***This post contains affiliate links. I get a small commission when you use my link to buy from IndieBound (at no extra cost to you). CODE: renstrange***
“Nav, show them what the Ninth House does.”
“We do bones, motherfucker.”
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
This book is nothing like I thought it’d be and everything I didn’t know I needed. Tamsyn Muir has managed to create a novel that is equal parts strange and serious. There is absolutely no reason why this novel should work and yet it does. Somehow Muir has found congruence between modern language and old, science fiction and fantasy. No one else could make this story work.
Throughout the first few chapters, I was sure this story would be a letdown. Gideon feels so out of place from the rest of the story. However, as the story went on, I realized she fits perfectly with everything else. Everything is a mix of new and old— why should the characters be any different?
Thus, the characters are a huge part of what makes this book so good. Gideon is brash and a bit crude, but she’s also loyal and driven to do the right thing. She longs for freedom and will do whatever it takes to get it— even work with her lifelong nemesis.
Speaking of Gideon’s nemesis, Harrowhark Nonagesimus is deliciously ambitious and morally gray. She is not a team player, preferring to work alone. She’s a gifted necromancer, but is incredibly prickly and mean. But Harrow shoulders so much burden, that it’s easy to see how she became who she is.
Gideon and Harrow’s dynamic and how it progresses throughout the novel is perhaps my favorite part. Both characters grow independently, but their growth is still intrinsically tied to each other’s. I was so ready for the perfect hate-to-love romance… which I didn’t quite get. It seems there’s something there, but nothing either girl is ready to explore just yet.
Other interesting characters quickly rise to the forefront in this deadly trial of skill. Palamedes Sextus is intelligent and inquisitive, always searching for the why of a problem. Camilla Hect is unflinchingly loyal and fiercely deadly. Dulcinea is flirtatious, but also difficult to fully trust. Coronabeth is bold and commanding, while her twin Ianthe is sneaky and mysterious. Teacher is equal parts helpful and unhelpful.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover everyone. Those are just the side characters I enjoyed reading about. There’s so much political intrigue and mistrust between the Houses that it would take pages to explain the tangled web they weave. So instead we’ll move on to world-building.
I am completely obsessed with the way Muir has combined science fiction and fantasy. She has applied the scientific method to necromancy. Who does that? A mad genius, that’s who.
Muir also creates a different purpose, specialty, and government for each House. It’s never difficult to follow who is who and why they do things the way they do.
On top of all that, Muir’s given this world such a gothic vibe. And my little black heart is drooling over it. Canaan House is creepy and mysterious. I loved spending the majority of the book there.
Regarding diversity, Gideon the Ninth is both rich with it and sorely lacking. Gideon is canonically a lesbian, and the implication is that Harrowhark is too. Dulcinea is linked somewhat to both Gideon and Palamedes. She also has chronic illness, which counts as disabled representation. However, unless I missed something, there doesn’t seem to be any characters of color. Hopefully this is rectified in the rest of the trilogy.
You probably have an idea in your head of what this book is like. Get rid of it. Whatever you think this book is, it isn’t. But that’s part of the fun. Go into this book with an open mind, and you’ll probably enjoy it. This book isn’t for everyone, but it’s emphatically for people like me. If your reading taste is anything like mine, then it’s time for you to join the Ninth House.
Death, blood, & body horror
Have you read Gideon the Ninth? What did you think of it? Let’s discuss in the comments!