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The Locked Tomb #1

Gideon the Ninth

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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.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published September 10, 2019

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About the author

Tamsyn Muir

39 books10.7k followers
TAMSYN MUIR is the bestselling author of the Locked Tomb Trilogy, which begins with Gideon the Ninth, continues with Harrow the Ninth, and concludes with Alecto the Ninth. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award and the Eugie Foster Memorial Award. A Kiwi, she has spent most of her life in Howick, New Zealand, with time living in Waiuku and central Wellington. She currently lives and works in Oxford, in the United Kingdom.

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Profile Image for Melanie.
1,172 reviews98.8k followers
September 10, 2019

ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

“The more you struggle against the Ninth, Nav, the deeper it takes you; the louder you curse it, the louder they’ll have you scream.”

Hi, my name is Melanie, and this was a really hard review to write for many reasons. First, I think I have hyped this book for all of 2019, and I have been very vocal about it being my favorite book of the year, and the best debut I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. Next, how do you write a review on the book of your heart? The book that feels like it was crafted for you? The book that has lit up the darkest places of your soul? It’s hard, friends. Truly. Lastly, I know nothing I say here will do this book justice. But I suppose I should give it a try regardless, aye?

Gideon the Ninth is a book about a swordfighter named Gideon who is my favorite literary character of all time. Gideon is so witty, so funny, so charming, and such a thorn in Harrowhark’s side. Harrowhark is a necromancer, while also being the main ruler of the Ninth’s planet. Both of these characters are harboring a few secrets of their own, but they are both so unsure of their pasts and their futures for so very many reasons.

That is, until one day the Emperor has invited all eight necromancer heirs, from all eight loyal Houses, to compete in unknown trails to possibly ascend into something that will make them immortal, but the costs of losing can very well be their lives. No necromancer can compete without a skilled cavalier by their side, and Harrowhark has no choice but to get Gideon to help her and save the future of the Ninth House.
“You are the honoured heirs and guardians of the eight Houses. Great duties await you. If you do not find yourself a galaxy, it is not so bad to find yourself a star, nor to have the Emperor know that the both of you attempted this great ordeal.”

But once Gideon and Harrowhark arrive on the Emperor’s planet, they soon realize that the tasks are going to be much more mysterious and much more difficult than anyone could have predicted. Especially when cavaliers and necromancers from the other houses start getting murdered. Gideon is not only tasked to help Harrowhark, she also has to ensure that she keeps breathing herself, while also trying to figure out who is doing the unspeakable things to other competitors.

Tamsyn then leads us on this beautiful adventure, where twist after twist occurs so seamlessly that you can’t help but feel completely enthralled. The writing is so beautiful, so intelligent, and so very impressive. And the way the entire story is told is so very transportive! I mean, this book has one of the scariest settings I’ve read all year, but I felt like I was right there battling for my life, with a goofy smile on my face. And the atmosphere and constant chill while reading? It’s unparalleled and truly an experience like no other.

“Maybe it’s that I find the idea comforting . . . that thousands of years after you’re gone . . . is when you really live. That your echo is louder than your voice.”

I love this book for many reasons, but I also love it because it’s over the top, and has so many one-liners, and it’s painfully romantic, and the girl gets the girl at the end. And it’s what’s I’ve been waiting my whole reading life for. This is a better, and way more unique, and 100% more impressive version of what straight, white dudes have been publishing in SFF forever. I keep seeing people say that they feel this book is too confusing, the characters too over the top, and the world too complex, but I just don’t feel that way at all. This is the story my sapphic loving heart has been searching for in epic fantasy my whole life. Gideon the Ninth is my queer, literary loving heart’s anthem, and I plan to play it on repeat forever.

This book has the best enemies to lovers romance I’ve ever read in all of my years. Yeah, you read that right. In my whole freaking life, this is my favorite. I’m talking OTP for the rest of my days. I didn’t exist before this ship sailed in this first book. And this book also has such a central theme of trust, and what it means to put your trust in another. Also, what it means to be trustful, and the privilege of having someone put their trust in you, unconditionally. And this book also has an amazing discussion on power dynamics and imbalances, and how important it is to be aware of these things while putting your trust in yourself and in someone else, simultaneously.

“You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

Overall, this really just felt like the book I’ve been waiting my own personal eternity for. This felt like the book of my dreams and my hopes. All I want is ownvoices queer books, with f/f relationships, with cutthroat girls putting themselves first, but allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to maybe let someone else get to see a softer side of them. Almost like I’ve been reviewing books for five years now, preparing myself to read and review Gideon the Ninth, even though I know no word combination or sentence structure I could ever come up with could do it justice for this story. Basically, I know this book isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you feel like you have similar reading taste to me, then I implore you to give this one a try. I mean, if the tagline “Lesbian Necromancers in Space” isn’t going to sell you, hopefully my emotional, bleeding heart self can. This book means everything to me, and I hope you enjoy if you pick it up.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and 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.

Also, I was so blessed, and I was able to meet Tamsyn at BookExpo and she is honestly the sweetest necromancer in the world, and she truly made my entire convention! 🖤⚔️
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews156k followers
August 5, 2022
What greater debt could be accrued than that of being brought up?” There’s an invisible collar rested around Gideon Nav’s throat, its leash leading back to the Ninth House, the claws of its heir fastened tight in her flesh.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the sole daughter and secret ruler of the Ninth (and Gideon Nav’s executioner by increment), wore her destiny like a noose. She kept the frailty of her house guarded, locked-down, putting up a masterly front, but a chance at competing for the prestigous role of Lyctor is the only way to save the Ninth from careening into a fearful darkness. It was a last resort, and one the necromancer couldn’t consider without Gideon Nav’s wiliness to fill the role of her cavalier.

Freedom stood unshackled in the bloodied light of Harrow’s coercive offer, and Gideon felt its lure like a hook behind her heart. She would serve as Harrow’s bodyguard in the trials, and then flit out the Ninth like a loosed bird. Gideon would no longer waste the years of her life as an outsider, inside; doomed to grim survival in a world that wasn’t her own.

But once summoned to the decaying Canaan House where the trials are held, the heirs of the nine houses find themselves confounded, given only the barest scrapings of information about the competition, tied to a stake and baited before they embarked on the wretched business of being murdered one by one. Gideon and Harrow must fight back against the shadowy machinations of those who wished to sever their existence from the world…before the Canaan House becomes a slaughter-yard.

The more you struggle against the Ninth, Nav, the deeper it takes you; the louder you curse it, the louder they’ll have you scream.

You don’t really know how high your hopes have been until you watch them plummeting earthward, and you grappling around in the wreckage. Gideon the Ninth snagged at my attention, and I was beguiled by the promise of an atmospheric, Gothic-flavored chiller, packed with catacombs and sarcophagi, resurrections and revelations, fantasy and horror. Unfortunately, the novel’s allure faded into the sky unmarked within the first few chapters.

Gideon the Ninth gets off to an uneven start. We are immediately faced with thickets of unexplained jargon so dense it was difficult to find the other side, and it was like guttering around in the dark, with ink poured in your eyes. For a while, I waited for the dangling threads and wandering pieces of the story to be shepherded into a straight line, but my continuous attempts at making sense of Gideon the Ninth became abortive things.

For one, the worldbuilding is thin. The novel is not particularly cogent, or focused, or informative about the actual setting, and I was confused, as though I’d walked in on the middle of the wrong movie. The explanation of the different planets and the different castes and people who inhabit them is blurred to insignificance. Some micro-flaws in the logic also feel sloppy; there are copious pop-culture references (to Mean Girls and The Office) but, oddly, some characters don’t even know what a sink is.

It’s not until a little over halfway through—when the many strands of the narrative are held together by the unfolding closed-circle mystery—that my interest begun to stir again, feebly. The whodunit becomes the driving force of the novel, with conflicts coming to a head and silent tensions finally boiling over. What seemed at first to be a random patchwork coalesces into a grander, madder pattern, and I felt like a lost sailor suddenly handed a compass. If Gideon the Ninth had stuck to this relatively straightforward plot from the beginning, it would have made for a solid, winning read. But the plot comes too late, and by then, I was so bored I barely managed to squint the words into focus.

