"If you won't be my friend, you'll regret being my enemy."
Oh Kestrel. You can be enormously infuriating, but like Arin I just can't seem to shake you.
I may not totally relate to Kestrel's character but I can empathize with her situation. She made a dangerous choice at the end of The Winner's Curse to save the life of someone she loves at the cost of her own happiness and freedom. She's now ensnared in the emperor's carefully orchestrated web as the future bride of the prince and unfortunately for Kestrel, the emperor has a lot more experience playing war games than she does.
The story is heartbreaking and oozing with tension from the very beginning. The scenes with Arin and Kestrel are poignant but never excessive. Their interactions are full of longing and misunderstanding. However, their romance is woven into the narrative instead of being the focal point of the story. The world's problems are so much bigger than Kestrel and Arin. Other people depend on them and their failures are keenly felt throughout the story.
While the book initially had me hooked, the plot became a little bit bogged down about half-way through the story. I was annoyed by the detour into Kestrel's interactions with Ronan and Jess. I don't quite understand why Kestrel would be so shocked by their behavior toward her. This sub-plot also didn't seem very connected to the rest story. I didn't really care about what happened to Jess or Ronan and their roles were the weakest part of the plot. Their scenes with Kestrel may emphasize her increased isolation but their presence in the story is so minimal to begin with that the impact is lost.
Both Arin and Kestrel have made choices with high-stakes and dire consequences. I cannot wait to see how their journey will conclude in the final book. It definitely won't be easy for either of them.