The Midnight Lie

by Marie Rutkoski

reviewed by Mia Macrossan

A midnight lie is one told for someone else’s sake – a lie that sits between goodness and wrong, just as midnight is the moment between night and morning.

This story, about forbidden love in a rigidly stratified society, centres on Nirrim, a young girl who is Low Kith, kept walled up in the Ward. Outside are the High Kith, people who have everything – wealth, freedom and most important, power. In between are the Middling – those who negotiate between the two castes.

When  Nirrim meets Sid, an exotic traveler from far away, her life is turned upside down. Her perceptions, understanding of the world and her place in it are challenged. With Sid’s help Nirrim finds a place with the Upper Kith but even there nothing is what it seems.

Neither Nirrim nor Sid are truly being themselves. Rutkoski gradually builds tension and interest through a tentative relationship between the two that gradually develops into a love story, although  frankness and trust are missing on both sides,  but there are reasons.

A lushly written story that revels in exotic characters and elaborate descriptions. Rutkoski has a gift for creating fantastic situations and her world building is meticulous. The people in this novel are more than just stereotypical fantasy creations,

Sid is especially clever and enigmatic. Nirrim finds her true self with Sid’s help and this would have been a satisfying ending. It was unfortunate that the ending went for the dramatic surprise.

Any fantasy that contains magic and magical powers as part of its world building has to ensure that its role has an inherent integrity within its created world. The Midnight Lie had all that until the very last line.

Hachette 2020

 

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