Book Review: “Harrow the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir (ARC)

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***Thank you to Tor Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.***

Here is the graveyard and we are the graves.


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?

release date

August 4, 2020


Last year I read Gideon the Ninth and loved it (review here). In fact, it was one of my favorite books of the year. So it was with no small amount of excitement that I anticipated the sequel. I was ecstatic when Tor Publishing agreed to send me an ARC. And then it took me an entire month to read.

Okay, so I don’t actually blame the book for that. I blame quarantine brain. But sadly, I don’t love Harrow the Ninth as much as I did its predecessor. I still really enjoyed it, it just didn’t resonate with me in the same way.

This novel follows Harrowhark from the first book, but she feels like a very different Harrow from the one I’d grown to love. There are very legitimate reasons for this that I can’t share because of spoilers, but it gave the whole story a different vibe.

In fact, I found Harrow to be very passive in this book. Things happen to her and she reacts to them or merely witnesses them. She’s still a total badass and clever as hell, but I wanted her to have a more active role in the plot.

Speaking of plot, I was confused for a good chunk of this book. And yet, the writing is still good so I wasn’t mad about it. It just took me a little longer to connect to the story. The story is told in two timelines and both initially seem to undermine the plot of the first book. Again, there are reasons for this that become clear as the story goes on.

This review seems really critical, but I actually did have a good time with this book. The last third is easily my favorite part. It brings back the humor that was more prevalent in the first book. I wish the first two-thirds were shorter and the last third longer.

Let’s talk about the twists. What’s interesting about Muir’s writing is that the twists themselves are takes on twists that have been done many times before. But because of the way she crafts them and the way necromancy works in this world, its virtually impossible to guess them ahead of time. That makes them fresh and thus very enjoyable.

Every character in this book is morally gray. I love it. They’re out both for the empire and themselves. I think the Emperor is my favorite side character because of how much he feels like just some dude, while also being the most powerful being in the galaxy.

My favorite part of this book is when a certain character from the first book comes back. I missed them so much and was so happy to see them again. While, as with Harrow, I wish they’d played a more active role in the plot, I was mostly happy to hear from this character again.

This book has been really hard to review because it’s so hard to explain, not just because it’s a sequel but because of the kind of story it is. Regardless, I loved this book and am obsessed with this series. I love the way Muir sneaks memes into her dialogue and narration. I love how complex these characters are. I love how well Muir combines science and fantasy. This book was fantastic and I can’t wait for the conclusion next year!



Have you read Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments!


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