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Ninth House

5 stars
93,083 (35%)
4 stars
107,186 (40%)
3 stars
45,727 (17%)
2 stars
12,014 (4%)
1 star
4,451 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 39,206 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
322 reviews156k followers
August 18, 2022
Ninth House has a very sexy premise:

In Leigh Bardugo’s first offering to the adult genre, Yale University wears claws hidden in a velvet glove, magic doesn't require skill so much as a steady lavishing of grotesqueries, and men in power use their loyalty to underground societies to further their own ambitions—without counting the cost.

Peering down from a lofty chair at the rest of the societies is House of Lethe, standing guard to ensure that their unwholesome affairs will not tip them into whirling chaos. To this end, Lethe needs someone who can see ghosts. Galaxy "Alex" Stern trails an army of ghosts that only she can see. They are clearly a matchmaker’s dream.

Alex throws herself at Lethe's offer and the chance to scrub her past clean, even when ordered to follow at Darlington’s heels like an obedient shadow. The problem is, Daniel “Darlington” Arlington sees Alex a little too clearly. However adequate Alex's lies are, Darlington’s gaze, fastened on her, is a mirror that grants a ruinous glimpse of herself. Now there is a fog creeping along at both of their heels, swallowing their footsteps and erasing their evidence, and when a girl winds up dead and Darlington melts to nothing before Alex’s eyes, the wrongness of Lethe, of Yale, of what they're doing is inescapable.

Darlington believed they were safe in Lethe—they were the shepherds, after all—but Alex knew Lethe only bestows the kind of protection that weighs and measures before it finds you worthy. The societies will always have a comfortable veil of money between them and the rest of the world, but when the deal Alex made falls through, she will once again be powerless. Alex, however, is a survivor. And survivors are harder to kill.

“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”

As I said, a very sexy premise. But actually reading this book felt as if I had been catfished. I kept asking myself: how it is it that I am not enjoying a book that is so perfectly calculated to be my literary ideal? And here, I think, is the answer.

Bardugo has always been good at fully bringing to life a place most of us can't pretend to know, and has already displayed a great gift for plot in her YA Grisha-verse books. Ninth House, however, has nothing of the vivid and mordant storylines that made Bardugo's previous books so winning. Despite its flashes of poignant beauty—there is a recurrent scene from this book that surfaces in my mind again and again, like an obsessive undercurrent in a dream: Alex standing, like a temple icon to an evil goddess, (“night ebbed and flowed around her in a cape of glittering stars”), and Darlington with a sword in his back that felled him to his knees, to her mercy, his plea of “Choose me” a frantic, unspoken chant—Ninth House’s blend of the mundane and the magical did not tip far enough to the latter for me. Bardugo also favors detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, and it’s problematic when the flow of the story is hampered by its slow build and lack of major plot movement. Some naïve corner of my mind kept holding its breath in expectation, but though the back-and-forth structure eventually takes on a deeper resonance as more secrets are gradually unearthed, I’m not sure it’s enough to forgive.

The hefty list of trigger warnings that accompanies this book is wild, and also true. Ninth House is definitely not for the squeamish. I don't know anyone who can read some of these scenes without their minds recoiling from the sheer wrongness of it. That said, Bardugo sometimes tries too hard for big, dramatic horror, and the violence comes off as gratuitous. As a result, I was deeply (and, as it turned out, accurately) concerned that some of the themes would just be dolloped on top of the story to serve for shock value. Ninth House is about all kinds of trauma, yet I found that the consequences of such a monumental thing are barely brushed upon. The novel is rife with flashbacks, seen through Alex’s eyes as she passively witnesses the horrifying events of her past, but her trauma-suppressed memories only resurface whenever it's convenient for the plot, and without much of a statement being made besides, which occasionally struck a sour note.

Ultimately, this is the novel’s biggest misstep for me—that it curiously avoids fully engaging with the meat of its themes. At points in Ninth House, it seems that Bardugo is setting herself up to make a deep point about privilege and power—mystical, emotional, institutional—and what happens when it's abused, even in small quiet ways, but nothing satisfying comes of it. And though the driving force of the narrative is a classic whodunit, with Bardugo structuring the book like a detective yarn of sorts, it doesn't real work: Alex is sharp, but the narrative hands her a few too many gifts, so whatever revelations she makes fall a bit flat.

