The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
Series: Forgotten Gods #1
Published March 3rd 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: POC lesbian MC, lesbian LI
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.
Before venturing into The Midnight Lie, I wasn’t aware that this book is set in the years following the ending of The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. I believe when I read this book I was only on either book one or book two of the trilogy. Although I didn’t feel the need of finishing the trilogy before reading The Midnight Lie, I think it would’ve helped me with connecting the relationships between the characters, and understanding the setting more.
Obedient, compassionate, and kind, Nirrim helps the people in the slum as much as she could. With picture-perfect memory, Nirrim worked for her adoptive mother with faking documentations. Seemingly satisfied with her life, all Nirrim wanted was to keep a low profile. Despite the numerous times she was emotionally manipulated, Nirrim maintained her desire to please others and not speak bad things about them.
Prior to Sid’s appearance, Nirrim never questioned why things were the way it is. It is as it is was everyone’s reply whenever Nirrim got inquisitive later on. Living behind the wall as Half-Kith, Nirrim was restricted in every aspect of her life. As Half-Kith, everyone has a certain dress code, can only eat certain types of food, and even the buildings they live in have to be uniform while the High Kith lived in luxury and the Middling propagating the situation with inaction. Worse of all, the Half-Kith needs to pay tithes for any crimes.
Ever since Nirrim and Sid met, it was alluded that the latter was hiding something. With some sort of invisible pull, Nirrim couldn’t help but fall for this mysterious traveler.
A rare traveler to Herrath, Sid was surprisingly welcomed by the people. She’s on a mission to find out if magic truly existed in the country. Her mysterious background and bold mannerisms shocked yet attracted others to her.
Little was known about the history behind anything. They lived as if there was but when asked, the citizens could never answer properly. Determined to find out the truth, Nirrim sets out on gaining information. Little revelations were discovered throughout the book that slowly built up to the horrifying conclusion.
Marie Rutkoski’s writing is beautiful and unique. I could imagine the setting clearly and I loved how she described the legends of the gods. If I’m not wrong, the system of the gods in Herrath works in a similar way as it does in the outside world, such as Arin’s god of death, and how the gods are worshiped.
Before you proceed to the next review, make sure that you read The Midnight Lie first! There’ll be spoilers for book one in the review for The Hollow Heart. You’ve been warned.
The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski
Series: Forgotten Gods #2
Published September 9th 2021 by Hodder & Stoughton
Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: POC Lesbian MC, Lesbian LI
At the end of The Midnight Lie, Nirrim offered up her heart to the God of Thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. The Half Kith who once lived imprisoned behind the city’s wall now realize that many among them are powerful. Meanwhile, the person Nirrim once loved most, Sid, has returned to her home country of Herran, where she must navigate the politics of being a rogue princess who has finally agreed to do her duty.
In the Herrani court, rumors begin to grow of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed on the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.
Sid doesn’t know that this queen is Nirrim, who seeks her revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? Does Nirrim even want to be saved? As blood is shed and war begins, Sid and Nirrim find that it might not matter what they want…for the gods have their own plans.
Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher!
Nirrim didn’t hesitate from committing heinous actions once her heart was given to the God of Thieves. Losing her heart meant losing her compassion but it also revealed the truth to the people of Herrath. All I could think was: if she ever comes back, how will Nirrim live with her actions? I could barely recognize Nirrim for who she was in the previous book. Nirrim of the past would never resort to violence and cruelty. It would have destroyed her but Nirrim now deems vengeance and death necessary.
Leaving Nirrim in Herrath plagued Sid the whole way back home but her mother is sick so Sid needs to return. Since Sid sailed away from home after a heated argument with her mother, the tension remained between them. Sid resents her parents for not knowing the real her–that they believed she’s truly as frivolous and unfeeling as others have said about her. While struggling with her feelings towards Nirrim, the betrothal to the Darca prince is slowly suffocating Sid but she recognised the importance of a political union.
Though Nirrim and Sid don’t spend any time together, they consistently thought of one another. Nirrim is back in Herrath with her memories and Sid wondering if she really tried hard enough with Nirrim or not. With each of them dealing with their own problems, the romance remained uncertain. I’m not too concern with the lack of romance, actually, it isn’t even a problem. Frankly, I was invested more in their individual journey and finding out what will happen next than the relationship.
Reading The Hollow Heart a few days after finishing The Winner’s Kiss was a pretty weird experience. Krestel and Arin are now parents and royalty. Although they aren’t significant characters, their presence was still felt throughout the book due to their relationship with Sid and Arin’s connection with the God of Death.
I kind of wish there would be more exploration of the lore behind the hundred different gods but that would take up too much time. I just found that aspect of the books really fascinating so I want to know more. The chapters in the perspectives of “the god” added so much to the overall story. If Marie Rutkoski ever chooses to expand this world, I’m all for it.