Review of The Midnight Lie

The Midnight Lie
by Marie Rutkoski
High School    Farrar    358 pp.
3/20    978-0-374-30638-0    $18.99

As a member of the Half Kith (the lowest, most oppressed caste in society), Nirrim is focused on avoiding the notice of the militia, who extract tithes of blood, hair, and teeth from Half Kith they claim have broken laws. When a magical bird flies into the Ward, Nirrim is arrested trying to return it to the militia. She ends up in jail with a charismatic scofflaw named Sid, whom she mistakes for male. Sid gets her out of jail (at which point Nirrim realizes her mistake). Now no longer content with her unadventurous, risk-averse life, she forges herself a passport, goes along with Sid, and together they make a compact to discover the source of the magic the High Kith get to use. Soon, Nirrim falls for Sid. The mysterious connection between magic and the tithes is spun out with excellent suspense, which, along with the assured writing and wealth of fantasy invention, will keep readers avidly turning pages, while the romance (including Nirrim’s internalized homophobia) has enough twists to be both sensational and satisfying. Nirrim’s foster mother’s “love” will ring alarm bells for anyone who’s known an abusive relationship; meanwhile, Nirrim’s progression from timid victim to dogged activist unfolds powerfully. Don’t expect a happily-ever-after from Rutkoski (the Winner’s trilogy, set in this same world), but do grasp at the remaining loose ends in hope of a sequel.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Anita L. Burkam
Anita L. Burkam
Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkam is former associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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