The emotional register of Ninth House, too, is of a different order from either of Bardugo’s previous works—for me, at least. I don’t feel that the novel managed to pierce the veil that separates the reader from the human puzzle pieces on the page. Alex is a difficult character to like. I found her largely stiff and drab, one of those characters that are so passive and colorless that you wonder why all these intriguing people around them don't ditch them and hang out with each other instead. There’s a roaring vitality to her that’s always just beneath the surface, though, and I wanted to poke at it until it gave way to something more.

Despite having considerably less page-time, Darlington’s character, on the other hand, manages to shine amid a constant barrage of wonders and grotesqueries. There’s an embodied presence to him, depth and information—and it kept me riveted throughout.

Darlington lived with an endless commotion inside. He permanently discontent with the ordinary and convinced of the existence of the extraordinary, never losing the unbruised part of himself that believed in magic. There's something so touching about the way Darlington played this game, no matter how gruesomely it was stacked against him. He played it with a kind of mystic joy, always finding the beauty and magic in it. There's something here that speaks deeply to the thrill of being inside magic, instead of looking at it through a window. To be living it, to be a part of it, even when it was dangerous, even when it hurt. I needed at least 100 more pages of Darlington just talking about his passion for magic, to be honest.

That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible. It gave back the world all lonely children longed for. That was what Lethe had done for him. Maybe it could do that for Alex as well.

Overall, I think Ninth House inches in many interesting directions, but never really arrives to any of them. That said, I'll be reading the next installment just for more glimpses of Darlington.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,176 reviews98.9k followers
January 18, 2023

ARC acquired at Book Expo!

“There were always excuses for why girls died.”

Ninth House is a love letter to living and surviving unspeakable abuse. This is a book all about trauma, and PTSD, and healing, in any and every way that you can. This is a book for victims, who have felt they will never get the piece of them back that someone forcefully took. This is a book for anyone who was willing to do anything to feel empowered after something horrible occurred. This is a book about the dark and the light and the in between phases a human can go through to get their voice back.

But this is also a story about a girl named Galaxy Stern, or Alex, who is from LA, but is now across the country and studying at Yale. The book continuously switches back and forth from Late Spring to Winter, so we get to see what happened in the past and the ramifications it causes for present day Alex.

In the Winter, we get to see her starting Yale, meeting a man named Darlington, and learning all about the nine secret societies at Yale, with secret, magical rituals that they perform. Lethe recruits a new freshman every three years to join sixteen seniors every year, where they gain knowledge of the occult. And Alex was picked because she has a very sought-after ability, that she has been running from her entire life. Also, it is Lethe House’s responsibility as the ninth house to keep the others in order and make sure they aren’t doing bad things.

In the Spring, everything is different, and Alex is struggling with the weight of so much. From missing people, to ghosts who are paying her too much attention, to a girl being murdered that Alex can’t help but think was because of one of the secret societies, and she is willing to do anything to solve the case. Even if that means making a deal with one of the ghosts she is supposed to be ignoring.

“But the trouble had begun on a night in the full dark of winter, when Tara Hutchins died and Alex still thought she might get away with everything.”

Sounds pretty amazing, right? And I’m telling you, this book’s atmosphere, along with the campus setting, it was a perfect combination. Also, you all know that I think Leigh’s writing is a tier above most. The quotes I was able to pull from this book? They take the breath from my lungs even upon rereading them.

Also, this book has a beautiful discussion about privilege and power dynamics. Leigh does not hold back truth of what white, rich, privileged boys and how they feel they are entitled to any and everything, and God bless her for that. Cycles of abuse and entitlement truly can be passed down, leaving terrible things in their wake, which will impact so many victims for their entire lives. Unchecked privilege is a terrifying thing, friends. And Leigh is not scared to go there, in the terrible acts they commit, to the horrible ends they deserve, and I really appreciated it, and it may have been my favorite element of this book.