To the author’s credit, they write Gideon’s inner and outer dialogue with flair, but mostly skimp on showing in favor of telling. Gideon’s voice feels conspicuously flat at points, particularly in her stilted banter (or maybe her sense of humor just doesn’t jell well with mine), and in her contribution to the book’s larger arguments, which are very few. As Gideon and Harrow’s journey becomes stranger, so does the novel’s voluminous cast of characters, most of whom only show up when most convenient, their personal conflicts relatively slight. Not that these characters aren't arresting enough to warrant books of their own, because they are. Unfortunately, that only underscores how really underdeveloped Gideon is.

What saves the book, however, is the ultimate, bloodcurdling conclusion. I’m also a sucker for questionable relationships with dynamics that make the reader unable to shake off a flutter of moral unease, and this book knew just which buttons to push. Harrow and Gideon’s relationship is a pickled thing, as though it’d been preserved in vinegar, only to be pulled out to act as garnish to their artfully plated arrangement to be Necromancer and Cavalier. The tension between them is a constantly low-simmering fire—one errant breath of wind could fan it—and I snatched hungrily at those scattered moments between them.

Gideon the Ninth was pitched to me as “queer necromancers in space”, giving me a bellyful of false hope. It’s not exactly an inaccurate claim—just rather…flimsy. There are necromancers, Gideon is most definitely queer, the space part leaves much to be desired…still I wish I haven’t rested my expectations upon such a beguiling premise.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,989 reviews298k followers
October 21, 2019
“Maybe it’s that I find the idea comforting . . . that thousands of years after you’re gone . . . is when you really live. That your echo is louder than your voice.”

Ugh, I wish I hadn't taken so long to sit down and write a review of this. I prefer writing a review when everything is fresh in my mind, but I do actually have things I want to say about this dark, dense, totally unique fantasy.

One thing I think it might be helpful to know when starting this book is: you're going to just have to make peace with not totally "getting" it for a while. If you're anything like me, when you read something you don't really understand, you read it again and again until it makes sense. In my experience this can lead to book slumps, and I just don't think it's that helpful when it comes to Gideon the Ninth. Things get painted in over the course of the whole novel, so just accepting I didn't understand it at first made it much more palatable.

Because this world is dense and complex and, with a little patience, absolutely fascinating. Nobody can accuse Muir of a lack of imagination. This surely has to be one of the most detailed and unique necromancer fantasies ever written (though connoisseurs of that niche might be able to tell me different). In this world, the Emperor has a representative of each of the nine houses (with their accompanying cavalier) compete in a series of weird and dangerous trials in order to determine those most worthy of being a servant of the Resurrection, complete with power and immortality.

The plot is simple; the world-building and writing are anything but. However, more than either of those, what made this book shine so so much for me was Gideon. Well, really, a number of the characters, but mostly Gideon. How to explain her... She's a snarky lovable badass but with none of the standard heroine, fits-a-perfect-mold kind of badassery that I've grown so tired of. She's just really cool and funny. And somehow relatable, even though I can honestly say I've never been a swordswoman in space (no, really).

Honestly, as a character she really stands out as someone unique. Which is saying a lot because I've read a ton of fantasy books and most of them are obviously recycling characters at this point. Here, working through the author's challenging prose and world-building was easier because I cared so much about Gideon. This book really proves how much characters make or break a book. Without Gideon, I am sure this would have gone to my mental "not for me" pile.

Muir's ending hit me in the feels, too. The book surprised me by having a bunch of sad and sweet moments amid the darkness. I'm almost afraid to read Harrow the Ninth, but hell am I going to.

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Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 256 books408k followers
September 2, 2021
I am late in reviewing this, as I finished it over a year ago, but it's a sign of the book's strength that I am still thinking about it! Muir has created a galactic empire upheld by necromancy: Nine houses, each of which governs it own world and specializes in its own form of death magic, all bound together by the Emperor, the immortal Necrolord Prime and his band of super-powerful, undying "necrosaints" -- the Lyctors.

The emperor has held power for ten thousand years, but despite his godlike abilities, all is not well in his galactic death cult. Wars are being waged against faraway enemies. Battles are being lost. Attrition is high. Then a strange call goes out from the First House, the emperor's own: We need more Lyctors. Each house is invited to send their heir apparent and cavalier (elite bodyguard) to the First House for a set of mysterious trials. Those who survive and prove themselves worthy will ascend to Lyctorhood, gaining immortality and powers almost equal to the emperor himself. A hard invitation to refuse, right?

Meanwhile, in the gloomy Ninth House, Gideon Nav wants to run away from her horrible life. She has no one in the dreary world of the Ninth, where undead skeletons are much more common than living folk and the average age of the nuns and priests who guard the Locked Tomb is about 85. The only other person Gideon's age is the heir apparent, the Reverend Daughter Harrowhark, who treats Gideon like a personal whipping post. When the Emperor's call goes out, however, the two are forced to work together. Harrow is the heir and the best necromancer on the planet, adept at crafting with the bones of the dead. Gideon is the best sword-fighter, especially since the house's actual cavalier fled to planet. The two young women strike a bargain: If Gideon pretends to be Harrow's cavalier and goes to the First House trials, Harrow will grant her her freedom, assuming Harrow is able to become a Lyctor and save the honor of her dying home world.

What follows is part Dune (dueling royal houses in space), part Nico di Angelo (snarky queer death demigods) and part Agatha Christie locked-room mystery (Locked Tomb mystery?). Gideon and Harrow have to learn to work together, or at least not kill each other, while all around them in the creepy halls and secret laboratories of the First House, people start disappearing . . . The secret to becoming a Lyctor might be worse than any of them ever imagined.

Muir's writing is a sheer delight, sparkling with zinger dialogue and bone-dry humor. Gideon is just my kind of narrator: irreverent, irrepressible, and lovably grumpy. Her relationship with Harrow is wonderfully depicted: with frenemies like this, who needs . . . uh, frenemies? There are a lot of characters to keep up with once we reach the First House, and the story unfolds in multiple layers that can be a challenge to track, but wow, the pay-off! Once you hit those last hundred pages, I defy you to set this story down. Fortunately, this is the first book in a trilogy, and I can't wait to see what happens in the follow-up Harrow the Ninth!
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,093 reviews17.7k followers
March 21, 2022
“One flesh, one end, bitch.”

I genuinely think about this book all the time, and I just need to say that this is the most upset I’ve been by an ending to a book in several years. When I completed it I started yelling audibly and my roommate, who was also awake, I believe may have become genuinely concerned for my sanity. Gideon the Ninth looked at me and said I could make her worse, and then it did, and it’s incurable. The gay people at my college own four collective copies of this and we pass it around to first years like a mini cult indoctrination and you now the worst part? It works.

I cannot talk about the things about this book that make me genuinely crazy without getting into spoilers, so here is my short pitch: Lesbian necromancers in space, except the space part isn’t that relevant. In reality, it’s a And-Then-There-Were-None-esque murder mystery in which the two main characters are a buff lesbian with a sword and the most fucked up woman you have ever seen in your life. You will not solve the murder mystery. Gideon, the main character, makes the worst puns I have ever heard and it’s fantastic. I cannot even begin to explain how compelled I am by Harrow. No one in this book can be normal for more than ten seconds at a time. At least one meme will be quoted per book. I have never read anything more homoerotic in my life than the pool scene. I laughed. I also cried a lot. You should read it.

Here are a few more detailed thoughts that I can give: Tamsyn Muir is genuinely fantastic at crafting a building narrative. You do not know how invested you are in Gideon the Ninth until the hits start coming, and by then Muir is ready to hit you with a punch. The first half is solid and interesting, but the last hundred pages are fully the best hundred pages of any book I have read in my life. (And it helps that her action writing is fantastic.)

