was all about how Kestrel bought Arin, how Arin loathed her for who she was and how she began to open up to him. How she would take him as an escort to functions and how he began to see how cunning, smart, wise, brave she was. We got to see him break down his barriers and earlier thoughts of how spoiled and privileged she was and, ultimately, fall madly in love with her…and she him. They developed a camaraderie built on crushed hopes and unrealistic dreams, but they loved deeply, all the same. It was beautiful and magnetic and it was most assuredly a favorite of 2014, for me. And while there was still a magnetic pull to this story, it was more devastating than anything. What would it be like to give up your one true love to keep him safe? What would it be like to have him begging you to be honest, begging you to tell him what he did wrong? How would that make you feel when, in fact, he had done nothing wrong but steal your heart?
He saw her honesty with him. She offered it like a cup of clear water that he drank deep.
Her tears, glinting in the dark.
Her fierce creature of a mind: sleek and sharp-clawed and utterly unwilling to be caught.
Arin saw Kestrel step between him and punishment as if it meant nothing instead of everything.
I was so emotionally charged while I read this story. I was covering my mouth, gasping out loud, and pulling my hair out. There was never a good end to this story. I knew that. Kestrel knew that. Arin didn’t, but boy did he begin to see it that way. The King was an evil, conniving son of a bitch, and he was the main reason I couldn’t breathe through this story. He watched Kestrel’s every move. He watched Arin’s every move. He watched his son’s every move…and when Kestrel’s father came back into the story, it only added an extra layer of oh shit and me pulling more of my hair out.
“Lower your voice,” Kestrel hissed at Arin. “Stop being so-”
His smile came: quick, true, surprised by itself. Then changing, and slow.”I could be worse.”
“I am sure.”
“I could tell you how.”
Loyalty is key. Stay loyal? Stay alive. Who’s the most loyal to the crown? A general would be, one would think. Name a general-Kestrel’s father. Name someone who isn’t truly loyal to the crown-Hmmmm, Kestrel? Add Arin to the mix. Add a little emotional angst because Arin just doesn’t know what he did wrong. Maybe add some deceit, lies, betrayals. Put them all in a palace with spies and evil knights who do the King’s bad deeds behind closed doors. Add some sneaking around and trying to help Arin out, secretly, behind the King’s back…and what do you have??? You have one of hell of a story on your hands, my friends.
Pain seared from forehead to cheek. Red flooded Arin’s left eye. He was blinking, he was half-blind, he was desperate to know if someone can still blink if an eye has been gouged out. He wept blood. His face had split. He could feel air inside the parted flesh, and his hand instinctively went to it.
Lies. Lies lies lies lies lies. Secrets and secrets and misunderstandings and assumptions and lots of heartbreak. Hope….bleak hope. And then that door closes on you, too. I still think book one was way more addicting for me, but I also think my mood was effected this weekend for my own personal reasons. I WILL be reading this series again before the final release, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to be giving this a five next time. Read these-they are beyond beautiful and the writing is still so poetic….and they’ll rip your heart to shreds, just like mine.
COME TO MAMA
I’ve been waiting a year for this Muaha!