“Beautiful boys who should be happy, who wanted for nothing but still found things to take.”

But you all are probably wondering why I gave this book three stars. I’m going to be brutally honest, not much happened in this book, and surely enough didn’t happen for this book to be almost 500 pages. I feel like you could easily cut this book in half and it would have been way more impactful and way more exciting to read. As much as I loved the healing of this book, and I loved the premise of secret societies all about the occult, I just felt so damn bored by reading this book. It started to feel like a chore to pick up, and this book took me twice the amount of time it would normally take me to read.

It also started to feel so formulaic, where something really bad and heartbreaking would happen (past or present) then we’d have 50+ pages of nothing, and then something even worse happens, then 50+ of nothing. I will never lessen anyone’s trauma or how they choose to write and heal about it, but this book just made me feel nothing and then immeasurably uncomfortably and sadness, back to back to back, and it made for a really not great reading experience for me. Also, my favorite character was for sure Darlington, and I really wish we could have seen so much more of him. And lastly, the ending sort of wrapped this story up, I guess? But it just left me desiring so much more, and not in a good way if I’m being honest.

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I picked this book up the day before twitter exploded about the trigger warnings. I will be honest, it made for such a strange reading experience, because I felt like everyone was looking at me, even though I was only 100 pages into this book. At the end of this review, like always, I will have all the trigger warnings that I found listed. This is a dark book, with very dark themes and elements, and some extremely dark scenes. Alex truly has horrible things happen to her and her loved ones throughout her short life. I highly recommend you make sure you are in a safe headspace before picking this one up, because a few of these triggers are not my own, but they still really bothered me to read.

“People didn’t need magic to be terrible to each other.”

Overall, this was a disappointment for me. This was easily my most anticipated release of 2019, besides Queen of Nothing, and maybe I just put it on a pedestal subconsciously. I do think this one will be polarizing upon release, and I have friends who love this more than me and dislike this more than me. Honestly, I’m in this weird middle ground where I loved the setting and atmosphere, but I didn’t love the story or characters. I will probably still pick up the next installment, I think I’m just going to go into it with lower expectations.

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

Content and Trigger Warnings: drug use, overdosing, murder, death, loss of a loved one, rituals, gore, PTSD depiction, grief depiction, self-harm, bloodletting, rape, child (12) rape (it is only two pages, but it is very graphic), statutory rape (15), sexual assault, forced sexual assault on video, talk of suicide, blackmail, physical abuse, a magical date rape drug, forced eating of human waste (to a rapist), and racism (always in a negative light).
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,314 reviews44.1k followers
April 15, 2023
Yesssss! I finished this book in one hour and got all references at one time. I turned into most intelligent book reading machine and started to turn two pages at a time (because my mind can already feel what’s written at the next page, unbelievable, isn’t it?) I didn’t get bored. I didn’t yawn or complain about my heavy eyelids because I was so alert and concentrated. And of course, I loved those characters so much, I never had an urge to slap one of them or hate any of them. They were memorable, amazing, marvelous and fantastic!

So after finishing this book, I went my culinary class and all of the students clapped me because I cooked an amazing soufflé, macaroons and paella in only 20 minutes.
Then I got a phone call from my husband suggested me to move to France and as a surprise he bought me a vineyard so we can raise our own grapes and produce our own wines! whaaaattt?

And at home Netflix CEO and Martin Scorsese were waiting for me, playing with dogs, drinking my Chardonnay! They bended on their knees and begged me to work with them as my neighbors giving me a trophy for being “the most honorable and loveable neighbor of the city”! COME AGAIN???!

Then I heard a voice and realized Tom Ellis standing in our living room, asking me: “Tell me, what is that you truly desire?” Yesssss!!!


Oh Come on, Martie and Lucifer Morningstar weren’t at my house! Damn it!

Do you know why? Because first 100 pages of this book gave me an urge to perform hara-kiri by using my kindle. I even found myself murmuring Japanese words ( Only Japanese words I know: the menu of my favorite sushi place, so this book made me achieve something impossible!)

