Review: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

“The only thing that ever stopped me being exactly who I wanted,” she said, “was the worry that I would soon be dead … and now I am dead, Reverend Daughter, and I am sick of roses, and I am horny for revenge.”

*****Trigger warnings for body horror, death, suicide, blood letting, physical violence, self harm and death of parents*****

First review of 2021! This book has been sitting in my feelings, my mind and my heart for many weeks and I finally have the brain (and the bones. Get it.) to write a review. This was book was one of my top 10 of 2020 with the first book in the series. I wouldn’t normally feature 2 books from the same series but as you’re going to learn, this book is a COMPLETELY different outing to Gideon the Ninth.

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 genuinely am still struggling with remembering what the absolute fuck I just read and I love it. Tamsyn Muir is an author who I can’t not praise to the high heavens for her complete bravery with approaching a sequel. I recently popped both Harrow and Gideon on my top books of 2020 with the reason that they were both totally different books. I can’t emphasise this enough. This is nothing like the first book.

Muir really pushed the reader (that being me recovering home from hospital) to work hard for this story. This could easily have gone against her since second books in trilogies tend to go wrong and the fact this takes everything you knew about the world, characters and events of the first book and shoves them directly in the bin? Wow are you working hard for this one. I can’t discuss much in the review here without spoiling (great spoilers here if you want) a lot from both books but I will say what this book has in absolute spades is excellent world building.

What was established in Gideon is both expanded upon and added to as the story unfolds. More of it is also thrown into the bin, just as a heads up. I LOVED the expanded lore on how the various houses were formed, especially the Ninth. The Locked Tomb itself (actual tomb, not the series) gets a particular spotlight that I think was the highlight. In fact it might be one of the few things we do get an answer on, is the background on why the tomb should be shut forever and the rock never rolled away. There is also a much needed addition to what other types of necromancy are available to Lyctors and Necromancers both that made my inner magic system geek giggle with delight.

Harrow is an absolute mess. She is possibly one of the most unreliable and vulnerable characters I’ve read in a very long time. The whole Reverend Daughter thing is legit for her, like she is DEDICATED to her house and her Emperor. Right down to her paint, Harrow is a dedicated daughter of the Ninth. She is also severely traumatised, burdened by the cost of her powers but never once is she not the absolute best she could be. She’s even tragic making soup. (There’s a lot of soup, biccies and tea in this one ). Other characters who stood out, grabbed you by the throat and smiled included Ianthe Tridentarius. I was not a fan of the Third House last book. They just wigged me out or annoyed me. Ianthe still bothers me but she’s far more interesting this time around. I think it’s always best to have a dubious person on your side and if there’s something I highly enjoyed how you could never quite tell her intentions. Yet you knew she was likely full of shit.

The plot is the biggest bone (sorry) of them all to pick. I will say, I had absolutely no clue where most of this story was going most of the time. But I was VERY happy with the deliverance I got by the last quarter and the pay off that came with it. You are going to not have an absolute clue where this plot is going so if you’re someone who is not happy to have a plot spoon fed to you or to be in the dark, you might not like this book at all. I was more than happy to hand the reins over to Muir on this one.

I honestly haven’t met a new series I’ve loved more in SFF over the years. The Locked Tomb trilogy is shaping up to be one of my favourites of all time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I will be returning to my own tomb until 2022 for Alecto the Ninth is released. Good to be back everyone! Thanks for following me into 2020, sticking with me and happy reading to you.

★★★★★/5

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