An eARC of this book was received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Hollow Heart was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, even though I only found out about and read the first book a week before requesting the ARC. This book is narrated by Nirrim, Sid, and a third narrator, so I’m going to split this review into each of their perspectives. This review will also contain spoilers for The Midnight Lie, but all The Hollow Heart spoilers will be removed.
At the end of The Midnight Lie, Nirrim offered up her heart to the God of Thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. The Half Kith who once lived imprisoned behind the city’s wall now realize that many among them are powerful.
I did not realise how much I loved Nirrim for her heart until I experienced her without it. I had a complicated time with her narration, sometimes even uncomfortable. On one hand, I support her wanting to roleplay as a god as she uses her powers and this newfound inner strength to seek revenge by any means possible. It can be exciting to see a heroine completely lose touch with herself and give into an ambition, and I liked reading the exploration of Nirrim losing herself and realising that she maybe didn’t know who she was in the first place.
On the other hand, a lot of her words and actions didn’t feel like her and I found myself pining for the Old Nirrim more often than not. Her situation were painful, but her actions were more so, and I read on while being both conflicted and compelled.
I also found myself wishing that the absence of Sid in her narrative would lead to a deeper development of the characters who returned from the first book, but Nirrim’s plot line felt very central to her quest for vengeance.
Meanwhile, the person Nirrim once loved most, Sid, has returned to her home country of Herran, where she must navigate the politics of being a rogue princess who has finally agreed to do her duty.
This book and my heart and all the stars on this review are owned by Sid. In the first book, she was confident and untouchable. In this, we’re introduced to her more serious and vulnerable side as she pines both to love and be loved. Her storyline focuses both on discovering what caused her mother’s ill health – poison, not sickness – and how she can fix her relationship with both of her parents. It’s exactly what I wanted from a continuation of her story and I fell in love with her character all over again.
I also want to acknowledge that I had no idea that this duology was set in the same universe or shared characters as an original trilogy, so I want to praise Rutoski for creating something that didn’t make me feel as if I was missing out on something else (although I will be reading the original trilogy as soon as possible).
The third narrator of this book is a character known as The God until the final few moments, and it took until then for me to realise what their role was in the narrative. A majority of their chapters were dedicated to telling the backstories of characters and the history of the island that were hinted about in the first book, but didn’t get the chance to be developed. We learn more about the beginnings of the island before the gods fled, Nirrim’s parentage, and a few more moments about Raven’s life that aren’t essential to the narrative, but just nice to know as extra information.
These three storylines don’t merge until around 70% (maybe later) of the way into the book. This disjointed structure is the main thing that stopped me giving this book the same five star rating as The Midnight Lie as switching back and forth between three seemingly unrelated narratives was quite jarring for me. It also meant that the first half of the book felt very slow paced and drawn out, and that a very eventful finale to the duology felt rushed, told by the most convenient rather than the most impactful narrator.
Overall, I would give this book 4 stars, maybe even 3.5 stars. It was imperfect, but still wonderful in more places than I can list. Learning more about this world and the history and the magic system was a delight as well as the exploration of compulsory heterosexuality and being a lesbian, both things which I think are rare to find in a fantasy. The writing style was simple but effective, but I did feel unsatisfied by the ending. I also missed the relationship between Sid and Nirrim, the thing that made me fall in love with The Midnight Lie.