So if you know my address, you can stop by for throwing rotten tomatoes, eggs and screaming “Idiot! What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you intelligent enough to understand the story?” But at first you need to pass my crazy neighbor who sings BOYZ II Men songs day and night. (I’m not exaggerating, yesterday I woke up with his singing “End of the road” in the most ear bleeding tune!)

I read too many good reviews and I truly love this author’s works and this is at the top of my most anticipated books of this year! So as soon as I get my hands on it, I jumped up down, danced, yelled, and somersaulted. As a summary I did all those mature things a regular 40 years old crazy lady could perform!

But as soon as I started to read, I thought that something wrong with me because I felt like I disconnected with the book as if somebody pulled off my plug or turned my brain cells’ functioning off. I felt like Jim Carrey from Dumb and Dumber, giving blank looks to the walls as my saliva is dripping down on my chin! So I read first 100 pages at 5 hours. Can you believe it? You cannot! But it’s true! And I didn’t totally get anything. So I gave short breaks, popped up my fish oil tablets (I thought they could help my mind to function faster!)

I kept repeating myself, “This is the same author who wrote Six of Crows, right? Maybe I’m at the alternate universe and I read different version of book or too much Chardonnay finally turned me into regular brainless Hollywood person!”
So the intriguing blurb of Galaxy Stern a.k.a Alex who suffered from big traumas, abuse, too many horrible things finally makes a fresh start by starting to study in Yale. She meets with Darlington ( definitely not my darling!) who informs her about nine secret societies and their rituals. As the season turns into spring, we see that Alex still fights with her past demons and a girl’s murder triggers her traumatic experiences. She is so adamant to solve the case even though it means she has to face the ghosts of her old life.

So this seems like my kind of story I actually like. It’s dark! It’s wild! There is a big mystery! Magical rituals, mystery, a tormented but strong heroine!

BUT… My expectations are flying in the sky because I know this author has one of the most talented brains on the earth. But the story telling are so slow and those intelligent references seemed like too pretentious and made me confused and lost! I pushed myself too hard to finish like a job or a secret mission but reading shouldn’t be a torture or obligation. You read it because you love the books and you love how they make you feel. But this book didn’t make me relaxed, happy, entertained, excited, it just suffocated me.
I couldn’t relate with Alex, Darlington and I tried my best but I didn’t like Sandow, Hellie, Dawlos, too.

So maybe I decided to read this in a wrong time. Maybe I had a focusing problem or I’m in a dark mood when winter comes or I didn’t feel like to read something like that! But unfortunately this is not my cup of tea (I hate by the way! Let’s say not cup of my almond milk latte!)

You may expel me to the minority city and punish me to have a few days without my kindle or boo me for my review but these are my thoughts. This book didn’t work for me!

Profile Image for  Teodora .
331 reviews1,774 followers
September 20, 2023
4.25/5 ⭐

Full review on my Blog: The Dacian She-Wolf 🐺

me: *seeing the whole anarchy this book has created* I wonder if I too can ruin my life

Oh, behold the majestic weird shit that I am, reading my first Leigh Bardugo book ever!

YES. You may laugh at me and judge me and all that, but honestly, this book has created some serious anarchy after publication, a type of anarchy that made me stop and think: “If this book makes people feel so intense, then it is a make it or break it for me for sure”. This book was about to be the ultimate answer to my eternal question – “Will I ever even like Leigh Bardugo?”

The answer to that lame question – Yes. And I know that’s not even one of her greatest works.

Ninth House was and is (at least for me) a weird combination of delightful and crafty action, disgusting and unnecessary details and a perpetual feeling of cringe. But I bloody loved it and that shows how much of next-level trash I can be.

THERE IS NO YOUNG ADULT CONTENT HERE. And I mean it. For those who don’t really get along with (new) adult content, please put the book away or suck it up and read it on your own expense.

Disclaimer: it contains emotional triggers such as child molesting, alcohol and drug abuse, physical and psychical abuse, curse words, violence and other things in that particular area.

“Mors vincit irrumat omnia.”

