A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows danger a society faces when it doesn't know its own history and its identity is taken away. Also shows a country dismantling its class system in a brutal way, which may remind readers of the French Revolution.
Demonstrates why compassionate leadership is so vital. Reminds of the rewards of being true to yourself and showing who you are to those you love.
Positive Role Models
Nirrim changed the most in Book 1, becoming braver and finding ways to challenge injustices. In Book 2 she's had her compassion taken by a god and is vengeful and terrible because of it, so it's up to Sid to become brave enough to save her. First Sid needs to face her parents, the king and queen. She has always felt overshadowed by them and unable to be her true self and deals with a lot of anger and resentment over it. As her parents and godfather offer her compassion and openings to share her truth, Sid finds a new closeness with them and a new determination to follow her heart.
This LGBTQ+ love story has lesbian characters at its center, not as secondary characters. Plus Sid's godfather is also gay, and Sid talks her father, the king, into writing a law for marriage equality.
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Violence & Scariness
The revolution against the ruling class leads to a bloodbath. Ten percent of the upper class are beheaded in the town square, with a few gory details. Other revenge killings of people the main character feels wronged her: a stoning/beating, and a stabbing. A skirmish using magic that kills mostly with fire. A battle with many deaths from cannon fire and guns, but described at a distance. Someone is poisoned and almost dies. Imprisoned children found who had been regularly drained of their magical blood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
LGBTQ+ characters have sex, with undressing and kissing barely described. Lots of longing and descriptions of kissing and undressing while remembering past encounters. Much talk of one character's conquests, including affairs.
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"Ass" and "damn" used rarely.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult character smokes tobacco. Wine refused at a dinner party by the main character while those around her drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Hollow Heart is the finale of the LGBTQ+ fantasy-romance The Midnight Lie. It's set in the world of author Marie Rutkoski's bestselling Winner's Trilogy. While The Midnight Lie took place on a forgotten magical island, in The Hollow Heart, Sid returns home to her ailing mother, Queen Kestrel, the main character from Winner's Trilogy. If you read the trilogy first you'll be more engaged in Sid's relationship with her parents and their kingdom's difficult history. You'll also be reminded of moments from that trilogy as Nirrim, now queen of her magical island, takes down the ruling class. Here, 10 percent of the upper class are beheaded in the town square, with a few gory details. There are other revenge killings, too, of people Nirrim feels wronged her: a stoning/beating and a stabbing. Someone is also poisoned and almost dies. There's a battle with many deaths from cannon fire and guns, but it's described at a distance. Other mature content includes LGBTQ+ characters having sex and remembering past encounters with longing. In these moments, undressing and kissing are barely described. Language stays mild -- "ass" and "damn" are used rarely -- and one character smokes tobacco. Parents who are fantasy fans may enjoy reading and discussing this book along with their teens. Between Sid and her parents there's a lot of conflict that's resolved with compassion and honest communication. It helps Sid embrace who she is and what she wants and to develop a more fulfilling relationship with her family.
Is It Any Good?
This LGBTQ+ fantasy romance sequel could have fallen flat when one of the main characters turns villain, but a clever use of narrators and tender subplots uplifts this intriguing tale. Readers will miss the sweet and compassionate Nirrim from The Midnight Lie and have to get used to vengeful Queen Nirrim. It's jarring at first, especially as she bloodies a town square and manipulates those who used to be close to her. As we learn what's been stolen from her by the God of Thieves and some family history from another god narrator, it all makes sense and you hope she can be saved.
Enter Sid and her storyline in her homeland. Here's where compassion lost by Nirrim is found by Sid as she helps her mother, Queen Kestrel, find out who poisoned her and comes to terms with all the hurt she feels as someone who doesn't feel accepted or valued. As Sid shows more of her true self and mends the relationship with her parents, suddenly she's brave enough to do something truly heroic for the one she loves. Of course, she doesn't know what Queen Nirrim has become in her absence, which really complicates things -- and so do the gods, as they always do. The final twists to this finale are truly intriguing and bring this duology to an exciting end.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.