The main characters and side characters alike are so interesting. Harrow has the single most compelling backstory of any character I have had the delight of reading about. She has so many problems and I love her. Some highlights of the wider cast include Judith of the Second House; Ianthe and Coronabeth, incredibly abnormal twin heirs to the Third House; Palamedes and Camilla of the Sixth House, the latter of whom is honestly the most normal person in this book; and Dulcinea and Protesilaus, also normal people of the Seventh House. I am also obsessed with Gideon because she has just… the funniest narrative voice. Some examples?
“I need to be inside you,” Harrowhark bellowed over the din.
“Okay, you’re not even trying,” said Gideon.
“Did you know that if you put the first three letters of your last name with the first three letters of your first name, you get ‘Sex Pal’?”

Speaking of which I am. Embarrassingly invested. In the dynamic between Gideon and Harrowhark. I think about them all the time, by which I mean I’ve spent several days of my life consumed by thinking about them. I cannot say anything else at this time for legal reasons but just now that as if we are ever speaking I am pretending to be invested in our conversation but I am actually thinking about Gideon and Harrow.

gay people:

about harrow:

the twists:

spoilers for harrow the ninth:

In conclusion. I think about this book all the time. I have been getting all of my friends to obsess over it and I think you should hop on this train, personally.

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Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,301 reviews43.9k followers
November 28, 2022
I cannot actually believe my hands declared their independence from the auto-control of my brain and gave 3.5 stars and rounded it down to three stars! I can shout at my hands and tell them they are ungrateful! They should have clapped this author’s creativity for this controversial, unique, fantastic plot and good characterization but well, my hands made the right decision! You know why! Okay keep reading and stop yawning in front of me!

I already started my happy dance and dropped this book several times as I performed Travolta’s classic hip and point move because I started one of the most anticipated books of the year and it deserved to be celebrated with my over exaggerated dance moves (at least I gave an quiet amazing show to the neighbor’s kids who got bored from their Fifa tournaments on play station)

How can you resist to a plot about necromancers and well rounded, intriguing badass heroine characters.

But when I started to flip pages, my thoughts completely changed. I read 150 pages…Nothing happened…

I treated this book as patient as I could (I’m aries, patience is not my best virtue) and I read 50 pages more. Nada… Another 50 pages more…Still nothing… I started to think maybe Jerry Seinfield used a different pen name and wrote this book about nothingness as he’d done with his TV show “Seinfield”

Well 50 pages later…Still nothing happened and I cuddled with the book and took a break because I got also lost with the technical terms of the book. I even tried to order a dictionary about necromancers to understand their terminology. But no publishing companies released this useful source! I also had hard time to understand true natures, attributes, motives, back stories of characters because they were more 15! There are nine houses and I prepared schematic to match the characters with its houses like I’d done with the time tables of character’s aging when I was watching enigmatic German Netflix series named Dark!
I was so bored and suffering from lack of energy. I couldn’t even lift my glass so my husband helped me drink my Chardonnay with a straw (I know, I disgusted with myself, too!)

And after 300 pages later, something magically happened! THE STORY’S PACE SUDDENLY FASTENED! The story turned into a great combination of space opera, thriller, mystery and sci-fi. It was sad, funny some parts are too edgy, gothic and irritating. Actually I appreciated writer’s effort to create this amazing and extraordinary concept. However the creativity and visualization defeated by complex, long, slow-paced writing and unlikable characters. Especially heroine acted so immature and annoying little brat who deserved my tones of slaps.

If it wasn’t for the first 300 torture, I could give this book 5 stars for the author’s success to bring out something different, shiny, capturing, special but in my opinion, book was needed reductions and polishing of characterizations before the release date! I still enjoyed so many parts but I felt like I watched three times the first 28 minutes of Saving Private Ryan! I got really exhausted as if I ran 10K marathon or 10 bottle Chardonnay drinkathon!

Intentions, originality, high efforts of the author but maybe I lately read too long books and my timing was not right to start something needs to much energy, concentration. So unfortunately this one didn’t work for me,too.
Profile Image for carol..
1,565 reviews8,206 followers
March 15, 2023
In retrospect, this book is a bag of Doritos Mix. Either you love the pastiche, or you don't, but there's nothing about this that makes it a classic that people will come back to time and time again. It's snack food, pure and simple, fun to munch-crunch, some parts better than others (but perhaps just the occasional too much to really sit well.)
Following a young person desperate to get off her residential planet, it has the distinctive voice of a new adult/young adult book, full of snark and fire. In the right mood, it's amusing. In the wrong mood, it will likely become tiresome. Gideon the Ninth most reminds me of a high-stakes island mystery as written by Suzanne Collins, set in the world of Chronicles of Riddick.

"Gideon woke to an unfamiliar ceiling, a fuzzy taste on her tongue, and the exciting smell of mould. The light blazed in red slashes even through her eyelids, and it made her come to all at once. For long moments she just lay back in her nest of old bedding and looked around."

There is seriously interesting stuff going on with the world-building. The star system is populated by a necromatic society, which each of the worlds specializes in a different type of necromancy. That's about all we get for the depth, though. Apparently, the society been has been under the Undying King for ten thousand years. Gideon is part of the Ninth world, a foundling on an isolated rock of a planet, populated by a rigid sect of necromancers whose specialty seems to be control over bones. After eighty-seven attempts at escaping the Ninth, she's forced to become the right-hand swordsman cavalier to the necromancer Reverend Daughter Harrowhawk, her arch-enemy since childhood. The Undying King is seeking eight people to ascend to his court and become Lyctors, and Harrowhawk fully intends to be one of them.

The problems is that despite interesting ideas about what different necromancer cultures might look like, some aspects aren't integrated at all. Dialogue frequently includes phrases like "'Oh whoops, my bad,' said Gideon. 'For a moment I thought you weren't a huge bitch." 

or like this:

"'Slow down, numbnuts,' she hissed, when she thought they were out of earshot of anyone. 'Where's the fire?'
'Nowhere--yet.' Harrow sounded breathless.
'I've eaten my own body weight. Don't make me hurl.'
'As mentioned before, you're a hog. Hurry up. We don't have much time.'

and would you believe a

"That's what she said."

Parse that out a minute, why don't you? Really, stop and think. You could have overheard that in the back seat of your car, if you're a mom of pre-teens, or in my swim lane if I'm being particularly rude to one of my guy friends (yes, I don't talk like that to the female ones). There's many little anachronisms like that that perhaps would be explained by being the remnants of another culture (there are intriguing hints of such), but I don't buy it in lexicon. This is Hollywood version, so if you are the sort of fantasy or sci-fi reader that prefers a less contemporary feel to your culture, proceed thoughtfully. 

I love the idea of specializing in different aspects of death and soul, and there's a lot to be explored here. I'm not sure that the death culture we saw gelled well with the idea of the Undying King living ten thousand years, however. I have questions.  

The story is divided in to five acts. The first act is on the Ninth, the remainder are on the First World. The pacing was curious. I thought from the first act that it was a new adult style story about Gideon finding her independence/destiny, but when we reach the second act, the feel of the story changes significantly, and it is more of a 'look how fun this is' exercising in setting and character. Third Act raises the stakes, and the Fifth Act is bonkers. So while I'd agree with other reviewers who found the final part of the story inconsistent or off with pacing, I'd have to say the book as a whole has some challenges along those lines. It almost seems like it's because Muir can't quite handle all the stories she wants to tell. 

There is a fair amount of humor, some situational, some descriptive, and some from the snark. There's a couple of shy younger people that talk in lowercase voices, and who are generally mortified whenever the adult they are with approaches Gideon. They are initially hilarious.

Characterization is decent, especially considering that there are at least two representatives from each of the worlds. Muir does help the reader along with code words like "oh, the Fourth and their ghosts..." or some such, but again, it's a large cast.

Oh, and about the lesbian relationship? Uh, very complicated, and very young adult. I'm not sure what other readers were reading, but I'd never call this a 'romance,' as much as a

It mostly worked for me, but I timed myself so that I was open to sarcasm and snark, and tried to let go of any expectations of storytelling. Eventually, however, it felt a little long. There is some emotional growth at the end, although while it felt somewhat rewarding, it also felt a bit of a cheat, because I'm not sure I believed it, mostly because the more "world-building" there was, the less I felt the underpinnings of the story held together. Still, interesting, which is somewhat hard to find; good, if young, characters. Recommended with all the above warnings. Taking my own advice, I'm not entirely sure I'll go on to the next. 