To be completely honest, I don’t know much about Yale and its organisational system or its secret societies or whatever voodoo is happening there at the moment. And even more honest, I don’t quite care. But bringing this topic in discussion and making a somehow “magical” experience out of it is quite interesting.

This society, Lethe, is there to supervise every abuse of magic the other eight secret societies are conducting. In reality, Lethe is a mess and they barely have a bloody idea what they are doing there, but you know, I’ve been to my current faculty for three years now and I have no idea what I’m doing either so Lethe, I got you bruh.

The action here seems to be purely symbolic in my opinion. I mean, things don’t really happen until the last 150 pages whatsoever. But the interesting thing is that when the whole mystery started to unravel, it kind of caught you off guard. I, for instance, was caught off guard by the whole ending and this hurts the Agatha Christie fan in me because it is literally a very easy-to-solve mystery.


Now, let’s talk about my favourite part: Darlington.

Daniel Arlington aka Darlington is the so-called “gentleman of Lethe” and oh, doesn’t this world need more gentlemen? For real now, that’s an honest question.

Everyone loves Darlington. And I do too. And you’ll do too. I cannot explain that, but he’s got a sort of magnetic personality that fascinates everyone. He’s like the biggest geek on the planet meets the rich, upper-class boy meets the charismatic boy next door. He’s all that and he’s precious.

Galaxy Stern, a culturally ambiguous girl with a long record at the ready and a very comical but interesting name is not immune to Darlington’s charms. In fact, she might be as in love with him as the rest of us.

Alex sees ghosts. And she has been seeing them for all her life. Which is kind of disturbing? She was bullied for it and she became a broken girl. All that rebellion was purely a defence mechanism gone wrong. But after all, when life gives you sour lemons like that you have to make a sour lemonade and to try to sweeten it with everything you have at hand. Or to drink it as it is.

“We all have spaces we keep blank.”

I am not very fond of Alex’s character just yet, she’s indeed a hard girl to love but I think she might grow on me after a while. I already love her wits so I just need another push to be sure I like her.

On the other hand, another great character of this book is Pamela Dawes whom I actually really love. Pammie is the mum-friend and there’s no way you’ll argue that after you come to know her. Hell, I’ll let her cook some lemon chicken soup for me anytime, that’s how amazing I think she is.

There’s a lot going on in this book. It is something hard to get into because the beginning is extremely confusing. The action is quite slow and not necessarily that complex, but somehow, until the end, there is something there. Something that leaves you thinking that you actually enjoy it.

It’s a complicated book to like, to be honest. But it has charm. There is something dark that keeps moving, twisting and turning.
Profile Image for emma.
1,871 reviews54.8k followers
August 28, 2023

Can you believe that of all the eras we could have been born in, we are all blessed to live in the one in which Leigh Bardugo is publishing books?!

I have often felt like Leigh is able to sneak into my brain and write exactly what I need. (I am calling her by her first name because if she is, in fact, a presence inside my mind then it’s a given that we’d be on that level of familiarity.)

For example: I love heists and ragtag groups of friends and slow burn romance and did I mention I love heists.

Boom. Six of Crows.

I love fairytales and beautiful illustrations and even beautiful-er writing.

Boom. Language of Thorns.

And I love fantasy stories and darkness and twists and magic and New England, but I’ve been feeling dismal about young adult books lately, like maybe I’ve grown out of them.

Boom. This book.

I am one happy camper.

This took me a whileeee to get into. I’m talking 100 to 200 pages, even. But once I was in, I WAS IN. I could not put it down and also I wanted to climb inside the pages and live there and give Alex a kiss on the face and also do her homework for her because oh my god she was not doing it and it stressed me out.

This rivals the later Harry Potter books for repeated mentions of homework that the main characters simply are not doing.

I love Alex and her thorniness and her fierceness. I love Dawes and her loyalty and her secret goofiness and her sweaters. I love Yale and its secrets and its grounds and its impenetrability.

I love Darlington because obviously.

I even love teeny-tiny characters who shouldn’t have enough characterization but in fact do and are fantastic (Lauren, Mercy, even Tripp and Hellie and people with like single lines of dialogue).

