Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

Muir, Tamsyn
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Gideon the Ninth is about the rebellious Ninth House acolyte, a prodigious fighter, who is forced to become the protector of her most hated enemy Harrowhark, the necromancer of the Ninth House. The two of them travel to the First House, to compete against the necromancers and cavaliers of the other houses for the treasured position of Lyctor. They must battle bone monsters, hidden murderers, the laboratories of the dilapidated castle, fellow competitors, and their burning desire to murder each other to, maybe, make it out alive.
I hadn't read sci-fi/fantasy for a long time before I read this book, and this was a brilliant example of everything I'd been missing. The characters are hilarious and likable, the stakes are high, the magic system is somewhat complicated yet explained brilliantly without long periods of exposition, and the undercurrent of science fiction is always present and contrasted beautifully with the fantasy. The idea of a a hyper-advanced society with spaceships and planets is bound to the aesthetic of necromantic power and fighting primarily done with swords, creating a world that has all the fun elements of imaginative science melded with magic. Beyond this, the story is also really tight. There's not really a moment that the book sits you down and explains everything. It just grabs you and goes and it's up to you to catch up, which is a nice change of pace. But, as I've mentioned, the shining gem of the story is likely the characters. The cast is large, but memorable in its own right. If you can't remember the names, just a few sentences of them speaking will clue you in to their distinct personality. And the gem of the story is probably Gideon herself, who's always hilarious and fun and somewhat tragic, and has a great comradery of hatred with Harrowhawk. The character development, the plot, the world, the magic system, and the mystery of this book make it easily one of my favourite books of this year.

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