I started this eagerly and then stalled about two hundred pages into it, because the lack of communication between Kestrel and Arin was just killing me. Which on the one hand speaks for Rutkoski’s skill — I was worried about the characters and their relationship, not purely frustrated with the kind of plot I hate — and on the other meant I put it aside for a while, because wanting to scream just communicate damn it! at other people’s characters is not my favourite feeling. Fortunately, I did pick it back up, and then raced through the rest; I think it just took taking a step back and letting some of the arghiness dissipate!
As for that relationship — well, it remains rocky, of course. One reaches out and the other pulls back; miscommunications and missteps make everything difficult; love and loyalty come between them. And, of course, the brief periods where one owned the other (either outright or de facto in the way Arin owned Kestrel after the rebellion — she certainly wasn’t free!). And I find myself hoping for them as an outcome more than I did in the first book, and seeing it as a relationship that could work. (Provided they start communicating and stop making dumb assumptions — Arin, I’m looking at you.)
What really broke me in this book, though, was Kestrel’s relationship with her father. GAAAH. No spoilers, but love and loyalty is again an issue, and the emperor is a cold, manipulative, clever ruler. Actually, the person he reminds me of most in literature would be President Snow. There’s a similarity with the theatrical manoeuvring, the spectacle, and the lies.
I’m glad I have The Winner’s Kiss to go onto already, even though I am stupidly late getting to the ARC. The story remains engaging, the world intriguing: I have to know how things resolve.