The Midnight Lie

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Mar. 2020. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374306380.
Gr 9 Up–Rutkoski brings readers back to the world of “Winner’s Trilogy” 20 years later. The motto, “It is as it is,” rules the Ward, where Half Kith are imprisoned. The smallest infractions are paid with deeply personal tithes, like hair, blood, or eyes. Brown-skinned Nirrim, the naive, unreliable narrator plagued with visions, keeps her head down, forging passports to help Half Kith escape the ward, the first of the “midnight lies,” those that fall between right and wrong, or are told for someone else’s benefit. When Nirrim is thrown in prison she meets Sid, who is presented as an amiable chap with a love of danger, a mysterious highborn pedigree, and a need to escape an arranged marriage. The novel opens with a complicated knot of world-building, weaving character relationships alongside a number of intriguing mysteries: Why are Half Kith imprisoned, and why are they disappearing? Why does no one remember the city’s past? Sid tempts Nirrim to solve the mysteries of the city, which will leave readers with a delightfully shocking ending. Short chapters improve the novel’s pacing and will gratify readers who struggle with Nirrim’s passivity and Rutkoski’s occasionally long-winded prose. Readers who can wend their way through the beginning will be rewarded with a wonderful friends-to-lovers romance full of angst and banter that becomes a loving relationship, consummated on the page.
VERDICT A complex and deftly plotted fantasy that brings F/F romance into the mainstream.

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