Three-and-a-half bones. I honestly could have rounded this one either way. Down for the fact I had to re-start it, and at one point, force myself to continue, up because it made me chuckle quite a few times, and I like what Muir does with her language. So today we'll go up.

Note: I abstained from both new-adult and snark for a significant amount of time in order to prepare for this book.
Profile Image for Petrik.
687 reviews45.9k followers
October 5, 2019
ARC & Review copy provided by the publisher—Tor.com—in exchange for an honest review.

Gideon the Ninth is a damn fine example of why readers’ reviews are incredibly important.

If you have been active on bookish social media, you should know by now that Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir’s debut and the first installment in The Locked Tomb (or The Ninth House in the past) Trilogy, has been tor.com's most hyped book of the year. The buzz and praise for Gideon the Ninth has been immense to say the least. Knowing nothing other than the fact that “Lesbian necromancers in space” was stamped on the front of the gorgeous cover art (illustrated by Tommy Arnold), I gave the ARC a try a few months ago only to find myself disappointed by how much it didn’t work for me back then. If I may be brutally honest, I DNFed the novel around 120 pages in on my first read-through. Since then, readers’ reviews have started pouring in, usually resulting in absolute love or disappointment; there’s almost no in-between. But there’s one common consensus shared by both factions: the second half improved significantly. After receiving another copy of this book, a limited edition with black sprayed edges and many goodies, it was only fair that I give it one more try. The result? I enjoyed it remarkably more than I did on my first try. I truly believe that knowing the right things to expect out of this book ahead of reading it will improve the reader’s enjoyment so much more.

Picture: The book and the goodies I received!

Gideon Nav—or Gideon the Ninth—prepares to escape again but she can’t do it without doing one last service for her childhood nemesis: Harrowhark Nonagesimus. The Emperor of the First House has sent an invitation to all the heirs of each one of his Houses to attend a trial of wit and skill; the winner will become a Lyctor—an immortal and a direct all-powerful servant of the Emperor. Each heir needs a cavalier, a bodyguard, to help them win the trial and this is where Gideon comes in, serving as Harrow’s cavalier. Gideon the Ninth isn’t an easy book for me to review because of the opposite reaction I had in the reading experience of the first half and the second half.

Several readers—myself included—have mentioned that the first half of the book was difficult to get through and I really can’t blame them. In my opinion, the first half was a struggle to read because of how annoying and tiring Gideon’s voice can be to read, which became even more intolerable when the vow of silence was put on Gideon by Harrow and Harrow herself wasn’t in the scenes to act as a counterbalance against Gideon’s attitudes for almost 100 pages. Gideon acted and talked like a juvenile trying way too hard to be funny and edgy and it became annoying quickly. The side characters—excluding Harrow—also took a while to remember and warm up to. Please remember that there’s a character glossary at the beginning of the book to help you remember who’s who more easily; put it to good use. But here’s the important thing, these minor complaints from me, somehow, existed only within the first half; the second half turned the book completely around and headed into a significantly better direction for me.

I honestly didn’t think a turnaround was possible. However, once the story entered Act 3, and the genre shifted more to a murder mystery, I found every single aspect of the book so much better to read. Gideon the Ninth is a bizarre book that doesn’t fall into one specific genre properly; it’s like a hybrid between sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery. I highly enjoyed reading the second half of Gideon the Ninth, because the murder mysteries elements were captivating, Muir’s prose became much easier to follow, the action sequences were awesome, and most importantly the character development—especially for Gideon and Harrow—was terrific. A huge part of why the sudden positive change in reading enjoyment was possible is due to Harrow’s role in the story. I loved Harrow and personally think she’s a much better character than Gideon. What made this even more incredible is that Harrow doesn’t even have a POV to follow; the narrative was told entirely from Gideon’s perspective and yet, Harrow stole the spotlight for me.

“Anyone can learn to fight. Hardly anyone learns to think.”

Also, I have to give tons of praise to Muir’s imaginative action scenes. The deathly army of bones and visceral swordplay unleashed throughout the novel were darkly delightful to read, but the final 40 pages exceeded everything that came before; it was simply glorious. I’m not kidding, a maelstrom of bones, gripping revelations, and cinematic scenes full of twists and turns, flashy swordplay, and extraordinary necromancy created a memorable final sequence that made me incredibly excited to continue to the next book as soon as possible. I want to read more of this necromantic whirlwind.

Picture: Construct by Tommy Arnold

As you can probably guess, I have a contrasting opinion regarding the first and second halves of the novel. However, and this is very important, it’s worth noting that the superbly thrilling second half won admiration and my utmost interest to continue to the sequel, Harrow the Ninth, which obviously will feature Harrow (yay!!!) as the main focus of the story. Imbued with intriguing mysteries, terrifically written swordplay, explosive final sequences, and a lasting impression, needless to say Gideon the Ninth has become one of the most original SFF debuts I’ve read so far. It’s bizarre, complex, imaginative, genres-defying, and distinctively memorable; I am very much looking forward to reading the continuation of Muir’s imagination in Harrow the Ninth.

You can order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
March 9, 2021

Need a good read for a bad day? Here's a Booktube Video all about it!!
The Written Review

While we were developing common sense, she studied the blade.
Gideon the Ninth comes from an universe seeped in necromancy.

Her home planet, the Ninth planet, is by far the most isolated but when the Emperor calls for representatives from all of the Houses to a series of trials to determine the worthiest to inherit unimaginable power.

Harrow is the heir of the Ninth and the strongest necromancer of their planet and she needs....a sword. And Gideon just-so-happens to know the sword.
But Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion: being sick of everyone’s shit.
Gideon and Harrow have hated each other ever since they could remember.

But when Harrow dangles Gideon's freedom...Gideon knows that no matter what she will have to follow this through...to the very end itself.
“just had a near-death experience,” she said, “let me have my little moment.”
Oh. My. Gosh.

This book. Holy crap.

I'm so dead. I'm ruined for any and all future books.

And that's keeping in mind that I struggled to follow this book.

There's an absolute ton of lore and terms thrown at you from the very first page.

The plot starts going and absolutely refuses to back up and explain.

And the characters? Whip smart and leagues ahead of me.

And yet...all the confusion and absolute chaos worked so incredibly perfect..

Gideon was so freaking hilarious, Harrow was stunning and their world was horrifyingly cruel. I couldn't look away.

The world was so wholly complete and truly stunning. The necromantic magic was so well-thought out and fascinating.

I really do believe that I need to reread this one to pick up a few more things but I honestly can't wait.

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,534 reviews9,935 followers
July 28, 2020
Update: $2.99 Kindle US 7/28/20

PS - I was too late to get the black stained edges so... I said hell with it. I did my own!

Holy shit ass snacks! That was different and I loved it!! I’m loving the covers on these books too!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
263 reviews3,926 followers
September 27, 2022
Check out my YouTube channel where I show my instant reactions upon finishing reading fantasy books.

My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined.

Did not finish at 95% completion. I just couldn't punish myself any longer.

I really should have seen this one coming, as the book has so many features that do not work for me as a reader. While there are exceptions to all of these genres, in general I'm not usually a big science fiction fan, nor a horror fan, nor a mystery fan. But the book is so highly rated in the fantasy book community and many reviewers who I usually agree with said positive things about this book that I decided to give it a try. But I should have listened to my gut because not only did all of these things add up to a very bad tasting cocktail of a book, but I found the writing style and characters to be...and I say this trying to be as kind as I possibly can...absolutely abysmal.

The plot of this book revolved around a "whodunit", and while on it's own this isn't horrible, the central plot has so little tension that it ended up being a severe bore for me. People are randomly dying and everyone is blaming each other, and the feeling the author is trying to convey is one of tension, but for me I just didn't end up caring and hoping it would get revealed earlier so the book could hurry up and finish.

The worldbuilding is extremely shallow, which was especially frustrating because the foundation that is lain out at the beginning of the book had a lot of promise. I wanted to know about the world the characters were living on, why there are different schools of necromany, the details of the ongoing war and the reason for the collapsing empire. I got none of that, and was rather quickly thrown into a game of "Clue" instead.

