Cover Image: The Hollow Heart

The Hollow Heart

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Member Reviews

I received an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Poor Sid. The charming rake of The Midnight Lie has been brought low by love in The Hollow Heart, at home and pining for Nirrim. Meanwhile at home, her mother lies sick and poisoned, sending Sid into a state of frantic paranoia, dedicating her days to caring for her mother and running interference. 

Across the sea, Nirrim has let the god take her over, using her power to punish the High Kith and Half Kith who forced her and those like her into poverty and servitude, who used them as endless wells of blood and power. As she punishes those who hurt her, her humanity has shrunk. This was hard to read-- it's clear that Nirrim has been hurt and is hurting others, but the emotionless tyranny hurt after reading the gentle and deep love between Nirrim and Sid. 

When Sid receives word of invaders from Nirrim's land conquering other islands, she has no choice but to return to the woman she loves and see if she can save her. 

Rutkoski's writing is so good, but I had a harder time with this than the previous four books in this world, just because Nirrim's god-viewpoint was so pitiless.
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I wish that I had enjoyed The Hollow Heart more, because Marie Rutkoski is a wonderful writer who introduced the compelling characters Nirrim and Sid in The Midnight Lie. The pacing felt off to me; I was bored in the first two-thirds, and then all of a sudden, major events occurred extremely quickly in the end. Although I thought I'd be more intrigued by Nirrim's storyline after she gives up her heart, Sid's storyline was more interesting to me. The references to the Winner's trilogy and the appearance of beloved characters was such a treat. Since Nirrim and Sid's feelings for each other was the heart of the first book, I was disappointed not to see more of them together. The God's perspective was intriguing though, and added an additional layer to the story that I wasn't expecting. Overall, still a well-written book and a duology I'd recommend!
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This book was received as an ARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

This book could not have come at a better time. I could totally feel Nirrim's pain and struggle and being the rogue princess is great and all but, like all power, it comes with a price and for Nirrim it was escaping from false memories given to her by the black queen. I also loved seeing the love and passion from Sid towards Nirrim and how he stopped at nothing to save her even if at times it seemed she did not want to be. My heart was racing through and through and you could not stop reading because you wanted to see what would happen next. I also loved that it was the right amount of drama and conflict and the plot still stayed consistent from beginning to end with minimum tangents. I know our teen book club will have a blast with this book and am anticipating colorful debates and thoughts.

We will consider adding this title to our YA collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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This book took me on a rollercoaster and honestly dropped me in a pile of emotion that I don't even know what to do with. Fantastic writing, superb storytelling and character development, and such a memorable experience that I am honored to have had. Keep writing these gems, Marie Rutkoski!
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I love that this book is capable of being a standalone story separate from the series. The characters had some wonderfully developed individual character arcs that also blended and supported each others as well. The way the development is woven into the plot progression makes this a natural and very seamless reading experience.
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I wanted to like this so much more than I did. After really adoring The Midnight Lie, I thought it was a shoe-in this one would be just as good. Unfortunately, it fell short for me.

The publicist reached out to me a few months ago and I was immediately drawn to the story because of the slow reveal of the magic and the love story aspect.* And Rutkoski really delivered on that in book one, but it just fell short for me in this book. Some of it may have been the narration, but I think the ending was what really sealed it for me as being meh.

The Hollow Heart picks up immediately after The Midnight Lie and we're seeing the aftermath of Nirrim's discovery of her power and resetting of Herath (kind way of saying bloody revolution). We also spend time with Sid in her homeland. And oddly, at first at least, we have a third narrator that is just called The God who is slowly revealed to be Nirrim's parent and to have broken the pantheon's ban on interacting with mortals even if they were forced into it by another god.

The addition of The God narrator was interesting and I found their story compelling, especially after I figured out the connection, but where I really struggled was with Nirrim's narrative. So much of it was in her head this book and it was a struggle to read. Whereas in comparison you have Sid where she is interacting with her parents, god father and childhood nurse and we experience what Sid is going through. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of action with Nirrim, but it's all seen through the light of who she is and who she was and it just gets annoying and monotonous after a while.