God damn it I need the next book NOW. Leigh, if I didn’t have all the respect in the world for you, I would scream because you are writing 82 books and 300 TV and film adaptations and I just want you to let me back into this world right now, please and thank you.

Honestly...I am profoundly impressed by the fact that this book felt N O T H I N G like anything else I’ve read by Leigh Bardugo. She is just such a good writer.

Also, speaking of the fact that this is very un-Bardugo.

This IS NOT a young adult book. In young adult books, things can be relatively happy-happy-joy-joy. General fiction has no such obligation.

There is a lot of violence and gore and intense imagery in this story. It is not a comfy read. You can say that this is not your cup of tea for those reasons, and you are well within your rights to say so.

But it’s not fair to say this is a *bad book* because it has those things.

There is not a cap on the upsetting content that a story can contain before it’s gone overboard. A book is not bad because it dares to address multiple difficult topics.

This is a book where awful and disturbing things happen, yes, but it isn’t a book where awful and disturbing things happen for no reason. They don’t happen in a vacuum without cause or results. The characters are affected by them.

It handles multiple tough topics with care and with sensitivity. It is a well written and well handled book. Trying to “cancel” it because it does so is equivalent to banning books.

Anyway. Censorship rant over.

Back to the important stuff.




Bottom line: Leigh Bardugo help me.

Also I need to change this to five stars.

reread updates


buddy reread with lily because my life is perfect

currently-rereading updates

my internal monologue: darlingtondarlingtondarlingtondarlingtondarlingtondarlingtondarlingtondarlingtondarlingtondarlington


the only surprising thing about me rereading this is that it took this long



review to come / 4.5 stars might change to 5 WHO KNOWS

currently reading updates

(don't mind me, just arbitrarily decided in the middle of the day six months after i last read this that it deserves five stars.)



tbr review

going to need my copy of this to hurry up and GET HERE thx


to give you an idea of how much i'm anticipating this:

i've only preordered 2 books in my life.

this is one of them.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,486 reviews79.1k followers
July 27, 2023
"I am a daughter of Lethe, and the wolves are at the door."

Hello friends, and good evening. Do me a favor will you? Could you all please stand up? Thank you. Now, if you're a fan of dark fantasy/horror and stories involving occult magic, please remain standing; everyone else can sit down. Remain standing if you also retain the ability to push through a read that has a slew of triggers, such as sexual assault, graphic rape of a 12 year old girl, murder, gore, death, drug abuse/overdose, possession, the forced eating of excrement to a rapist, and many more subjects. Great, now also remain standing if you are ok with reading a book where you are dropped into the middle of a world much like our own, but you have no idea what's going on and have to figure it out as you go at a slow burning pace, until all is revealed. If you're still with me, follow me to the next portion; the rest of you may be excused.

Why the dramatics, Chels? Well, to be fair, this book won't be for everyone. I'll go as far as saying that it won't be for a majority of people. Ninth House is an extremely dark and heavy read, one that is well-written and plotted, but contains many aspects that are so niche that I can't imagine a majority of Bardugo's YA fantasy fans crossing over into this realm. Many of my close, trusted friends have struggled with this book, and I highly respect their opinions and reasons for not resonating with it, and if you're looking for a wonderful, objective 3 star review to offset mine, I suggest you read Melanie's HERE.

If you're still with me, I'd like to take a moment and break down, into sections, just what ground the book covers. There will be no major spoilers, but if you want to go in blind without any sense of what the book is about, stop here.

"That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you'd been before life took away your belief in the possible. It gave back the world all lonely children longed for. That was what Lethe had done for him. Maybe it could do that for Alex as well."