Aside from Gideon and her necromancer Harrowhark from the 9th house, there are seven other "houses" of people competing to solve the mystery. But those characters don't get much depth, and are mostly referred to by their house titles (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.). This ends up needlessly confusing, and makes the characters entirely forgettable.

Gideon herself is most certainly in my top 3 least favorite POV characters in fantasy that I've ever read. While she has a compelling backstory that gets revelations later in the book, her personality can best be described as extremely edgy teenager. Everything she says is either sarcastic, full of contempt, trying to be too cool (get ready for plenty of uses of "dope", and other similar uses of complex vocabulary), or some combination of the above.

I could go on, and on - but I'm going to stop here so I can just stop thinking about this book and move on to something else. This book may be right up your alley, especially if you are into science fiction and mysteries - but it's definitely not for me.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
November 14, 2019
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for BEST SCIENCE FICTION and BEST DEBUT NOVEL 2019! what will happen?

”You want to fight it.”


“Because it looked…a little like swords.”


okay. so. usually when i write a review, i am writing it for some nameless, faceless reader who is deciding whether or not to read a book and looking for some information to help them make that decision, so i’ll do the whole plot-point, pull-quote thing—giving an overview of the book so they know what to expect, to know if it’s their kind of thing or not. those are the reviews i find the most helpful to me, so that’s what i put out there.

this time…just, no.

there’s no way i can explain the premise of this book. i envy and respect anyone who attempts it, but i can’t be that girl this time.

this book is…a lot. it’s got a ton of characters, a complexly-constructed world, and a genre mash made up of space opera, murder mystery, horror, and whatever the literary term is for where it’s like a magic-and-science-based scavenger hunt at the olympics, but where some people are expected to die.

i’m not gonna lie, i got lost a couple of times. helpful dramatis personae pages are helpful

but i would also suggest you bookmark the page where the characters gather for the first time, to memory-refresh the personality details of the eighteen competitors, because some of them got blurry for me. there are a lot of working parts here, and the worldbuilding is thick, but like the House of the First itself, it’s a little bit ramshackle, with unexplained bits and leftover pieces. but just go with it, plow right into the whole bone-cladded thicket of it,

because it’s a romp of a book, and it’s propulsive enough to carry you through the story without understanding every little thing. in fact, the lingering mysteries will only add to your appreciation.

it’s a ridiculously fun book, sad and funny and irreverent and suspenseful, with all the dramatically satisfying themes of honor and heroism, loyalty and betrayal, piloted by gideon, a snarky firecracker of a heroine who declares “that’s what she said,” not once, but TWICE, which is—to me—the height of comedy and a phrase certain to win my love.

try it, you'll like it! i'm already hungering for books 2 and 3!

oh, and someone give danny elfman a copy of this book. and, since you’re already there, tell him i need an oingo boingo reunion tour.


thank you, i DID!


okay, let's do this.


my stack of "books i am drooling over and need to read immediately" is the cursiest blessing...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,371 followers
October 4, 2020
So, in a quest to clear my Currently-reading shelf, I forced myself to return to this book.

In December, I stopped reading with my thoughts being that I was intrigued by the story, but the writing was not for me. It felt sort of heavy-handed and very hard to get through. Confusing even.

So, now, I read the whole Act One. And while my opinion on the writing did not change. I started to lose a bit of my interest in the story.
It may get better when the story progresses more. Maybe. But there is nothing that makes me want to read more to get to that point.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
781 reviews12.4k followers
October 16, 2022
“Does anyone else want to take this opportunity to admit that they’re already dead, or a flesh construct, or other relevant object? Anyone?”
It took me about three weeks and a hundred pages to really warm up to this book, but then I inhaled it, flew through it like a necromancer to a bone, happy and giddy even if at times exasperated.

This was different and weird, full of “huh?” moments, and snarky one-liners, and immature teenage humor. But it’s the same kind of humor that my inner voice tends to have, so screw maturity.
“Gideon rolled her eyes so hard that she felt in danger of twisting the optic nerve.”

So did I, repeatedly. But with happy and giddy love.

This is a story about space necromancers (!!!) in an alien (or not?) planetary system, where nine necromantic Houses occupy nine planets. Our (anti)heroine Gideon Nav (“absolutely goddamn starved of any contact with people who didn’t have dark missals and advanced osteoporosis”) is from the Ninth, which is a creepy cultist place even by necromancer standards.
“You couldn’t spend any time in the Ninth House without coming away with an unwholesome knowledge of skeletons. She could’ve easily filled in for Doctor Skelebone without practising a single theorem.“
Gideon is doing her best to escape her indentured servitude (until death and then thereafter — because of, you know, necromancy and all it entails) while being tormented by her arch-nemesis Harrowhark, who has puppeteered her dead parents for years now (ahem, necromancy) and is now de-facto the planetary ruler.
“Are you telling me that when you were ten years old—ten years old—you busted the lock on the tomb, broke into an ancient grave, and made your way past hideous old magic to look at a dead thing even though your parents told you it’d start the apocalypse?”
The Ninth house is in serious decline. But there’s a way out - if Harrow wins the position of a Lyctor, a “necrosaint” to the Emperor of the Nine Houses, Necrolord Prime, God who became man and man who became God — or basically some dude that resurrected the dying world 10,000 years ago and his supposedly immortal knights turned out to be just a bit mortal, after all. The heirs to the eight necromantic Houses have been called to the First planet for a competition that would allow at least some of them to become Lyctors. Each necromancer needs a devoted Cavalier at their side, and Gideon with her mad sword fighting skills gets roped into playing this part for her nemesis Harrowhark —by the promise of release from her indentured servitude.

Although Gideon — a foul-mouthed trash-talker, a committed rule-breaker, the one who reads “titty magazines” for the articles and loathes her necromancer — is perhaps a bit ill-suited for the part.
“Gideon comforted herself by recoiling at her reflection in the cracked mirror: a grinning death’s-head with a crop of incongruously red hair and a couple of zits. She pulled her sunglasses out of the pocket of her robe and eased them on, which completed the effect, if the effect you wanted was “horrible.”

With all the necromancers and their (more or less) devoted cavaliers all trapped on an empty planet in the very necromantic ruins (complete with animated skeletons as your waiters at mealtimes), the competition begins. Although it’s not really a competition as there are no tasks, no clear objectives, no rules except for the vague suggestion “that you never open a locked door unless you have permission.” It’s not too long before suspicious deaths start. And it almost has a vibe of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (if Madame Christie had taken some serious mind-altering substances while writing that book):
“But natural law—the laws against murder and theft. What prevents us from stealing one another’s keys through intimidation, blackmail, or deception? What would stop someone from waiting for another necromancer and their cavalier to gather a sufficient number of keys, then taking them by force?”
Teacher said, “Nothing.”
Although Gideon is our eyes and ears (and a sarcastic snarky mouthpiece) to this odd creepy and yet somehow immensely fun world, it’s really almost an ensemble cast, with a few minor characters that really stand out. At least to me — since I’m a shameless fangirl now of one Palamedes Sextus, Warden of the Sixth and his cavalier Camilla. Oh come on, they are Necromancer scientists and born in the Library. And Palamedes is a walking store of snark, second only to Gideon herself. And Camilla is beyond badass and into a whole new dimension of badassery which she shares only with Gideon.
“Reverend Daughter, you know as well as I do that the Eighth House wouldn’t let a little thing like fair play get in the way of its sacred duty to do whatever it wants.”
“Hm,” said Camilla neutrally, and Gideon knew immediately that she organised Palamedes’s and her socks by colour and genre.

This crazy weird skeleton-ridden, sinister, death-obsessed world is so much fun. It really shouldn’t work - this incongruent mix of overwrought language and teen snark and flowery metaphors and cheap jokes and gothic pathos and trashy cheap shots. It shouldn’t work — but somehow it does.

It marries fantasy and science fiction and the total is so much more than just the sum of the parts.

And I love it. I’m so glad I scaled this personal Everest of a book until, like Gideon and Harrow — and no, it’s not a spoiler unless you really have no clue about the enemies-to-lovers-or-at-least-gruff-admirers trope — we developed those feelings and the rest is history.
“Suck it down,” said Gideon. “You’re already two hundred dead daughters and sons of our House. What’s one more?”

