The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit. Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
I feel like I’ve seen so much of this book pretty much everywhere and most of what I’ve seen is a whole lot of love. So, of course I was intrigued. Basically, all I knew of this book going into it was lesbian necromancers in space, but not quite lesbian necromancers in space because that selling point wasn’t exactly what everybody was saying it was. Honestly, that was enough for me. It looked and sounded dark and gritty. Plus, skeletons are cool! Trigger warnings: graphic violence, gore, murder, mass murder, human sacrifice, many conversations about suicide, death, death of children, talk of depression, grief depiction, trauma depiction, loss of a loved one, lots of blood depiction, self-harm to get blood, and mentions of cancer.
This book is WEIRD.
If I’m being honest, I’m kind of baffled with how much I ended truly loving this book. And I do truly love it, like a whole lot. But I did not expect to get to that point at all, because this book is something else.
Gideon The Ninth offers no background information. I felt like I was thrown into the deep end of the world with no life jacket in sight. There are no long information dumps, there seems to be no exposition, and there is no careful spelling out of the inner workings of this world. And it works. I’m baffled, but it works. Like, I felt like I was floundering through so much, the world, the politics, the dang Houses, but I wasn’t annoyed by it. I was actually intrigued. I felt like I was experiencing the world, in all it’s bloody glory, instead of just being told what it was. It is a weird experience, and it made my love of this book be a slow build instead of something that happened all at once, but it was an experience that was a wild ride. Really, this book is a wild ride down to it’s core and it embraces that fully, and I think that is what makes it so effective.
Alright, speaking of the slow build of my love, this book really is a slow build. Despite this, it doesn’t flounder in the beginning. Every scene hits its mark, and its it hard. It might not seem important in the beginning, but wow does everything have it’s place.
This book is DARK. Like, there’s just casual cannibalism going on. And that’s on the low end on the “horrifying things to happen” list! Going in, I was not expecting this book to be as dark as it was. Gritty? Yes, absolutely. Scenes that would actually make me nausea? No. But gosh does this book blend dark and gritty into this fantastic concoction of gross and disturbing that I couldn’t help but knock back fully. This also does not do horror casually. Every disturbing thing plays its role. It’s not disturbing for the sake of being disturbing, it’s horrifying and terrifying for a point, and that makes the gut punch this book is hit all the harder.
Now, moving on to how freaking smart this book is. I was not expecting it to play out as it did; this book holds nothing back. Really, that’s the best way to describe it: this book holds nothing back. But it doesn’t do that by unleashing chaos across the story; it does it by meticulously weaving threads of plot and slotting scenes together like a puzzle. I shocked so many times, and my jaw actually dropped at certain places.
I did not think I would end up loving Gideon, but boy did I. I even ended up liking characters I thought I would despise, Harrow, Cam, Palamedes. They grew on me. Their humor grew on me. Really, they all grew on me like the mold the covers the creepy house they have to reside in. I’m definitely not complaining though.
Also, the writing was incredible. I know this is probably obvious with how I talked about the structure and the plot, but I feel like it bears repeating. There were lines that just knocked me off my feet. The “yearn for symmetry” line and “my necromancer talked to your necromancer” are definitely two of them haha.
So, this book surprised me. I was enjoying it and then I ended up completely falling in love with everything this book does. It’s swimming in skeletons and murder, and wow does it hold nothing back. It’s so good.