The Hollow Heart – Marie Rutkoski

Marie Rutkoski’s The Midnight Lie was one of my favourite YA fantasy reads of 2020 (see my review here), so of course I jumped into reading this sequel – which actually released in the UK today! So happy book birthday, The Hollow Heart. This is a very different book to the first one. I feel like it might be aimed more at readers of Rutkoski’s earlier series (The Winner’s Curse trilogy) rather than being solely a sequel to The Midnight Lie, which stood wholly separate from the earlier books – and this made for a somewhat odd reading experience as someone who hasn’t read them. But read on to find out my full thoughts on this.

Massive thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodder for sending me an eARC through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

RELEASE DATE: 09/09/2021

STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶

SUMMARY: Nirrim’s heart is lost, traded to the god of thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. Meanwhile, Sid, the person she once loved most, has returned to Herran to take up her duty to the crown.

But frightening rumours are growing in the Herrani court: of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed upon the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.

Sid doesn’t know that this queen is Nirrim, seeking revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? And does Nirrim even want to be saved?

As blood is shed and war begins, Sid and Nirrim find that it might not matter what they want… for the gods have their own plans. (from Hodder & Stoughton)

OPINIONS: This book hasn’t helped my major crush on Sid at all. Nope. Still there and going strong. I’ve got a soft spot for princesses who might not be entirely cis but certainly gay and badass. However, her storyline is where I had most of my issues with the book. While it is a compelling story – I stayed up late one evening and finished it in one sitting, it is compulsively readable – it relies on a lot of previous knowledge that is not present in The Midnight Lie, but refers back to Marie Rutkoski’s earlier trilogy. It is revealed that Sid’s parents are in fact the main characters of that series, and so much of Sid’s storyline while in Herran is based on backstory that readers of that will be familiar with but that isn’t sufficiently introduced (or necessarily relevant for the story of this duology at all) for readers who have come to this author with The Midnight Lie, the start of a new series. And that is something that I find quite frustrating. Adding in some easter eggs for fans of previous books – sure, that’s perfectly fine and fun, but having a large chunk of the book be about something that isn’t driving the story forward or properly contextualised? I’d rather have seen that portion used for more character development.

Meanwhile, Nirrim, who was more of a passive vehicle in the first book has taken on more of an active role. Having bargained away her heart, she has taken over her city, and rules it with an iron fist. She becomes a really interesting character, as she acts in a capacity where she truly believes she is doing the right thing and is protecting the people she cognitively knows she cared about – but because she is not capable of feeling these emotions any longer, she hurts them more than she helps.

I really liked that the book dared to separate the couple from the first book – and keep them apart. And even once they were physically in the same place, things were not peachy. Sid and Nirrim both changed that that impacted their relationship deeply – even without considering that Nirrim traded away her heart. Add in meddling deities and tricky bargains, and you have a very interesting story. So all in all, this was a pretty good duology, which I will probably be rereading quite a few times. Great characters, fleshed out setting and I think I can look past the weaknesses in Sid’s plotline (and maybe eventually catch up with that old series… but then we all know the state of my TBR…)

Add The Hollow Heart to your Goodreads here, or order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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