Series: The Locked Tomb #1
Publisher : Tor. com
Genre : Adult |Fantasy
Page Count: 448
Synopsis : She answered the Emperor’s call.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.
After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.
Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off? (from Goodreads)
*I received an arc of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review*
CW: graphic violence, gore, blood, murder, cannibalism, mass murder, human sacrifice, talk of suicide, death, death of children, talk of depression, grief, trauma, loss of a loved one, self-harm for magic rituals, mentions of cancer.
It’s been…a while since I’ve actually sat down to write a review so buckle up friends and join me while I find my footing again and get on rambling about books as I have been doing for the past four years. And I’m a little sad that the first review I come out of hiatus with is one of a book that was a little disappointing but…such is life. I figured this review is late enough as it is so there’s no point in delaying it even further. This is NOT to say I hated Gideon the Ninth, I didn’t, but it was very far from living up to the expectations I had set up for myself and that other early reviews set up for me too. Without further ado, let’s talk about the good, the bad and the surprising.
The writing is very blunt and straight to the point, it’s also a very peculiar mix of funny and serious that strangely works for it. It was one of the first things that drew me in when I started reading, because there are so few books that are able to nail that kind of voice without it getting annoying really fast that I was very taken and impressed. But there’s only so far voice can take you when you’re thrown from the very beginning into a story with a fictional world built from scratch that you’re supposed to get from the get go. There’s so much new vocabulary thrown at the reader from early on that I had trouble following what was what and what was happening when and to whom.
And that’s Gideon the Ninth’s main fault and the reason it left a sour taste of disappointement in my mouth by the end of it. The worldbuilding was its weakest link. Besides being thrown in the middle of this whole new world with no explanation, which in and of itself is very disorienting, that is a theme that continues throughout the whole story, new elements kept getting thrown in and the reader is just expected to accept them without much of an explanation. The different houses with their different politics, religions and cultures are supposed to be rich and complex but they were given no substance to make them come across as such.
Even now, a couple months after reading the book and having time to sit with it, I can’t tell you the distinction between them or how they’re linked to each other and are situated in relation to each other. It’s all very muddled and confusing. The one thing about the worldbuilding that was a win for me is the fact that necromancing was made to be such a complex science with different disciplines to it and each of the houses had its strength and weaknesses as well as specialties when it came to the way they practiced. I delighted in every little fact that was added and every new information and skin we learn.
The book was pitched as “Lesbian necromancers in space” and although that’s not exactly false, it’s not exactly the book’s pitch either. I, and many other readers, have found it to be misleading and give a false image of the book. Yes, the main character is a lesbian, yes the book revolves around a cast that’s half made of necromancers (the MC, in fact, isn’t.) but the book which starts off as a necromancing competition, at its core is revealed further down the line to be…a murder mystery? Which was a pleasant surprise that showed up at the right moment. The moment where I started losing interest in the book and this element showed up and peaked my interest, enough for me to want to know who did it and keep reading.
Which brings me to another issue: The pace of the book was very off-kilter. It start off very strong, everything is fresh and intriguing, but then falls flat in the middle half , just to pick up again at the end. Yes, it unfortunately did fall flat even with the murder mystery and I can’t point my finger as to why it did, but one thing that I feel can describe it most accurately is that certain key moments weren’t given the emphasis and attention they needed and some necessary descriptions and reveals were glosses over, which made it not pack the punch it was supposed to. The plot was all over the place and tried doing too many things at a time and as a result didn’t give any of them the kind of proper attention it deserved. Especially not the necromancy competition that started off as the main focus but then got thrown to the background.
Now to our main character, Gideon. I loved her right off the bat, she’s witty, snarky and says whatever comes to her mind before she thinks better of it and is utterly and irrevocably hilarious. Like I said above, her voice was done so well that I couldn’t help but root for her throughout the whole book and at some point, she was ths sole reason I was reading the book, she made it fun. But the thing is, when it comes to the plot and the action, she feels very much like an extra in her own story, she doesn’t get a say in most of her action nor most of what’s happening around her, which makes sense in the context of the story…to some extent, but as a main character she needed a lot more agency to make her a gripping character who has more than sarcasm and snippy banter with her enemy/friend/love, Harrowhark, going for her. An enemy situation, might I add, that never seems to really disolve, no matter how much the two of them start liking each other, and that’s something I was an absolute sucker for, the whole push and pull dynamic they had where they couldn’t stand each other but wouldn’t stand being without each other either.
The ending, man. When I tell you the ending is what saved the book for me, I’m not exaggerating. It was by far the best part of the book and the part that convinced me that I not only want to read the sequel, but that I also NEED to read it. It was so bloody and brillant and an absolute mindfuck, I didn’t expect things to go down the road they went down but I wouldn’t have liked it any other way. A lot of things that happened throughout the story just clicked into place, especially with the whole ennemies to lovers situation that was going down. Brilliant, I tell you. The set-up for Harrow the Ninth makes me hope for a much better crafted sequel that I quite frankly can’t wait to get my hands on.
Do I recommend?
I…do? I know a lot of people who felt like me about the book but it’s also MANY MANY people’s favourite book so I wouldn’t discourage anyone for reading it. Especially with how excited I am about the sequel. I say give it a chance and see how you feel!
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Gideon the Ninth? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.