The book opens with a touch of an ending, and abruptly brings us back to what I will refer to as Present Day. We are dropped directly into Alex's daily schedule, and over the course of the first 150 pages or so, we slowly gather information on the various secret societies at Yale, how magic is involved, and snippets of Alex's past that lead her to Yale in the first place. This is the section where the book weeds out those who bought this because it's one of the most popular new releases of 2019, and those who are genuinely interested in dark ADULT fantasy. Once we get a general sense of this alternate contemporary world, we realize there are two mysteries at hand. One is the murder of a local and there appears to have been magic involved. Who killed her and for what purpose? This particular mystery does tie into the next mystery I'll be mentioning, but suffice it to say that this murder is solved and completely wrapped up in this first installment. The second mystery is the disappearance of Alex's mentor, Darlington. This mystery receives answers but will continue on into the sequel. Along the way, Alex teams up with a few human people and also Grays (spirits of the deceased that still roam the earth) to solve both mysteries, while also revealing the entirety of Alex's background and how she came to be at Yale.

I'll be honest, I had my doubts in the beginning. When I say that the pacing is slow, I mean it is S-L-O-W. The audio version of Ninth House features two of my favorite narrators, and I found that this format worked best for me in the beginning, and I enjoyed it so much that I mostly listened to the entire book rather than reading my hard copy. Once the ball gets rolling, I became fully engrossed. I can't tell you how interesting it was to read about all of these real societies with the added flair of magical abilities. Bardugo created a world that felt eerily realistic; no detail is left untouched and she used the old Stephen King method of "make it real, but change the slightest detail to make it not real," and this worked beautifully.

After a majority of the book being the slow burn, the ending is absolute bonkers in the best way! Wild, action packed, and with a few twists I did not see coming! I felt the ending was brilliant; it wasn't a cliffhanger but it did leave me ready and wanting to come back for more. I'll stop before I ramble on, but I'd like to cautiously recommend this book with gusto. If you've read it, I'd love to chat with you about it. If you decide this isn't for you, I respect that, and I can't wait for the next book we get to chat about together.
Profile Image for • Lindsey Dahling •.
325 reviews645 followers
October 26, 2019
I should start this by saying had anyone other than Queen Leigh Bardugo written this, I would have given it 1 star. There's also a 90% chance this would be on my DNF shelf.

Things I liked:

1. Darlington
He was the most likable character in the book for me, but even he fell flat. I get it, Dar. You love the big old mansion you inherited. What else do you have going for you? (Jury is still out on that one.)

2. ....................

Welp. I've just realized that I liked literally nothing else about the book.

It's a no from me:

1. There's barely any dialogue.
I don't get it. Bardugo is a master at writing witty dialogue. SHE'S A DAMN PRO. Unfortunately, it hardly makes an appearance in Ninth House. Honestly, the real mystery of this "mystery" book is figuring out why the hell her editor would let her publish something that's 90% narration.

I really don't need the history behind each and every secret society house. I don't care about the exact layout of Yale's campus. Don't care about what Alex is wearing. Don't care about visiting the library for the 800th time just for Alex to learn nothing. I couldn't even care about all of the graphic stuff that people posted trigger warnings for left and right because it all fell flat. It seemed sort of rushed and pointless and I never cared that any of it was happening because she did that whole amateur TELL, not SHOW your freshman Creative Writing teachers instruct you not to do.


3. The graphic stuff felt pointless.
Honestly, it felt more gratuitous than anything. Did adding those elements really develop the characters? No. Not really. Alex Stern is the victim of horrendous trauma, and yet she still read quite vanilla to me. So then what was the point of detailing that trauma? (Jury is out on that one, too.)


WHY? WHYYYYYYY? I kept having to go back and reread paragraphs/pages because I'd realize that ONCE AGAIN my eyes had completely glazed over BECAUSE NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. And when something did happen...

I'm not exaggerating when I say the book will go on and on for several chapters without anything happening other than Alex walking around and the omniscient narrator telling us she hasn't slept in awhile. Then, SUDDENLY, Alex would have some random epiphany, she'd run out to investigate, would be completely right about 100% of her suspicions, and then it would go back to chapters of nothing. The end was even more rushed because everything was revealed/solved within a whole two chapters. THE BOOK IS 450 PAGES. YET IT TAKES TWO WHOLE CHAPTERS FOR PERFECT ALEX TO FIGURE IT OUT AND UNMASK THE VILLAIN. If I wanted to watch Scooby Doo, for both the repetition and the reveal, I WOULD TURN ON THE FUCKING TV.


