Synopsis: Gideon is done with the Ninth house, sick to death of Death, and will do anything to be free. Harrow is a necromancer, daughter of the Ninth House and Gideon hates her. But when the King needs more Lyctors, Harrow is called and she needs a sword – a cavalier.
Gideon The Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir is, undoubtedly, a comical, fun and engaging adventure with witty characters and incredibly magic. However, the prose/narrative did not fit well with the story.
The plot is fantastic and entertaining. Gideon and Harrow end up together in a house along with a necromancer and cavalier from each of the other Houses – the goal? To work out for themselves how to achieve Lyctorhood. This was entertaining particularly as the mystery kicked in and people started dying. It has a very gothic feel. The challenge to Lyctorhood occurs in a large sort of mansion, with multiple locked doors with secrets behind them that will help the necromancers, but each of the challenges are deadly, risking the necromancers and cavalier’s lives for a chance to solve the puzzle. The challenges are an amalgamation of puzles, theorems and battles with giant constructs, each of which pose different difficulties and are entertaining in their own way. However, when the nicest pair of necromancer/cavalier’s dies it pus everyone on edge and the story takes an even darker turn. Harrow, Gideon and some of the other House members try to work out if it was murder or death by challenge, and the more they unravel the mystery the deadlier the game becomes.
The story has a lot of little elements that really pulls it all together and keeps your interest, from the challenges to the mysterious death, to the teacher and skeletons manning the house – everything, even the smallest details, help to form a bigger picture and more engaging story. However, Gideon is left in the dark about a LOT, which means we are as well as the story is told from her POV. Now this is not inherently a bad thing it can be useful in creating suspense and tension but for this particular book and story I think Harrow’s perspective would have been more effective – because she too doesn’t know everything, even when she has her theories. Though, the ending of the book is told well from Gideon’s POV, for reasons I cannot say because spoilers, but it does work particularly well here – so a dual POV may have been more effective.
The characters were equally interesting, funny, distinct and witty. Gideon is sarcastic and explosive, happily throwing out sarcastic retorts when possible and enjoys inappropriate humour, and this made the narrative a lot of fun. Harrow is more cold and distant, dry and her sarcasm is much sharper, but I loved when she had ‘screen’ time and her retorts were just as amusing. There is a large cast of characters all who are dynamic, particularly Cam, Sextus and Dulcinae who play prominent roles, at least to Gideon. But every House member was fun to read about and had a strong personality. The cast has got LGBTQ+ rep, with Gideon being a lesbian, and other side characters are implied to be.
The magic was one of the best parts of the book, the necromancy is incredibly unique. Each house has their own specialisations in different fields of necromancy and can perform different types of magic – which was very interesing to read about. Harrow’s magic was fascinating as she, using bits of bone, could spawn constructs to fight for her. The unique take on necromancy was done very well, had a lot of elements and the magic was cleverly built with a rich system that was complex but easy to understand.
The prose itself was my other issue. The book seems to be a jumble of modern and archaic language and ideas. Gideon at times speaks and thinks in a very modern way using slang that is prevalent in today’s society. But at other times, the book feels more historic, with archaic settings, language and inner thoughts mixed in. This made the prose a little confusing and jarring, pulling me out of the story at times.
Overall, the book is fun, it is a great read that is enjoyable and has a sufficient amount of shock and surprises littered throughout to keep you entertained and engaged. Moreover, the magic will captivate you and you will want to see more of it and the ending will have you clawing for the next book.