Book Review

The Midnight Lie and The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski

Genre | YA Fantasy
Page #s | 358 and 384
Publishing Date | March 2020 and September 2021

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, beloved author Marie Rutkoski returns with an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves.


I fell in love with Rutkoski when I read The Kronos Chronicles years ago, and it was such a fun experience to rediscover her and find that her writing has become super queer! The Midnight Lie and The Hollow Heart are a fantasy duology about magic, oppression, and revenge with a lot to say about how people respond to abuse.

I have very mixed feelings about these books. On one hand, I tore through them both; the dialogue sparkles (particularly in the first book), the worldbuilding is engaging, and the plot advances quickly (too quickly in the second book). On the other hand, plot twists hinge on my pet peeve, miscommunication, and the second book introduces an entirely new world that only gets half the book’s attention but was fully more interesting to me.

Some of the broader strokes aren’t tight or clean enough, but it’s the details in which Rutkoski excels. Nirrim’s character development is compelling as she resists seeing and then realizes her abuse (both personally and systemically). Her reactions felt very human, by which I mean they are often messy and not “correct.” Sid has shades of manic pixie in the first book, but she is fully fleshed out in the second. Her rebellion against her parents without actually talking to them about what they want for her was excruciating but very teenager. And her parents! Where is THEIR story? I want it.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

The Midnight Lie and The Hollow Heart are perfect books to read if you want a quick, queer, fantasy palate cleanser.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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