Before I wrap up, I’m dying (figuratively) to share this tidbit from the glossary at the end of the book, the section on necromancers:
“There is no isolated genetic code associated with necromantic potential, nor the presence of any extra biological feature apart from heightened activity from organs we would otherwise mark as vestigial.”
I mean — does necromancy involve the appendix??? I must have some clarification on this!
4 stars.

My review of the sequel, Harrow the Ninth, is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,480 reviews79k followers
September 24, 2019
Well, I finished. If nothing else, at least I received closure that it wasn't the timing that was off for me surrounding this story. I could go through a long list of why this book didn't work for me, but instead I'll just leave it at that, it didn't work for me. Chaima wrote a fantastic review that expresses my thoughts 100% HERE, so if you'd like an alternative, unpopular opinion that is well written and fairly offered, please check it out.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for Holly (Holly Hearts Books).
375 reviews3,083 followers
August 14, 2019
I've been sitting on this DNF for a couple months now. For those of you who are avid YouTube watchers of mine, you know I could not get through this book. I wasn't going to rate it but I feel SO strongly about this 1 star rating. This book suffers from the Tor hype as did The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons which I also highly disliked. The writing is a mess. Characters names are "neiowhgiewongow"..
The main character is an absolute ass. She gets the chance to get off the planet and her literal response is “go suck a dick”
This book tried so hard to be edgy and goth, with skellies and DEAD DEAD DEAD and absolutely failed.
Profile Image for Ashley.
827 reviews483 followers
April 7, 2022
Star Rating: —> 5 [GLORIOUS] Stars!

My heart hurts. It ACHES.

SO INCREDIBLE. I literally cried when it was over & as it was ending.

I mean that ending? And this whole damn novel? Brutal AF!

Perfection. Truly. Im so confused as to some readers’ complaints that this was extremely confusing & didn’t follow a solid plot line (incl. subplots) that made sense... hmm.

(You can skip over this part if you aren’t interested!)
***BUT! before I go into any more detail... I have stumbled upon the PERFECT way to experience this novel. Through suffering the flu & needing something to sub for physically reading when i felt too sick to, I found that the audiobook (which is one of the best I’ve ever listened to, btw, EVER) is an absolute necessity as a companion to READING the book! I know it isn’t the most cost effective way to read, BUT, it is SO. WORTH. IT WITH THIS BOOK; GUYS... It was SO WELL DONE & captures everything perfectly.
Plus, I don’t think I would’ve truly gotten to know Gideon, or Harrow, for that matter & be able to honestly say that I TRULY understand either of them as their unique selves, without listening to it! Plus if you’re someone who was or is having any sort of trouble with the book, I say give it a second chance with “my” method! 😉***

ANYWAY; I felt that the novel was SOLID. The main storyline is pretty straight forward; Necromancer & Heir to the Ninth House, Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus, & her Cavalier Gideon Nav, answer the call of the Emperor to compete against the other Houses heirs for a chance to win the place of Lyctor, an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection.

The events that occur within & around this are yes, complex & messy, but they’re messy in the best way possible... with a fascinating arcane-like, necromantic science that is so original & interesting. There are secrets & mysteries abound in the palace (GOTHIC PALACE IN FRIGGIN SPACE!).
The story was beautifully executed & extremely, extremely creative, but purposefully messy, sort of like a Picasso painting, but with more secrets held within, like a Van Gogh.
It screams out, as if to remind us that writers are artists, too, without trying too hard. The imaginative, eccentric, anything goes, artistic aesthetic of this science fantasy novel has IMO, proven without a doubt that it is a TRUE piece of art! It presents itself effortlessly.

The character development was incredible. I was so incredibly impressed! There are SO MANY characters, and all are so FULLY & RICHLY developed, which makes this that much more of a feat! But this DOES mean if you aren’t paying full attention you might (probably will) get lost!

I loved Gideon Nav from freakin start to freakin finish (I sometimes had to listen to the audiobook when i was busy... and it. WAS. FRICKIN. FANTASTIC ! I recommend 100%... you truly get a taste of who Gideon is... they do SUCH a good job. I adored it), and she has, and this does not at all do her justice, a CRAZY. ASS. personality. She exists on just... another plane!

I ended up LOVING Harrowhark as well. She isn’t who she seems at first per se, and i think this really did well by her, prepping us for her being the lead in the second book of the quartet ! I can’t wait; I really just LOVE HER SO MUCH!

They are the PERFECT PAIR!

Above all else this was just FUN AF. It never takes itself too seriously, and is so over the top that its just a joy to read. Absolutely hilarious, as well... it had me laughing my ass off for most of the novel.
[The audiobook intensifies the hilarity ENDLESSLY !
...and i actually just had an epiphany! This needs to be talked about as an opening, because it could really solve some readers’ issues w/ the novel... ]
...So; by now you’ve already read what i have to say regarding the audiobook, above. Haha. AND you got you witness just when i had my epiphany haha. Omg what history you’ve gotten to experience 😂😂😂.
Just a reminder... you’re missing out without listening to at least some of it!
BUT although I do WAY prefer reading to listening to audiobooks, this book imo was meant to be an *experience* & the switching between reading & listening really added that extra something.
the narrator did SUCH AN EXCELLENT JOB!
If you’re one of those who’s not yet read it but knows they will start out super critical of the book due to negative reviews... use the audiobook a lot throughout the beginning of the book, as the characters are being introduced, and then switch back and forth as you please. But I truly think ANYONE would have their best Gideon The Ninth experience with a little audiobook added in!
Sorry if this was repetitive, i don’t know yet because, well, I quite literally haven’t written the edit up top yet 😉! *time warp!* ;-)

Anyway... I recommend 100%. This book made me FEEL. It had me completely enthralled; I loved it so, so, much.

Also, to those of you who’ve read:
Anyone else notice MAJOR hinting at & foreshadowing regarding Gideon that I am absolutely (sort of) sure will develop into something that will make (most of) us extremely happy! I don’t understand it completely yet, because anything goes in this crazy universe... BUT in addition to hints fresh in my mind, when reflecting on my reading experience, i ended up recalling quite a few clues & puzzle pieces that were scattered throughout the novel, as well. They make me hope that something... bigger will happen. I certainly know SOMETHING will occur, the comments made are certainly not nonsense, they’re there for us to speculate !
(Trying not to say too much, lol, sorry if that wasn’t... particularly... coherent 😉).

100% recommend— but perhaps not to readers who value simplicity & straightforwardness... because this is just... NOT that. Lol.
Profile Image for emma.
1,865 reviews54.3k followers
Want to read
July 14, 2023
taking years to add popular books to my to-read list as a way to feel unique
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
October 7, 2021
Tor free ebook of the month, if you join their book club. https://www.tor.com/2021/10/05/downlo... Sale ends midnight E.T., Friday Oct. 8, 2021. This one won't be every reader's cuppa tea - read the reviews and decide for yourself - but those who like it tend to REALLY like it.

4.5 stars, rounding up. This is one of those books that gets better the more I think about it! Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Necromancers and their sword-fighting cavaliers star in Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir’s radically original debut novel, which has been nominated for the 2019 Nebula Award. This science fantasy novel, steeped in an atmosphere of decay and decrepitude, is a mix of space opera and a gruesome treasure hunt that takes place in a spooky, crumbling castle. At the same time, it’s set in an interstellar empire consisting of nine planets, each one ruled by a different House of necromancers.

Eighteen-year-old Gideon Nav is trying to escape her forced servitude in the particularly moribund Ninth House, where she’s surrounded by living skeletons and corpses and near-dead nobles and nuns who pray on knucklebones. Gideon’s escape plan involves sneaking off the entire Ninth planet in a space shuttle that she secretly ordered to come pick her up. Her flight is foiled at the last moment by Harrowhark, a young woman who is the powerful heir of the Ninth House, able to animate skeletons and corpses with a gesture … and Gideon’s lifelong enemy and nemesis. But Harrow offers Gideon a possible alternative way out of her miserable life.