This novel is definitely more mature than the first novel, but I still don't think reaches full maturity. It almost feels as if Rutkoski may have been planning a trilogy but then got scared halfway through and wrote short chapters for what could've been two books and it ultimately left me disappointed. Specifically, I'm referring to the sections after Sid and Nirrim "reconcile". So much seems to happen but it's glossed over. Why ignore the siege of Nerreth? Why not actually talk about what happens when Sid returns from the realm of the gods? There was so much that just felt glossed over in a sentence or two that it was frustrating and disappointing.

I had two favorite scenes of the novel. The first is when Sid talks to her father about marriage equality. It's definitely a little clunky, but real conversations like this are just as clunky.

'You are saying that your real problem with me is not that I want women, but that I can't stay true to one.' A slow irritation grows inside me. 'You advise me not to treat women lightly, as playthings, but rather to be faithful, to find a love blessed by the god of souls, to have what you and Amma have.' As I speak, my frustration becomes clear, and my father's face changes as he begins to understand why, even before I say it. 'But marriage is between men and women, Etta, in every known country in this world, including Herran. What you want for me is impossible. And you, a king, have helped make it impossible by your inaction.'
He looks stricken. 'Sid, I am sorry. This never occurred to me.'
'Why not, I wonder? Because you thought I would change? Grow out of it? Or because your love with Amma is so perfect you can't imagine a different way?'
'I will make such marriage into law.'
I shake my head. ' There is no woman I plan to marry. I am already engaged, and will keep that engagement.'
'I will write the law anyway. I should have done it long ago. For everyone, not just you.' ("Sid" Chapter 18?)

My second favorite scene is actually one of the more brutal scenes of the novel when Nirrim murders her former "lover", Aren(?). The scenes leading up to it were the only interesting scenes of the book because of his very obvious desire to rule the country and subjugate Nirrim to his desires. When he attempts to murder her and usurp the throne I figured out what was going to happen only a second or two before it happened and that's a well written scene.

Recommendation: If you desperately want to know if Sid and Nirrim get back together after reading The Midnight Lie, then read this one. If you're okay with the ambiguity and the cliffhanger of what happens next then I'd say skip this one. In the end I was disappointed and the further away I get the more "meh" I feel about this one. It felt rushed and not as polished as the first book in the duology.

*I received a copy of The Hollow Heart from the publisher via NetGalley in return for my honest opinion. No goods or money were exchanged.
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4.5 stars rounded up

I have been WAITING for this book!! The Hollow Heart concludes this duology and while I didn't love it quite as much as Midnight Lie, I still liked it a lot and felt this was a very satisfying conclusion. Rutkoski delivers on a twisty plot, gods interfering with human affairs, and a fraught sapphic romance.

Also, for fans of the Winners Curse trilogy, you get a lot more crossover in this book with characters from that series! I don't want to spoil things, but this duology is set in the same world, about 20+ years in the future. It was cool to see how things have shaped up for the characters in that original series.

In this book Nirrim no longer has her heart and is heading a revolution while Sid returns home to her dying mother. This is full of court intrigue, violence, and difficult choices, as well as sapphic angst.

My only issue with the book didn't end up being a big deal for me, but might really bother some readers. A LOT of the conflict occurs because Sid is horrendously bad at communication- both misunderstanding what other people are trying to say, and refusing to communicate her feelings, wants and needs because of pride and assumptions of what other people want from her. This is definitely frustrating for part of the book because Sid willfully makes things harder than they need to be. I know some readers have zero patience for that, but I loved everything else enough I wasn't too bothered by it. Plus Sid does learn and grow through the book. If that's not a deal breaker for you, I highly recommend this duology!

The audiobook was pretty good and we get appropriately different voices for the two character perspectives. I received an audio review copy of this book from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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It pains me to say this, but I didn't love The Hollow Heart. I really wanted it after how I felt about The Midnight Lie, but it missed the mark for me. It was okay for the most part, but it was also very boring and dare I say it had too much Arin and Kestrel. I wanted the story of Sid and Nirrim and not more in the Winner's trilogy. I'm just so sad it didn't live up to my expectation, but it was just okay in the end. I look forward to more from Marie Rutkoski in the future.
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The Hollow Heart is a story where I thought, "okay I know how I feel" only for my feelings to completely change halfway through. At the beginning, I loved how ruthless Nirrim was. To see a heroine completely give in to ambition? That's my latest obsession. But at the same time, The Hollow Heart is about what happens when we lose touch with who we are. Or when who we are changes and we aren't sure who we are anymore.

