The Midnight Lie Book Review



The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

From Goodreads: 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.

Thanks so much to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me this gorgeous ARC in return for an honest review.

It’s been quite a while since I picked up a Marie Rutkoski book. Her last series, The Winner’s Curse trilogy was packed with beautiful prose, sizzling romances, and some really awesome characters. So, as weird as it sounds, I was kind of in two minds about The Midnight Lie, especially when I heard that the book would be set in the same universe as the trilogy. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried. Anyone who hasn’t read The Winner’s Curse series (or like me, has a sieve-like memory for settings and world building) should be perfectly capable of picking up The Midnight Lie without having to do a bunch of homework first. There were a few mentions here and there based on other countries and some political/foreign policy stuff that I am about 90% alludes to Rutkoski’s other work, but it’s still definitely a book that stands on its own and doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of the other series. If anything, I think fans who remember a lot of details from TWC books will probably smile wryly at the information and allusions, and then continue on. That’s it, really.

Initially, The Midnight Lie was a little difficult to sink my teeth into. The prose is… odd, especially to begin with. I know that doesn’t sound especially eloquent but it is just a bit unique and hard to wrap your head around to start with. It’s quite lyrical and flowery, and there’s a lot of glimpses into the character’s mind and thought process. But Nirrim also sees things, almost like a hallucination, so it can be kind of unsettling and difficult to come to terms with how she views the world around her, and how she describes these things. It also makes the pacing a little slow to start with, but it’s definitely worth powering through.

Character-wise, the book is definitely strong. Nirrim is fantastic, and I love how fleshed out she is and how she somehow manages to both be a survivor, and also come across as quite naïve and innocent. There are some moments in the book that might make readers eye-roll at how oblivious Nirrim is, but honestly, it was quite refreshing to see these situations given exploration in a YA book. I will say that there’s potentially some CWs for manipulation and abuse. I’m not personally sure if it’s something that should/would be addressed by Hodder or Rutkoski on the cover/in an intro to the book, or not, but I’m still mentioning it because it’s possible that people who have experienced similar behaviour might struggle with some scenes in the book. I personally think it is handled really well, but again I am coming at this with my own unique opinions, and it might not reflect what other people think. Sid is my favourite character. She was so mysterious and sneaky and infuriating, but also just marvellous in every way. Some of her secrets were pretty easy to figure out (or at least I thought so) but she definitely kept me on my toes throughout the story, and there were some twists and turns with her story that I did not expect.

The romance was also just breath-taking. Just so beautiful and amazing. There was a slight element of instalove in there, admittedly, but it was very well-written and felt organic. I liked that Rutkoski also wrote an LGBTQ+ romance that was so heavily character driven, and that wasn’t focused on coming out. While I appreciate that coming out stories are important, I also love when fantasy worlds don’t just mirror the realities of our world, and being LGBTQ is viewed differently. A lot of the narrative is focussed on this romance, and I think the magic mystery stuff is more of a sub-plot if I’m looking at it objectively, but I think this works in the book’s favour. We see so much of these characters and learn so much about them through their blossoming romance, so I don’t really mind that the other plot elements take a bit of a back-seat to them. Especially since this is the first book in a series.

I do also think the world-building was particularly well executed. I’m still not entirely sure about some of the mythology woven through the book, but I liked how there was lots of discussion about class and rules based on a society that revolves around status. Again, I thought this was handled very well. The magic did at times feel a bit odd, especially since it sometimes didn’t feel like a fantasy novel, but ultimately I quite enjoyed its inclusion. I think a lot of the magic use was creative and imaginative, and in some ways, the descriptions of the parties and the magic used at them kind of reminded me of Caraval and, to some extent, Harry Potter.

I definitely think this is a very unique fantasy book. The writing style is quite flowery in places, especially at the beginning, but once you get used to it, it does give the book a unique flavour. And I thought this worked well to give Nirrim a very defined voice. I don’t think the writing style will suit everyone, but it made the book stand out for me.

Overall, I’d give The Midnight Lie 9.5/10 stars. I thought the world-building and characters were very well-written and the book explores some areas I haven’t seen many YA books cover before. While the book is set in the same world as Rutkoski’s first series, it isn’t required reading, and I found The Midnight Lie perfectly accessible without refreshing my memory. I’m already quite excited for the follow up novel, especially since the plot really cranks up towards the end, and I fell in love with the characters and their stories. Definitely recommending this one to people who like a lot of romance in their YA, and quite flowery, lyrical prose.

Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤


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