Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
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.
Warnings: body horror and mutilation; depiction of suicide, mentions of suicide and casual references to it; death of children; self-harm
Gideon the Ninth delivered on all the fun it promised, and much more. It’s a fantasy set in the distant future where a system has nine Houses led by necromancers, and an Undying Emperor who is in self-exile. Said Emperor has a test for the heirs of the nine Houses – to become one of his immortal Lyctors, and for that they all have to come to Canaan House, the abandoned palace of the First House which hides more secrets that they all could imagine. Gideon Nav was brought up in the Ninth House, but was not a part of it, and right when she thinks she has her freedom, her life-long nemesis and heir to the Ninth House, Harrowhark Nonagesimus offers her a deal to get her freedom plus perks, if she accompanies her as the Ninth House cavalier (basically a bodyguard) to Canaan House. Having only each other as allies against the necromancers and cavaliers of the other houses, they slowly unravel the mysteries of the Canaan house together, as well as start to warm up to each other.
The best thing about the book is Gideon, no question! I could comment on the interesting world-building and the magic system that fills the world of The Locked Tomb, and the whole grim vibe of the palace, but Gideon is the highlight of the book and steals the spotlight in every scene. She is horny on main, and a jock to boot, and loves to make jokes, and appreciated puns and dad jokes. Her constant bickering with Harrow also makes the vibe of the story much more amusing that it out to be, considering, you know *looks around at skeletons and murders*. Speaking of murders, the story is in part a locked room mystery – the planet they are on is isolated, so the only people on it are the necromancers (adepts) and cavaliers of each of the eight houses, as well as the keepers of the place, and some walking skeleton servants, and yet murders start happening. They aren’t informed what their tests are, or how they are even considered passed, and when they do find out, those tests expand their understanding of necromancy. That and the murders pit the houses against each other, though Gideon has a soft spot for the Seventh adept, and the hots for one of the Third adepts. Also, she is over the whole ‘tradition’ aspect of the houses and their formality and stuff, but she also faithfully does her duties as cavalier to Harrow, who reluctantly starts letting her help with the test.
Most of the book is them researching the palace, taking the tests, finding bodies, basically being spooked out by the old palace, with some duels thrown in between. The last quarter brought so many shocking, surprising and interesting reveals, including Harrow’s and Gideon’s childhood, the nature of some of the characters, the truth of the trials, and has a hell of a lot of intense battles with life-or-death stakes. Having Gideon narrate the book is also a treat, because aside from her amusing take on everything to do with necromancers, her being NOT a necromancer means we get to dip a toe into the magic system without getting overwhelmed by its complexity; because Gideon doesn’t care much about the mechanics for the most part, so do we not have to. Aside from her I also loved so many of the other characters, who were so vibrantly rendered, like the Fifth cavalier or even the Fourth house teens! That ending, however, was a big gut punch so I’m a little like ‘fuck you’ (Gideon would appreciate it) to the book right now, but also, am I excited that the next book is from Harrow’s PoV? Yes I certainly am! I want to see what the heck is the Emperor fighting, whether the Locked Tomb will be unlocked again, what Harrow will do with her new life!
Finally, about the audiobook – the narrator does an awesome job bringing out Gideon’s personality, as well as Harrow’s snootiness, and every other character, like the dreadful teens of the Fourth House, or the Fifth cavalier’s cheerful awkwardness. It was definitely a treat to read in audio!
Golden Gideon quotes
- “In any case, both she and Harrowhark turned up, gorgeously gowned in their Locked Tomb vestments, painted like living skulls, looking like douchebags. Harrow clinked when she walked with the sheer multiplicity of bonely accoutrement.“
- Hell! Then she remembered that the Sixth had a weirdo fascination with medical science and probably found chronic illness as appealing as a pair of tight shorts, and then she thought: Well, hell!
- “I must no longer accept,” she said slowly, “being a stranger to you.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said Gideon, sudden sweat prickling the back of her neck, “yes you can, you once told me to dig myself an ice grave. Stop before this gets weird.”
- “Are you dim,” hissed Harrow. “If we didn’t agree, that bleeding heart Sextus would, and he’d have the key.” “Oh, whoops, my bad,” said Gideon. “For a moment I thought you weren’t a huge bitch.”
- “Why was I born so attractive?” “Because everyone would have throttled you within the first five minutes otherwise,” said her necromancer.”
- “I cannot conceive of a universe without you in it.” “Yes you can, it’s just less great and less hot,” said Gideon.
Is it diverse? lesbian main characters