At the same Sid goes through her own character growth - constantly questioning what she thought about who she was. And this where my feelings began to change. At the beginning, I was entirely immersed in Nirrim, in watching her let loose all the thoughts we hold ourselves back, while also realizing that there's this little voice. This little intuition that whispers to us. But then Sid began to take over as my favorite POV especially with her character growth. The last 30% I was entirely smitten with Sid.
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I enjoyed reading this sequel. It was not what I was expecting to be honest. I wanted Sid’s view which I got but I wanted to see the fun she got in winning her conquests, instead I got to see her vulnerability. In book one, Sid came off as untouchable, a good looking confident someone every woman wanted to be with. In this book she craved for her mom’s and Nirrim’s love. It’s more serious and less fun. However, I do liked how she solve problems. She learned of why her mom’s sick and she’s vigilant in finding out the source. I liked Sid’s quick thinking and how she unravel mysteries on the spot. Nirrim’s role was also unexpected but well deserved because she needed the strength to stand up to Raven and even Aden.


This book started with the view of the God. The God of Thieves and Nirrim made a bargain. Now the people behind the wall knew about their history and why they were separated. He’s free from his post and Nirrim’s a self-crowned ruler, a Queen, replacing him. The God’s view (mystery God until reveal at the end) will weave into the story every now and then to tell a story about how he met Raven. Then the story began with Nirrim. She thought she made the bargain so she wouldn’t miss Sid anymore but it wasn’t the case. Nirrim went back behind the wall and everyone were uneasy around her. She’s using the bird to see who can do magic. She’s dividing them out because she’s planning on a revenge against the High Kith for robbing them of their freedom in the past. The second view was Sid. She’s on the boat back to her country because her mom’s sick. She’s missing Nirrim and felt heart broken that Nirrim refused to go back home with her. At home she learned why her mom’s sick and realized what she truly wanted.


The Hollow Heart was well written and a fast paced read. The magic system was good and new to me. I will have to think twice about drinking pink tea if I ever come across it. The LGBT romance was light and just enough. I enjoyed Sid’s humor. I wonder how did the rose have a child when it was a rose at the time it met her. I wonder if Killian can see truth like his mom when he came to warn Nirrim. I don’t connect the gods in this story to Greek mythology until the term demigod appeared. It was because the term used in this story were god of foresight, god of thieves, god of death, god of games, etc. This duology was a good read but I think I enjoyed The Winner series more.

xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details 

Many thanks to Macmillan Publishers for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.
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Series Info/Source:   This is the second book in the Forgotten Gods duology.  I got an eGalley of this book through NetGalley for review.

Thoughts:  This was beautifully written and does an excellent job of wrapping up this duology.  For most of the book Nirrim and Sid are separate.  Nirrim is taking over as empress of her home city but she is ruling without her heart (she bargained her heart away to the god of thieves).  Meanwhile, Sid is back home in Herran trying to navigate the promises she made before she left (marriage to the Prince of a neighboring country).  When rumors of a dark, cruel queen reach Sid, she can only assume that Nirrim needs her help.

The writing here is stunning.  It is also a wonderful story of family, friendship, and love.  There is a mystery about why Kestral’s health is failing that Sid has to solve in the first part of the book but much of the story is also about Sid accepting who she is and accepting that her family accepts that.  It is heartbreaking to watch Nirrims struggle with making decisions as a ruler when her compassion has literally been stolen from her.

I really enjoyed this.  The ending did feel a bit abrupt and incomplete to me.  I also was a bit sad that Nirrim and Sid didn’t spend more of the story together.  However, this book did an excellent job of wrapping the story up and was a joy to read.

