I picked up a copy of Gideon the Ninth on the release date, having preordered it the moment I read the words ‘lesbian necromancers’. I then ended up stuck at a train station waiting for a train that I don’t think ever came…I read a hundred or so pages and then proceeded to put the book down and leave it until…February. But I did pick it up again and I am at last writing the review! Can a book that seems so good in theory actually pull it off?
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.
First thing I will say, do not do what I did, do not start this book in a stressful/distracting situation, you will just end up confused. This book has a lot of set up and winding up before it really gets going and if you blink you might miss something important that’ll be a huge plot point later. The second time I read the start of this book I actually got what was happening and why Harrow and Gideon had to leave the Ninth House in the first place – quite an important thing to know! The biggest thing I think you have to keep in mind when picking up this book is that it does take a while to get started, I’d say it wasn’t until around 250 pages in that I felt things had truly kicked off. I expect later books in the series will be less slow to start given that the initial worldbuilding is done.
Once it does get going this book had one of my absolute favourite plots, it’s a series of puzzles which form the backdrop to dramatic political and interpersonal plot! I love puzzles as a way of building bonds and seeding conflict between characters and this book does them really well.
I was concerned because everyone I’d seen talking about this book seemed to be obsessed with Gideon – and I can see why – she’s an unapologetically queer lady with a sword. But personally, I related a lot more to Harrow, and I felt as though the book wasn’t doing a lot to make me care about what happened to Gideon. That improved as the book went on and various…obstacles were removed. That being said, knowing the title of the sequel I am perhaps more excited to read the next book. Gideon is a great character but I’ll be interested to explore some of the other characters in this series.
This book is a lot of fun, it’s a quite dark book but the tone is fairly light-hearted, with Gideon at the helm I don’t think this story could ever take itself too seriously. It’s a delicate balance, keeping things high stakes while still having humour.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I bought this book myself, all opinions are my own.
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What say you? Have you read this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!