The Emperor has summoned the heirs of the other eight Houses and their prime cavaliers (noble courtiers trained in rapier fighting) to come to the planet of the First House to compete to become the Emperor’s new Lyctors, semi-immortal elite necromancer knights. If Gideon will act as Harrow’s prime cavalier — the actual cavalier of the Ninth House being unable and unwilling to take on the obligation — Harrow promises that she will give Gideon her freedom afterwards. Gideon is an indentured servant, not a courtier, and she’s trained in fighting with a two-handed infantry sword, not a rapier, so it will be a massive challenge. Still, the emperor’s contest presents a life-changing opportunity for both Gideon and Harrow … if they survive.

Gideon the Ninth starts off a little slow but picks up steam steadily, becoming increasingly multi-layered and compelling as it propels the reader toward an intense, heart-pounding ending. The turning point for me was about a third of the way in, when it began to be clear how brilliantly Muir has woven science and future technology into a plot that initially seemed overwhelmingly fantasy. The worldbuilding is stellar, a gore-soaked, moldering edifice that’s eminently suited to the necromancy that is its center.

At the same time, it also became apparent that both the characters and the torturous challenges they were facing were far more complex than they at first appeared. The various ordeals that the necromancers and their cavaliers have to go through to earn certain keys actually have substantive significance. Gideon and Harrow have a complicated relationship built on mutual hatred and snarky insults, but there are guilty feelings and more hiding beneath the skull paint they put on their faces every day.

The secondary characters were so numerous – fifteen other heir/necromancers and cavaliers for the other seven competing Houses — that I was having difficulty keeping them all straight, though they each specialize in a different aspect of necromancy and there are several vividly drawn characters among them. (Protip: there’s an enormously helpful list of the Nine Houses and the characters that belong to each of the Houses at the beginning of the book, that I somehow managed to overlook until I was finished with the book.) This is the type of book where a second reading would be really enjoyable and illuminating, where you catch a lot of significant details and nuances that you overlooked on first read.

Gideon the Ninth combines unique worldbuilding, some fascinating twists and turns in the plot, intriguing and unique main characters, and an engaging writing style. I’m excited to dive into the sequel, Harrow the Ninth, which will be published in June 2020.

Initial post: This one just landed on my doorstep! Actually I asked the publicist for it since (a) it's a Nebula nominee, and (b) they'd already sent me the sequel, Harrow the Ninth (unasked for), and I've got this general rule about not reading sequels if I haven't read the first book. So here we go!

Content notes: quite a few F-bombs, lots of gore. The main character is lesbian, but there are no explicit sex scenes.
Profile Image for Samantha.
438 reviews16.7k followers
October 20, 2020
4.5 stars

TW: everything that comes with death magic; blood; bones; gore; body horror; cancer; suicide

I might bump this up to 5 but my brain is a little overwhelmed to think with everything that happened at the very end of this book.

This is what is says on the tin (“lesbian necromancer and her lesbian guard and other necromancer nobles explore a haunted gothic palace in space”) and much more. This book is incredibly hard to explain and that’s why it’s so polarizing. It’s eerie at times. Funny (depending on your sense of humor). Bizarre. Complicated. Tragic. There’s even a clue like who-done-it mystery because people start dying while trapped in this potentially haunted gothic mansion! It’s a lot. Also, true enemies to... something? There’s continuous banter and not what I’d call a romance but there is something there for those wanting some wlw goodness. The last 50 or so pages of this are intense with a LOT of body horror so be warned.

I have no idea what direction the rest of the series will go in!

I’ll be posting a review and discussion on my channel.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
August 25, 2020
Now that I didn't have to break my brain over all the necromancy lingo and knew the characters, this way a much funnier read. A locked tomb mystery with a witty narrator, basically.
Pretty much what karen said.

I haven’t worked this hard trying to grock a book since Ninefox Gambit. The world building is dense and elaborate, and I honestly had no idea there was so much to know about necromancy. Is all necromancy stuff in this book a total Tamsyn Muir invention? Or is this a commonly known lore? Am I just not reading the right books? ‘Cause this is fascinating.

If you put the complication of the world building aside, the plot is fairly simple - the Emperor of this necromantic world is trying to recruit new assistants by having a representative of each of eight necromantic houses and his/her bodyguard (cavalier) compete in a sort of test/trial/game to prove their worth. When the participants of this trial start dying out, things get interesting.

If the characters of this book weren’t so dope, I am not sure I would have had the strength to get through the narrative. Muir’s language is not exactly a breeze. I had to look words up in a dictionary! But I love Gideon and Harrow and their twisted relationship. It’s kind of sad that the book didn’t entirely deliver on the lesbian part of the Charles Stross’s “lesbian necromancers in space” blurb though. The ending made my heart hurt.

I am up for more heartbreak and more stories about this mysterious world. If you liked the intricacy and weirdness and strong women of Ninefox Gambit, Archivist Wasp, The Fifth Season, Gideon the Ninth must be your next pick.

P.S. If there are awards for best covers, the artist of this book’s cover should totally get it. This is SO GIDEON!
Profile Image for Baba Yaga Reads.
108 reviews1,687 followers
April 6, 2023
“Gideon, don’t be sorry for the dead. I think death must be an absolute triumph.”

The first thing you need to know about this book is that a lot of people are going to hate it.
I’ve already seen several reviewers complain about how weird, confusing, and slow it is. I’ve heard people rant about the protagonist’s smartassery and complete inability to refrain from cracking jokes at the most inconvenient times. Believe me, I get it.
This book is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s more or less a gritty fantasy story made out of memes, except the memes in question are set in a crumbling palace in space complete with an aggressively goth aesthetic, some creepy mysteries, and a slow burn enemies-to-lovers lesbian romance. Does that sound appealing to you? If the answer is yes, you’ll probably enjoy Gideon the Ninth as much as I did.
In case you’re still not convinced (again, I get it) be aware that the first eight chapters are available for free on Tor.com: it’s probably a good idea to read them before buying the book. You’ll get a good grasp of the author’s writing style and sense of humor, which I would tentatively describe as “Terry Pratchett meets Jay Kristoff meets Urban Dictionary” — something I personally love, but other readers may find aggravating.

As for the story itself...let’s just say it’s not your typical good-versus-evil epic fantasy adventure. There’s certainly some good, some more evil, and a shit ton of creepy-borderline-horror stuff. Apparently Muir started her career as a horror writer and likes to mingle different genres in her works, so don’t expect Gideon the Ninth to strictly adhere to sci-fi conventions: sure, it’s set in space, but characters use magic and fight with swords. And if you’re wondering why the people in this book know how to fly spaceships but not how to use guns, well...that’s kind of the Big Mystery of the series. Or at least, I think it is: the author confirmed that the world building will be revealed as the story progresses and that the origin of the Houses is a crucial plot point, so I can only assume every seemingly incoherent detail has a logical explanation behind it. In any case, I had the impression that the narrative was giving me exactly the amount of information I needed to understand what was going on at any given point — no more, no less.

I should also mention that this is a very slow story filled with mysteries and obscure details, so the pacing can sometimes lag. There’s actually quite a lot of action too, just it’s diluted throughout the novel (much to Gideon’s chagrin) and interspersed with magical/scientific challenges and murder mysteries. Speaking of which, I loved the magic system in this world. All magicians are necromancers, but there are so many different types of necromancy that you never know what they’re going to pull out of their hat. Muir decided to approach magic from a scientific perspective and basically turn necromancers into death scientists, which...if that doesn’t sound awesome to you, don’t get anywhere close to this book (and also, what are you doing on my profile?).

Another element I really enjoyed were the characters. Gideon is a ridiculously endearing protagonist with a big heart and an irresistible sense of humor, and Harrow...well, Harrow has more or less become my new role model. I mean, just look at how she’s introduced into the story:

“The Lady of the Ninth House stood before the drillshaft, wearing black and sneering. Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus had pretty much cornered the market on wearing black and sneering. It comprised 100 percent of her personality.”
How could you possibly not love her?

