Hello Humans! Welcome to what is hopefully an anticipated review because obviously all of you keep up with my booktube channel and therefore are aware that I recently read Harrow the Ninth – the sequel to the award winning Gideon the Ninth which won me over with the dual promises of lesbians and necromancy.
What can I say? I’m predictable.
I was delighted to read the sequel, and not just because I’d forgotten that I have preordered it so it was like getting a present in the post!
Quick warning for potential spoilers ahead for Gideon the Ninth – avoid if you don’t want to be spoiled for book one. I’ll keep things spoiler free for Harrow the Ninth.
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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?
I want to preface this review with a bit of a ‘this is a me thing’ disclaimer – because most of my feelings towards this book are incredibly personal, so please take all of this with the rightful pinch of salt it deserves. All reviews are my own opinions (obviously) but in this case I think the reason I didn’t get on with this book as well as others might is 100% a Judith problem and not a problem with the book.
That’s not to say I didn’t like this book – my overall impression was one of sheer awe that it all managed to come together in the way that it did. If you told me to guess what might happen in this book I don’t think there’s a chance I would have guessed any of this…so yes, overall impression is one of ‘yes good book good series yes more of this please’.
But ooooh boy did I spend most of this book being deeply confused. What reading this book made me realise is that I have a real issue with any book that involves memory loss or memory manipulation where as a reader you don’t know why. I think this can be filed under the ‘Judith is a control freak who has to know exactly what is happening at all times’ heading – because I LOVE the omniscience that reading gives me and in this book I felt hugely lost for…I’d say probably 85% of the time. I’ve had this with other books involving memory in the past and now that has clicked I think I’ll have an even better sense of what books might work for me in the future and why some books may be misses for me.
At least on the first read. Because that’s the thing – I am fully intending to re-read this very soon and at that point I think I’m going to have a much easier time of it because I’ll have that omniscience that I crave. So, while I’m writing this review based on that first reading experience I expect I’ll have an even higher opinion of this book after further re-reads – it was certainly the case with Gideon.
I’ll stop pontificating about reading experiences now and actually tell you about the book.
I’d say, if you’re looking for something that feels similar to the casual tone of Gideon the Ninth you might be a little confused, in a lot of ways this felt much more formal, more structured – which I think is to be expected when following Harrow as opposed to Gideon. A lot of the book is written in the second person which I actually thought worked really well and ties well into the story but it is a little bit to get used to especially if you’re binge reading the series. So go in expecting a very different book, but one that has the same core identity as Gideon just with some different….bones?
I definitely recommend this series to friends looking for new science fiction and fantasy – but if you’re like me and you like a simple narrative you might find it more of a challenge, the plot requires you to hold quite a lot of information in your head and alongside that every character has at least one nickname so it feels like a cast of characters twice as large as it actually is. Again – a personal thing, I am bad with names – but if you’re like me then you might like to know that.
This book definitely stretched me out of my reading comfort zone and I’m really grateful for that – I think it’s awesome to delve into books that aren’t just the same as everything else and I am more than excited to re-read this and then to begin the long wait for the next book in the series…
My rating: 4/5 stars
I bought this book myself all opinions are my own.
Harrow the Ninth is out now!
What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!