Intrigue, romance, and magic abound in The Hollow Heart, the heart-stopping conclusion to Marie Rutkoski’s Forgotten Gods duology. 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. 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. In the Herrani court, rumors begin to grow of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed on 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, who seeks her revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? 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.
The Hollow Heart (Forgotten Gods, #2)Featured
Without her heart, Nirrim is ruthless in her revenge against the High Kith who once took everything from her people. She retains her memories that act as a reminder of the love she has lost but no longer feels as well as her magic over memory. As Queen of Herrath, her vengeance is swift and her mercy is gone. At the same time, Sid has traveled back to her home country of Herran, where she knows her mother is ill. She is coming to terms with her own future, her family's expectations, and the duties of her crown. All the while, both are missing the other, broken by their parting. As time carries on, the book speaks to matters of the heart, the importance of compassion, and the power of love.
What I loved: This book is really introspective with much character growth for Sid, who is reckoning with her past, examining her present, and deciding her future. As the royal daughter of a legendary couple, she questions her decisions and motivations as well as those around her through the new lens of her journey and lessons for Herrath. Nirrim's path is more convoluted, showing the power of emotions, compassion, and mercy to influence and speak to critical decisions. Empathy is a potent feeling whose value is unclear until it is lost. I also really appreciated the third perspective, whose significance becomes clearer later in the book, but provides almost an outside and reflective view of the world as it is.
There are important and thought-provoking themes around government/politics, empathy and love, family, LGBT rights, lies, revenge, and oppression. This atmospheric and character-driven story takes the reader on a deep dive into these topics and emotions in a really consuming and powerful way. I found the characters to be really compelling, particularly Sid, whose character arc is masterful and evolving in this book as she comes to terms with her own truths, her family, and her love. This was a truly riveting read with a satisfying conclusion.
Final verdict: With compelling characters and beautifully composed prose, THE HOLLOW HEART is a riveting and thought-provoking conclusion to a masterful YA fantasy duology. I highly recommend for readers who enjoy magic, politics, atmosphere, and character growth.