The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
Release date: March 3, 2020
An e-galley was provided by Macmillan via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Marie Rutkoski has done it again. She has created complex characters, relationships, and settings. In The Midnight Lie, she expands the world we already know from The Winner's Curse books, by introducing us to a whole new nation and flirting with the ideas of gods and magic that were first played around with via Arin in her earlier trilogy. While I admittedly loved to see a fantasy world without magic, it's very uniquely dealt with here. In some ways, The Midnight Lie felt like a dystopian novel, based on how the Half Kith are expected to live.
I could hardly put The Midnight Lie down because I kept learning new things about the world, and the way Marie wrote things made me want to learn more - about the characters (Nirrim, Sid, Raven, others), the way the castes worked, if and how there was magic, and where this island nation fit into the larger world of the former Valorian empire. There are definitely mentions/appearances of a few familiar characters, and I found descriptions of them a little hard to reconcile with the characters I'd come to love in The Winner's Curse, but that might be expected. One could certainly read The Midnight Lie without reading the earlier trilogy, but I think it's a richer experience to read this after.
Through this book, Marie also explored what love really is and how we can be so blind to abuse and flaws.
The end is very startling, and I'll be interested as to where the sequel takes things. I'm a bit uncertain still, as to how I feel about Nirrim's state on the last page. But Marie is certainly good at taking her characters to rock bottom and bringing them back, so we'll see!
Content warnings: emotional and verbal abuse, characters drugged by magic, violence and mild torture, fade-to-black sex scene
The Verdict: Quietly good, but I hope this title will make a splash.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Definitely.