The Winner's Trilogy is probably one of my favorite YA fantasy series out there, apart from Holly Black's Folk of the Air, so when I found out that Marie Rutkoski was planning a totally different fantasy series, set in a totally different universe, featuring an LGBT romance, I was hopeful, skeptical, and excited, all at once. When an author is that wildly successful, I think the pressure is really on high for them to do it again, and it can be hard to deliver to readers' expectations. We become a sort of hype machine.
Luckily, THE MIDNIGHT LIE didn't disappoint.
THE MIDNIGHT LIE is set in a world divided up by a caste system. High Kith are the nobles who spend their lives in indolent, decadent pleasure. Middlings are the middle class, who have some pleasures but are inferior to the High Kith. Half-Kith, which is what our heroine, Nirrim, is, are the lowest. The only people lower are the Un-Kith, people without a class or home. The homeless, basically.
Nirrim scratches by working under her sort of mother figure, Raven, who acts like she stepped out of the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. To pad their income, she indulges in a bit of criminal activity: forging passports for people-- poor people-- who want to seek out better lives or flee. One day, when she returns the escaped and magical pet of a High Kith, her good deeds land her in jail. As part of the punishment, she also has to "tithe," which basically means she has to give up a body part. Sometimes it's hair or blood, but sometimes it's something more sinister: skin, teeth, or even an eye or hand.
While in prison, Nirrim meets a rakish and mysterious individual named Sid. Sid doesn't seem to have to play by the rules that bind the rest of society. Under Sid's wing, Nirrim finds not just her first blush of real attraction, but the means to question the inherent oppression that's built into the very structure of her society. Why are things the way they are? How did the caste and tithe system come to be, and why does their sinister leader, the Lord Protector, try so hard to hide the past?
This is a great dystopian fantasy and I love how many difficult subjects it tackles within the relatively small span of 350-pages. It does everything I loved about THE WINNER'S CIRCLE: forbidden romance, political and court intrigue, dangerous games, rebellion, and war. This is the second amazing LGBT fantasy for the YA audience that I've read this year, the first being THE WINTER DUKE. I feel so optimistic and excited for other LGBT fantasy releases because it seems like publishers finally understand the demand for them, and are giving them the gorgeous covers and accolades that they deserve. THE MIDNIGHT LIE promises to be an epic fantasy of class and magic that rivals that of Megan Whalen Turner. I'm already into it and can't wait for the next book.
Also, Sid is probably one of the best-portrayed LGBT love interests ever. I loved Sid and Nirrim together, and I loved them apart. The chemistry between them is just so undeniable.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
4 out of 5 stars