My Summary (4/5):  Overall I enjoyed this story.  It is a beautifully written story about gods, family, friendship, love, and magic.  This book does a wonderful job of wrapping up the series and I would recommend it to those who enjoyed the first book in this duology.
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The Midnight Lie was one of my favorite releases of 2020, and I was unbelievably excited for the sequel. As soon as I got this eARC, I dropped everything to read it and I’m so glad I did! Gorgeously written, The Hollow Heart follows a stunning journey of fulfilling your true self and potential.

This review contains spoilers for book one.

After giving up her compassion for her people’s memory, Nirrim has assumed position as queen of Herrath, punishing the High Kith and Middlings who oppressed the Half Kith for centuries. On the other side of the sea, Sid investigates her mother’s mysterious illness as well as trying to bridge her relationship with her parents. Meanwhile, a god narrates their past and present that are somehow connected to Nirrim and Sid’s story.

As usual, Rutkoski’s prose was beautiful and breathtaking. I fell into reading this book so quickly and couldn’t take my eyes off the page. The pacing was also very well done, with the narrative split evenly between Nirrim’s, Sid’s, and the god’s storylines. It was easy switching between their chapters.

Sid’s character arc was so gorgeous. She’s always been a liar, hiding her feelings and trying to be the person she thinks her parents want her to be. Throughout the book, we see more of her relationship with Arin and Kestrel, as well as memories of them as a family. It was so heartwarming to see how much they all care for each other, with Sid finally realizing that her parents just want her to be happy.

I really loved this journey of self-realization, as Sid accepts that her family will always support her and that, despite her fear that she’s unlovable, she is very much loved. Roshar is also a constant presence in Sid’s life as her godfather who is and always will be there for her for support. The family dynamics made me tear up, and now I also really want to reread the Winner’s Trilogy!

I had more mixed feelings about Nirrim’s chapters, unfortunately. Her plot line consists of her as a heartless queen, ruling with a ruthless hand. As much as I wanted to like this, however, the tone change from the first book to this was startling and detracted from what I really loved about Nirrim’s character. I know that this was intentional, that Nirrim’s compassion is what makes her her, but again, this narrative just took out too much of what was good in the first book.

It’s not that I completely disliked Nirrim’s plot line; however, her plot-heavy chapters were a strange tone change compared to Sid’s mostly character-focused plot. Frankly, this made for a strange sequel. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the two narratives needed to be separated (although they were, in essence, two completely different stories), but combined with the sudden ending, the book left a bit to be desired. I still really enjoyed the book though! It might just be better to keep this in mind going in.

The Hollow Heart was a beautiful story about living your life according to your terms. While I had some problems with the shift in tone from the first book, I still really enjoyed it and the character arcs, especially Sid’s point-of-view. If you haven’t read this duology yet, I really recommend it!
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Rutkoski's writing remains both captivating and deeply moving. I have been deeply impressed by all her previous works, and that is true of this book as well.

It is an impressive follow-up to the first book in this series, continuing to feature a wide range of diverse characters, both in ethnicity and sexuality. It also touches on themes of love, loyalty, and family that I think will resonate with parents and young adults alike.

I wonder if this book's premise will be met with ire from readers who loved Nirrim in the first book (and those who are seeking lots of on-page interaction between Sid and Nirrim might find themselves likewise disappointed). However, I feel like this book had so much to say about other relationships that I was not as disappointed as I would have expected. While some characters might frustrate you, they remain unflinchingly real. (Though I still have qualms about the inclusion of Lirah in this work)

