Happy Thursday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE MIDNIGHT LIE by Marie Rutkoski! I’m so excited because today I have an excerpt of the book to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so so excited to for you to find out more about it, PLUS enter for a chance to win a print copy!
The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Midnight Lie #1
Published on March 3, 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
Genres: YA, Fantasy
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Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.
Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.
But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.
Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, beloved author Marie Rutkoski returns with an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves.
A light prickle on my wrist woke me. I startled out of sleep, shaking my wrist hard, sure that I had been seen, I had been caught, a soldier was slipping a manacle onto my wrist. But the prickle disappeared, air beat against my face, and what I saw was not uniformed men but the Elysium bird launching itself from my wrist. It hovered for a moment in front of me before sweeping away.
It landed a few feet from me. It scratched the plastered roof, oddly chickenlike for such a glamorous bird, wings tucked close to its body. Now that I was so close, I could see streaks of green on its belly, speckles of pink on its breast, the black thorn of its beak, the tips of white on its red wings. It sang.
“Shh,” I said, which was foolish—what bird obeyed a person?—but it stopped midsong. I reached into my pocket for the seeds—Aden’s seeds. Mine, I remembered the bird singing. It felt not like it belonged to me, but that it was telling me that I belonged to it.
I scattered the seeds across the roof.
It pecked its way toward me, head tipping left and right, tail dipping, luxuriant feathers drifting behind it like the train of an iridescent dress. It ate the seeds, husks splitting beneath its beak and dropping to the roof. The moon was high and bright. I wanted desperately for this bird to be mine no matter what it could do for me, no matter if the stories were real, if only so that I could see it in full light and know its patterns and colors, to know it so intimately that I would see its details even when I closed my eyes.
It flitted closer, then landed on my knee.
You can’t catch an Elysium bird, I had told Aden. Had anyone ever heard of an Elysium behaving like this?
Maybe it was because it was trained and had been raised from its shell.
Maybe hunger had overwhelmed it.
Whatever reason it had decided not to fear me, I couldn’t question the peace that spread from where it perched upon my knee, drifting down my leg and up into my stomach, stealing over my chest. I dipped my fist into the coat pocket again and offered an open handful of seed. It jumped to the heel of my hand, feathers curling over my wrist, caressing my upper arm. It ate.The beak gently jabbed the palm of my hand, a tender little needle.
What are you? I wondered as I studied it. What are you, really? What am I, that you chose to come to me?
Its body was only slightly larger than my hand but its tail floated long, the tip of it almost to my elbow. It warbled: a bubbling sound. I stroked its head and it allowed this, leaning into my touch. When it burbled its low music again, I stroked its throat. Beneath its feathers was a light vibration, like a purr.
I realized then what anybody in the Ward should have realized. I couldn’t keep this bird.
It wasn’t possible to hide such a secret. Everyone in the tavern would learn, and then it would be only a matter of time before the Ward did, and before people began to wonder whether the death of a soldier on the day the bird flew into the Ward had something to do with me. It would be only a matter of time before the militia learned who had the bird. Then they would come for me, if not for the crime of murder, then for the crime of stealing a High-Kith pet. When the Council could sentence you to years in prison for dressing like a High-Kith lady, what would it do to someone from the Ward who had kept an Elysium?
The bird nosed among the seeds, looking for its favorites, which were slender black ovals.
The only way to keep it, I thought, was to kill it.
If I were to wring its neck, I could sell the feathers. I could see whether the stories about its meat were true. Its hollow bones.
A dead Elysium bird held so much value. It could be parceled out secretly and slowly. That, perhaps, could be kept hidden when a living thing—with its song, its rustlings, its need for food and water, its excretions—could not.
The bird looked at me. Mine, it sang, and I was so startled that my hand sagged and the bird floated up, wings stuttering. But it settled back into my palm.
It would be easy to snap its fragile neck. I had just killed someone. The murder of a bird would be nothing by comparison. And there was so much to gain.
A treasure, Raven would say when I showed her the limp corpse, its feathers as bright as a bouquet. My treasure, she would call me.
Who knew what comforts we could bring into our home through the sale of the birds’ parts?
Who knew how many Half Kith we could save, with extra money to buy what we needed to make passports?
But the bird nestled into my palm, its feathers a warm cloud, its happiness thrumming into my skin. I had never felt or seen anything so beautiful, and it was only then that I realized how starved I had been for beauty. Its liquid green eyes studied me.
A thought came so slowly that it reminded me of Annin building a tower out of playing cards: the precision and care, the light touch, the slight shake of her hand lowering a card into place.
The Elysium closed its eyes and sighed. It grew heavy with sleep.
I could keep the bird, I thought, if I left the Ward. If I forged a passport for myself. If I went beyond the wall, beyond the city.
Fear flooded me. I couldn’t kill the bird. But I also couldn’t leave behind everything I knew.
I slipped the embroidered bread bag from my pocket.
I clamped the sleeping bird’s wings to its body, and thrust it into the sack.
When I was certain that no one was passing in the alley below, I climbed down a gutter pipe, the jerking, squawking bag swaying from my wrist by its drawstring.
Moonlight painted the street. The alley was a quiet, bright river.
I walked until I spotted a pair of soldiers. Dread pulsed inside me, but I couldn’t keep the bird and I couldn’t kill it. It must be returned. I had to hope that the militia would be so distracted by the Elysium that they wouldn’t think to link me to the soldier’s broken body—which, after all, would surely look like a mere accident, especially with the fallen gutter pipe.
“Here,” I said to the soldiers, holding out the bag. I remembered Helin holding out the apple and asking to be my friend.
One of them, staring, took the jolting bag. “Is that the Elysium?”
The other soldier seized my arm.
“But I’m turning it in.” Panic darted up my throat. “To be brought back to its owner.”
The soldier dragged my other arm behind me. “It’s unharmed!” I said.
I was arrested anyway.
Copyright © 2021 by Marie Rutkoski
What do you think about The Midnight Lie? Have you added it to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!