Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)
Release Date: March 12th 2015
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 5 stars
Lady Kestrel’s engagement to Valoria’s crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust …
While Arin fights to keep his country’s freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.
Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking Winner’s trilogy.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This has been one of those books which left me speechless and overwhelmed. No doubt this book is well written with brilliant plot twists and vivid characters. But the one thing it managed to do which only good books can accomplish is to leave me in a puddle of emotions.
In the previous book, Kestrel ensures Arin’s freedom by sacrificing her own. But despite the fact that she is now in a very dangerous position with few allies, Kestrel passes information to Herran and defies the emperor. Considering how she’s also constantly underestimated by the people around her, Kestrel finds ways to gain an advantage no matter the cost.
In reality, there is not a lot more I can actually say about the plot without dropping spoilers but I must add that there is so much subtext crammed into every sentence so watch out when you read this book. Also, please take note that the dialogue is painfully realistic and littered with double-meanings.
The romance between Kestrel and Arin is smoldering. It’s bitter and painful, but also passionate. Reading the dialogue exchanged between them just made me feel so strung out. Truth be told, Kestrel and Arin are actually equals. They are both honorable individuals who are willing to sacrifice what they can to save their countries.
Kestrel is such a beautiful, brave character and so many times throughout the book, I was staring at my Kindle like “what just happened?!” And the fact that Kestrel takes everything in stride and continues to outwit the emperor really made me respect her even more. In this book, Kestrel is so much more than a high-class Valorian girl in love with a Herrani. She’s a complex heroine who makes her own decisions that we can at-least understand if not agree with.
I ached for poor Arin whose misunderstandings with Kestrel caused him grief. Their first meeting seemed especially brutal for him because his advances are rejected even though their feelings are mutual. Their later encounters are just as angst-filled and I could feel my frustration building at all the misunderstanding between them. But of-course the conflict is there for a reason and everything plays out accordingly.
There were quite a few other interesting characters we get introduced to in this book. Some of my favorites are the Emperor, Tensen, Verex and Risha. The Emperor is portrayed as this cold, calculating man who takes a casual approach to inflicting pain.He cares about the consequences of his actions – in the way that you care if you’ve won something. He is a powerful, dangerous man who isn’t to be trifled with. His son, on the other hand, came off as kind of pathetic in comparison. In fact, he couldn’t seem to hold his own in any game – real or otherwise and my opinion of him just kept growing worse. His relationship with Risha is never explicitly elaborated on but there are hints about them being more than childhood friends. Tensen fascinated me because he was clearly a lot more than the minister of agriculture
So basically this book is filled with angst and unexpectable plot twists…and really drove me crazy! I totally recommend it so go read it!