An excellent book for any library or private collection.
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I really enjoyed this sequel! I especially enjoyed Sid's point of view I think it really helped develop her more as a character and you really got to see her side of things as well as learn more about her family and relationships. I also did like the dual point of view showing Nirrim's side as well and kind of showing what is going through her mind when she got sort of "changed". And then the other point of view being a "god" who we later find out who they actually are which is really interesting. I do think the ending was a bit rushed and I would have loved more time with Sid and Nirrim at the end, though.
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The rep in this book is fantastic though I wasn't worried about that since Marie did a fantastic job in Midnight Lie! This book really has it all POC, lesbian MC, nonbinary! I love the darkness of this story. We follow a trail of murder, executions and blood all spun together to create a glorious reimagined fairytale.
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I thought this moved a bit too quickly for me compared to the first one, which I appreciated because it was slow and took time to develop characters. I still enjoyed it, though, and will probably check out more of Rutkoski's work in the future.
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Not sure that I'm loving the cover change for this one but this was such a great and fantastical follow up to The Midnight Lie. 
The diversity in this duology is so amazing, including a POC lesbian MC, nonbinary lesbian MC, POC gay side character and POC side characters. I think this is so important in literature as a whole, but especially YA. 
I really enjoyed The Midnight Lie and The Hollow Heart followed right in the same vein. It picked up where the first book left off with two distinguished plot lines taking place over the course of the book. I loves having multiple POVs between Nirrim and Sid along with an omniscient god giving an overall perspective. I found myself equally enjoying each point of view which rarely happens for me.
The action and adventure was so fun and I had a hard time putting this one down. The only thing I wish we got a little more of was the romance. Because Nirrim and Sid were separated for so much of the book, we didn't get to see a lot of their relationship which was a little sad because I absolutely love them together. The super angsty pining almost made up for it though.
Thank you so much to NetGalley, Macmillan and the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
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Arc provided by MacMillian Publishers for an honest review.

The Hollow Heart was one of my highly anticipated reads for this year and it was a joy. At the end of The Midnight Lie, Sid had returned home to Herran and battles all of politics at Herrani court and we learn more about Sid’s background and family history. Nirrim on the other hand had offered up her heart to the God of Thieves so that she could restore her people’s memories and the city’s history and is now vowing vengeance for the Half Kith. They have both gone their separate ways but are constantly in each other’s thoughts and eventually their paths become intertwined when Sid hears of a queen who is claiming revenge against all whom have wrong her. 

I did not have many predictions before starting this book so I just went right in without any set goal except to enjoy the book and hope that Sidnirrim would get the ending that they deserve.

In comparison to The Midnight Lie, The Hollow Heart had a lot more going on and a more complex plot. Tml gave us a good introduction to the series and Nirrim but we really did not all that much about Sid so in thh we get a deep dive into the world Sid grew up in, family’s expectations, and family’s history. I would not say that it is fast paced per say but we have a lot more going on in thh and multiple povs. I really enjoyed the well balanced multiple povs, they did not feel like they cut into each other despite having fairly different plots. 

I liked both of their stories and arcs throughout the entire series and in The Hollow Heart in particular since we get to see Sid’s pov as well and their different views of their relationship. I wouldn’t say that their power balance is switched but how much control they think they have over their lives is definitely different in The Hollow Heart vs The Midnight Lie. Nirrim is a powerful and vengeful queen going everything she came for her people meanwhile Sid ends up feeling powerless when back home. I would highly recommend reading the The Winner’s Trilogy  before starting The Hollow Heart.

The ending did feel a bit rushed to me. It felt like so much had happened in those last chapters when it could have been paced better. “Old Nirrim” is mentioned and referenced several times but she only really made a quick appearance and same with Sid’s involvement. I did enjoy it but I would have preferred for it to have not happened as quickly as it all did. For the majority of the series Sidnirrim are on their separate paths and then their paths quickly merge, *things happen*, and the story is done. I definitely would have liked if Sidnirrim had more scenes together. In The Midnight Lie they were together for a big part of the book meanwhile in The Hollow Heart they aren’t together for most of the book which makes sense since they’re on their own paths but because it is the last book of the series, I would have liked for them to have had more scenes together. 


Trigger Warnings: Drug use, Drug addition, Child abuse (mentioned), Emotional abuse, Homophobia (referenced), Gaslighting, Subjugation
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This was such a satisfying conclusion to The Midnight Lie! I worried every page for Sid and Nirrim. My only complaint was how long they were separated. I wish we got to spend more time with them together.
The deep delve into compassion vs strength was surprised and very much welcome. It's social commentary hit very close to home for me and I was grateful for the perspective.
Also, Sid is everything and must be protected at all costs! Based on the text, I'm not sure if Sid is non-binary or rather gender nonconforming, but I loved every page of her POV.
I'm so happy with this conclusion. This definitely gets put on the list of my favorite duologies!
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First, I love this cover! Also, Marie writes so beautifully! This story drew me in right away and it definitely had twists and turns.
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