Have you ever had a book rip a hole in your very soul? Have you ever had a book that you threw (softly, because you love it and it has feelings) across the room for the damage it inflicted on you? Have you wept for your favourite characters because you want them to be safe? This was my experience of reading Gideon the Ninth.
Gideon Nav has a sword, some dirty magazines and serves the Ninth House. Gideon wants out of the Ninth and their necromantic business. When the ninth heir, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, is summoned by the Emperor Undying to take part in a trial that will secure her future, she summons Gideon to be her cavalier. As Gideon reluctantly follows her nemesis to the First House under a promise of freedom from the Ninth, both soon realise that some things are truly better off dead.
I am not exaggerating. This is my favourite I’ve read so far in 2020 and its only February. This is the gothy, mouthy SFF book my soul wanted so desperately. What Muir has managed here is a genre mash up with vibrant, memorable characters and a spinning plot. Like what is not to love, this is necromancers with swords people locked into a mysterious, empty house with one instruction; do not enter any locked door without permission.
Each of the houses are on different planets, all having to travel to the First house (Canaan House) for the trial. I do feel the world building lacked a little here but since the majority of the plot happened in Canaan House I didn’t mind as much. Hell sometimes I didn’t even notice because the house became its own character and was basically a giant puzzle box to be solved. Just think The Hellbound Heart but with no cenobites and skeletons instead.
Muir really shows her strengths here with her characters. Gideon as a protagonist made this such an enjoyable read. Readers may not gel with the sarcasm and sheer level of attitude that Gideon and Harrow have, but I am a sarcastic twat who always wants the last word so I can well and truly relate. The other cast of characters to begin with are very forgettable, since like Harrow, they have long aristocratic names that sound amazing but can blend together especially in the first half. This is why I would highly recommend the audio book of this since the narrator distinguishes each character beautifully. I’ll gush about Harrow and Gideon in a second but honestly outside of both of them I loved the members of the sixth house, Palamedes and Camilla his cavalier.
Something I loved as well the necromancy. For a start there are different types of necromancy. This blew my mind since my experience with necromancy in books is limited to Garth Nix and some DnD one shots. Palamedes, and the entire sixth house, is an agent of medical necromancy. There are others, including soul siphoning (creep central), flesh constructs (also creep central) and so much more I can’t wait to learn about.
Gideon and Harrow. Holy shit. Watching both of these women who grew up together with a very distinct power imbalance along with lifelong trauma, learn how to trust each other and confront their own egos. Once the plot gathers into what is a murder mystery (more genre mashing!) they both have no other choice but to stick together. Muir has created some absolutely devastating character moments in this book, by the time the book reaches the final act you are totally connected to them.
The ending is a total payoff. The one common thread I think many who have finished the book and who didn’t enjoy the first two thirds is that Muir wraps up the plot wonderfully. I found myself in tears and well and truly shook by it. Before finishing this review, I read the last 100 pages again last night. I am still shook by the conclusion.
Have you read this? Are you going to read it? Are you someone who started this and didn’t finish it? I need to discuss this with someone and I love a good discussion of a book that people didn’t like but that I loved wholeheartedly. Thank you for checking in folks, happy reading!