I would rather have you for a little time than no time at all. I will remember you perfectly. My memory will touch your skin, your lips. The memory will hurt, but it will be mine.
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.
Being a fan of the Winner’s trilogy and a lesbian, this was one of my most anticipated books of 2020. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, no. But that doesn’t mean it was bad. The Midnight Lie is a decent start to a series and, more importantly, a story with one of my favorite F/F romances.
There are only four characters in this story that really matter: Nirrim, Sid, Raven, and Aden. Nirrim, the protagonist, starts the story as a painfully naïve nineteen-year-old girl. She’s a difficult perspective to read from due to this. Although she has an understandably limited view of the world, she is far more naïve than the other girls in her situation.
That said, as Nirrim learns more about the truth of her country and the people she’s supposed to trust, she becomes easier to root for. She proves to be very resourceful and intelligent. Moreover, despite being raised to believe same-sex relationships are forbidden, she’s able to experience her attraction to Sid shamelessly. I really appreciated that. So yeah, Nirrim is a character that really grows on you.
Sid, meanwhile, I loved from her introduction. She’s a rake with a heart of gold, a trope I didn’t know I needed in a female character. She’s a flirt, but also has a fundamental sense of right and wrong. She’s also got her own inner complexities, which she seeks to bury by declaring herself a liar. Adorably, it is Sid who falls faster than Nirrim.
Raven is Nirrim’s sort-of adoptive mother and employer. Unfortunately, she’s not a good person. I found Raven to be a very good example of an emotionally abusive parental figure. She manipulates Nirrim, dangling her love in the girl’s face to get her to do what she wants. As frustrating as it is that Nirrim trusts Raven as long as she does, it makes sense.
Aden is Nirrim’s sort-of boyfriend. She’s not into him, but he’s into her and she and Raven need him to continue forging passports for their people. He’s as manipulative and abusive as Raven, though he doesn’t see himself that way. He genuinely believes he’s a good guy. I honestly hated him as much as I hated Raven.
As I said in my intro, I loved the romance between Nirrim and Sid. It was honestly my favorite part of the book. They have great flirtatious banter. I appreciated getting to see them slowly fall for each other, while not insisting they’re suddenly madly in love. Also, they have a healthy sex life. Yes, that’s right— sapphic women get to have sex in this book. It’s still fade to black because this is YA, but it’s there and I’m so happy.
There’s also the way we leave off the romance. Rutkoski really takes a risk here, one that pays off and will up the angst factor in the next book. In fact, the whole ending of The Midnight Lie promises to take this story in a direction I haven’t seen before. It’s got me really excited for the sequel.
I also really love this world. Well, the area where the High Kith live at any rate. It feels really whimsical, but with a sinister undercurrent. Rutkoski does a great job creating a vivid world in this story.
There’s lots of great representation in this book. Nirrim is a woman of color with explicitly brown skin. In fact, I believe her entire country is mostly people of color, as white Sid is described as appearing very foreign. Nirrim is, of course, also sapphic. Sid is explicitly a gender non-conforming lesbian. In fact, queerness isn’t a big deal in every part of this world. That’s always a plus in my book.
Unfortunately, I do have my gripes with this book. The plot doesn’t really kick off until the final 40-50%. The first chunk of this book is filled with a lot of lollygagging. I would’ve preferred the book got down to business sooner than it actually does.
I also found that writing style to read like lower YA. I would’ve expected it to read upper YA with crossover appeal, given the two main characters are both at least nineteen (Sid is never given an age, but is explicitly older than seventeen and implied to be the same age as Nirrim or slightly older). There’s an incongruence here that stopped me from enjoying this novel fully.
Lastly, I hated the way this story connects to the Winner’s trilogy. Without giving spoilers, it forces characters from the original series to act unlike themselves. Or perhaps they just act in ways I don’t like, considering I love said characters. I hope we get more clarity on this in the sequel.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s not perfect, but it more than makes up for its flaws. I also find myself looking back on it far more positively than I’d initially expected. I thought perhaps my rating was generous, but I think I was right on the money. The Midnight Lie is a wonderful start to a no doubt incredible series. And that’s no lie.
Abuse from a parent & significant other
Have you read The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments!