Book Review: “The Midnight Lie” by Marie Rutkoski

Nirrim lives in the Ward, a place where Half Kith can be punished for wearing hairstyles that are “too ornate” or clothing deemed “too colorful” for people of her class. Her entire life, she’s worked hard not to give the militia any reason to notice her; but when the Elysium bird comes to the Ward, she finds herself drawn to its hypnotizing power – a dangerous indulgence for a Half Kith girl. Nirrim’s actions that night lead her to Sid, a mysterious and alluring traveler who will change her life forever.

I’ve never read Marie Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy – but I’ve heard amazing things about it, so I was excited for the chance to read an f/f romance from the same author, set in the same world. After reading only a few chapters, it was easy to see why she’s gained such a passionate readership. I was nearly as breathtaken with the High Kith wonders Nirrim experiences as she must have been, and I love the way Rutkoski meticulously establishes her worldbuilding and its ultimate stakes.

The heart of the work, of course, is Nirrim’s romance with Sid, which unfolds deliciously slowly throughout the novel. Watching the two of them be inexorably drawn to each other was a real delight, and I appreciated that their relationship was given time to develop rather than being rushed along in service to the plot. And I say this even though my expectations/hope that this was a standalone novel were dashed as I neared the conclusion of The Midnight Lie; as they say, it hurts so good.

My one quibble with the book is that the ending didn’t really sit well with me, perhaps because it felt a little rushed – a stark contrast to the slowness I relished in other parts of the book. It also fell prey to a common ailment of series installments: the cliffhanger ending, where we’re meant to gasp at some dramatic closing scene. I was never a big fan of that type of closer, and my intolerance for it has only grown since series have become the norm over the past decade or so. But it didn’t annoy me enough to mar my experience of this otherwise excellent book, and the bright side is that I’ll get to return to this world sometime in the future.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux, for review.