Overhead view of white girl with blonde hair in blue ballgown with ruffles, looking up and holding a sword in her hands

About the Book

Title: The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2)
Published: 2015
Series: The Winner's Trilogy
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Ham Porter
BFF Charm: Oda Mae Brown
Talky Talk: Other Side of the Coin
Bonus Factors: New Blood, Fancy Dress
Relationship Status: Don’t Leave Me This Way

Spoiler Alert: WARNING! This is Book 2 of The Winner’s Trilogy. Spoilers ahead for Book 1, The Winner’s Curse!

Cover Story: Ham Porter

Ugh. I’m just going to leave this here.

Ham Porter: “You’re killing me, Smalls.”

The Deal:

After a tumultuous history of enslavement and rebellion, the Valorians and the Herrani have reached an uneasy peace. The Herrani have been granted independence, with Arin as their governor — but under heavy taxation to Valoria, obvs. Kestrel has been appointed Herran’s emissary from the Valorian capital, but that’s not the only big change in her life: she’s engaged to the emperor’s son, Verex, in exchange for preventing another war that would obliterate the Herrani. Kestrel’s also finding other ways to covertly help them, but the imperial court is a perilous playground for a treasonous spy…

BFF Charm: Oda Mae Brown

BFF charm of Oda Mae Brown from GHOST

I still love Kestrel something fierce; she can be clever, she can be shrewd, but she can also be in way over her head. It’s one thing to play Bite and Sting against lesser foes, but the devious emperor is a vast upgrade of an opponent. I understand Kestrel’s motivations and admire her bravery, so I wouldn’t exactly dish out a Sassy Gay Friend intervention. But, oh man, there were so many instances of me channeling OMB (har), with “YOU IN DANGER, GIRL.”

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Kestrel’s people conquered Arin’s, and she bought him at a slave auction. He betrayed her, so that his people could overthrow hers. Yeah, these two have obstacles, incl. total lack of communication from the end of the last book to the beginning of this one. Relationship dramz that could be solved by just talking can be frustrating, but it makes sense why Kestrel goes to great lengths to conceal the truth, and Arin totally calls her out on the bullshizz. 

As for Kestrel’s bethrothed, Prince Verex, he’s capable of a little swoon — though, thankfully, not in the context of a love triangle.

Talky Talk: Other Side of the Coin

With the Valorians vacating their former colony of Herran, Kestrel moves into new digs at the imperial palace in Valoria. Royal court is a hotbed of treachery and quiet brutality — but not stupidity. The supporting cast never loses its smarts in service of the plot, elevating them to much more than story decoration. And THAT STORY: it bends and swerves, unfolding to reveal an intricate and unpredictable tapestry.

Arin becomes more of a co-lead in this sequel, as the narration switches between following Kestrel and him (because they’re so sadly separated, SOB). Reliving key moments from the first book through his eyes is as illuminating as it is helpful as reminders of what happened before.

Bonus Factor: New Blood

black background with white words that say "insert new characters here"

In addition to the emperor, who had a brief cameo in the previous installment, this book introduces a lot of new characters that seamlessly fit into this world. (In other words, there’s not a Poochie in the bunch.) My favourite newbie is probably Roshar, somebody that Arin meets who has a dark and twisted sense of humour. 

Bonus Factor: Fancy Dress

Look, I gripe on these covers as much as anyone (see: this very book report), but The Winner’s Crime does have a subplot about a fancy dress. Not one worthy of being visually immortalized, but a fancy dress subplot nonetheless.

Relationship Status: Don’t Leave Me This Way

I’m as devoted as ever to this series, even though the end of its books always have me going, “WHAT? There can’t be no more words! WHADDYA MEAN I HAVE TO WAIT FOR MORE WORDS?!” The Winner’s Crime might have reset the game board again in anticipation of the finale — hell, it might be a different game altogether — but a bridge book this ain’t. Its story more than stands on its own, and it gives me plenty to mull over during the agonizing wait for The Winner’s Kiss.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Farrar Straus Giroux via Raincoast Books. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). The Winner’s Crime will be available March 3.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.