To be honest, I think the single biggest strength of this book — besides its originality — is the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously: the tone is intentionally irreverent and tongue-in-cheek, balancing what would otherwise be a very dark and grim story. Ultimately, I think your enjoyment of Gideon the Ninth will vary based on whether or not you like the writing style and whimsical setting.
As for me, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment of this fresh, innovative, and deeply emotional series...especially after that ending nearly broke my heart!
Profile Image for Rebecca Roanhorse.
Author 56 books8,044 followers
January 31, 2019
Stunningly good. A brilliant and original mash-up of genres, the story is brimming with memorable characters, acerbic dark humor, a unique magic system, space travel, decaying technology and layers upon layers of mystery. It is the Gothic space adventure I didn't know I needed.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,053 reviews69.5k followers
March 7, 2023
4.5 stars
Man, this was good!
I loved Gideon and Harrowhark's snarky hateful love for each other.


Fast pace, great dialogue, lots of humor, and an incredible setting. It feels like some kind of crazy mash-up of fantasy and science fiction. Necromancers in space with nothing but their (semi) faithful sword-wielding guards to protect them or something.


That ending! What?! I want more. I've got such a good feeling about whatever that more consists of that I'm really excited to get my hands on the next book.


The audiobook with Moira Quirk as the narrator was wonderful! If you're into audiobooks, go for it.
Good stuff, especially if you're looking for something a little outside the box.
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books466 followers
February 6, 2022
"'We do bones, motherfucker,' she said."

So What's It About?

"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 be 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."

What I Thought

I don't think this review will JUST be me raining on Gideon the Ninth's parade, but there is definitely going to be some rain.  While it has a tremendously awesome premise and follows through brilliantly in a number of ways, there are still a lot of problems that took away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Put simply, there are some definite issues with pacing and world-building. While I was reading this book a friend on Goodreads posted an update about a third of the way through saying that nothing had really happened yet. Someone commented that hey, aesthetic (TM) was happening! To which my friend replied that it's possible to have plot and aesthetic happen at the same time. I couldn't agree more with that, and I definitely agree that very little happens in the first third of the book besides getting to the palace and learning bits and pieces about the cast of characters. Once the plot picks up it's great, but it leaves you with a significant portion of the book to slog through before getting there.

My main concern, though, is the sparse world-building. There is so much we don't know about Gideon's world - for one, how exactly does the magic work? Occasionally a necromancer will make vague allusions to technical terms, but beyond the ability to draw power from other people I never felt like I understood what they were talking about. It's also a significant problem to me that we never really learn about the differences between each of the houses - they each have a little description in the front of the book, but I never felt like these differences were expanded upon in a meaningful way in the text. We know what the Ninth does, but nothing significant about the other houses.

There are also a lot of characters in this book, too, and I'll admit that I struggled to keep track of all but a few of them and had apathetic feelings towards everyone except Gideon and Dulcinea. Many of the characters from other houses felt to me like they were just bodies to spout a few quippy lines and then turn up dead and eviscerated later. Maybe it's asking more than is fair to expect an author to deeply characterize the number of characters that appear in this book so I don't want to do that, necessarily - rather, I'll just note that sometimes the characterization that did happen fell flat to me and when you read it there may be lots of flipping to the front of the book to keep everyone straight.

Another bone I have to pick (sorry I'm sorry) is related to the pop culture references that characters make over the course of the book. At one point Gideon quotes Mean Girls, and Harrow references the meme "While you were X I was studying the blade." "That's what she said" makes an appearance. I think this kind of humor may be something that you either love or hate and it decidedly wasn't for me.

Overall, though, Gideon the Ninth's humor is one of its strongest suits. Gideon herself is a wonderful protagonist with an absolute intolerance for the necromancer's self-important nonsense and a delightful sense of humor:

"'This calls for rigor, Nav.'
'Maybe rigor … mortis,' said Gideon, who assumed that puns were funny automatically."

I found myself smiling throughout most of the book just because I liked Gideon so much and found it to be such a treat to be inside her head. The other thing that this book absolutely nails is that aforementioned aesthetic, there is absolutely no denying that.  The setting is wonderfully ruined and decrepit, oppressive and mournful, and it's clear that necromancy is a fascinatingly grim business:

“The unperceivable howl of ten thousand million unfed ghosts who will hear each echoed footstep as defilement. They would not even be satisfied if they tore you apart. The space beyond that door is profoundly haunted in ways I cannot say, and by means you won’t understand; and you may die by violence, or you may simply lose your soul.”

Finally, as I mentioned previously, once the plot gets going it's an enjoyable murder mystery and builds to a fantastic, exciting conclusion.

The blurb on the cover promises lesbian necromancers in space, and while that is technically what you get I can't say I was totally satisfied with the execution. Gideon's love for women is wonderfully written, but as for the romance/not-romance with Harrow, I just don't buy the growth from this:

"If you do anything that suggests we’re out of order—if I even think you’re about to…” Here Harrow shrugged, quite calmly. “I’ll kill you.”
to this:
“I owe you your life,” said Harrowhark, “I owe you everything.”

I've seen some people criticize the troubling power dynamic and general nastiness that goes down between the two of them (that is something that I myself originally criticized) but I now think it's fair to point out that fictional gay relationships are often held to really high levels of moral scrutiny while readers then turn around and coo over the week's latest negging boundary-crossing bad boy in a straight fictional relationship. I have read many reviews of this series that really appreciate how Muir writes messy, disastrous queer girls in messy, disastrous queer relationships. My current gripe isn't that it fails to be aspirational; it's just that I didn't really buy the emotional beats that did develop.

I read a couple of reviews that argued that the ending of the book counts as Bury Your Gays, and I guess it's technically true that a gay couple(ish?) gets separated when one of them dies. HOWEVER, Bury Your Gays doesn't include every time a gay character dies in fiction - that the trope is specifically about outsider writers punishing gay characters, treating them as being more disposable than straight characters or exploiting their suffering. I don't think Muir does any of these things. If that doesn't convince you, I think there's also a place for queer creators to reclaim the tropes that have been used against them, which Tamsyn Muir talks about that in this really great interview. Alsooooo, since this is a story about necromancy I am 100% sure that there are going to be more shenanigans with this particular character in the next book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Helen 2.0.
404 reviews910 followers
August 4, 2023
4.5 stars - The perfect book club pick.

It’s fast-paced and witty, with sprinkles of mystery, atmospheric horror and body horror, a little bit of romance too. I had so many crackpot theories that I constructed and discarded while reading. In short, there was tons to talk through with my book club, and we all loved it.

The fast pace was a big plus for me since I get bored very easily. Gideon the Ninth gives you no time to breathe between events. Ever. At the same time, the world and the magic system is actually quite complicated. This means that I was perpetually confused but wildly entertained.

The ensemble cast also had me perpetually just a little lost. There’s a list of Houses and characters in the front of the paperback copy as well as a glossary and naming index in the back. I had to check both frequently because I constantly lost track of who was in which House doing what for whom. (RIP to anyone listening to the audiobook who couldn't reference the supplementary guides.)

Tamsyn Muir’s narration style is pure genius. She is so effortlessly funny. The third person narration is sometimes very close to Gideon’s thoughts, and sometimes steps back to tease GIdeon and give us a broader view of the story.

“Ask me how I am and I’ll scream,” she said.
“How are you,” said Camilla, who was a pill.
“I see you calling my bluff and I resent it,” said Gideon.

The romance was gorgeous. It took me a while to warm up to Gideon and Harrow as a romantic pair, because there is a clear power dynamic between them at first that made me a little uncomfortable. But Tamsyn Muir does an absolutely incredible job at turning that dynamic on its head throughout the story, and I was 10000% on board after that.

”Strike me down. You’ve won. I’ve lived my whole wretched life at your mercy, yours alone, and God knows I deserve to die at your hand. You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

WOW. Why say “I love you” when you can say that!!!

Can’t wait to be just as confused and entertained by book 2 😁
Profile Image for myo ⋆。˚ ❀ *.
818 reviews6,843 followers
October 18, 2021
okay i am in love with Gideon like i have a crush on her. i was a bit confused reading the book which usually is fine but i just feel like a bit more could’ve been explained. Hopefully in Harrow’s book that is fixed because i really intrigued with the book.
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