Ahem. Sorry. Sorry. Going back to being objective and rational now.

Eh, forget it. I'm too worked up. Maybe I'll finish this review later, but probably not BECAUSE MY BLOOD PRESSURE CANNOT HANDLE IT.


Still love you, Leigh. I just need you to...not do this again.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 15, 2019
DNF - pg 146.

I actually cannot do it. I can't finish it. I wanted to like this book so bad, and then I just wanted to finish it so bad, but it's sending me into a serious book slump. I'm giving up.

After struggling through the first 100 pages, I decided to take a break, read something else, and then come back to it. Sometimes it's the timing, you know? So I went and read a good portion of Isaacson's The Innovators, got myself neck-deep in some quantum computing, because after reading that, some magical Yale mystery has got to blow my socks off, right? But I only forced myself through another 46 pages before my eyes were glazing over and I started mentally screaming: holy shit! Please tell me again how transistors are made! Please!

I saw a couple of people say they were hoping Ninth House would be like The Magicians and were disappointed that it wasn't, but I gotta say: I found the first 146 pages of this book to be exactly like The Magicians. Unbelievable pretentiousness, almost constant highbrow intellectual references, nothing actually happening... If it was marketed somewhere that this book was like The Magicians, then I completely missed that.

I had been worried about all the promise of dark themes-- some of the trigger warnings sounded downright revolting --but I never expected Bardugo to write something so cold, aloof and boring. Normally when I don't finish a book, I ask people to spoil the ending for me, but I genuinely do not care what happens.

If you are new to Bardugo, I still recommend checking out the Six of Crows duology. Far more gripping than this.

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Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
October 27, 2020
"There were always excuses for why girls died."

To answer your question: yes, it really is that good.

Ninth House and I had a bit of a slow start. The new world that Bardugo has created might not be set in a fictional fantasy universe, but it features enough new concepts, characters, and settings that it takes some time to take it all in. Not only does every character have an alias and maybe even a nickname, so do the buildings at Yale. And since all my Yale knowledge is based on that cute little courtyard from Gilmore Girls, I struggled to figure out where and who and what was going on. As soon as I had grasped all of that, though, I was unable to resist the pull of this dark, compelling, murderous book.

I don't know where to start. The book was sombre and thrilling, brimming with ancient mysteries, magic, and the promise of danger. The characters were incredibly well-painted, my favourites being Turner and Dawes. The plot was thought-out, and until the very end, it was tense and exciting. My only criticism comes with the one or other reveal during the final showdown. Bardugo dropped enough clues here and there that the reader could have figured out who might have been behind the murder at the centre of this novel. That is until the plot is twisted yet again and delivers an explanation that adds new possibilities that no reader could have suspected. It was drawn up out of thin air and therefore not as genius as I had expected it to be.

Now, be warned. If this book is one thing, it's violent. There are some graphic scenes that show sexual abuse. There is trauma and pain and it's not glossed over. I've seen people get mad at Leigh because she chose to show these horrible acts of violence. They accused her of exploiting the pain for shock value. I cannot agree with them. The novel is deeply feminist and shows characters with a past that is tough, that made them survivors. Readers also have no right to know whether the scenes in the book are based on the author's personal experiences. She doesn't have to justify writing about sexual abuse by proving that she has been in a similar position. I do, however, agree that the book needs trigger warnings.

I honestly can't wait for the sequel. I mean, I personally don't care about [redacted] and whether they'll manage to save them or not, but the world that Bardugo created is so rich and leaves so much to discover that I wouldn't mind another three to five books. It feels like Alex Stern only just got started kicking ass.

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Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
April 14, 2021
mmm....not the best record with Bardugo but...everyone loves this one.

Fingers crossed.

Update 1

Everyone is telling me that the beginning is rough. I'm 1/3 of the way through.

Can the beginning be over yet???





The audiobook, a summary:

1-12 hours - Ugh ugh ugh.
12-13 - hmmmm... this is interesting
13-15 - holy. Mother. Effing. Crap. I can't. It's just. F*ck. I have to read book 2.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
October 27, 2019
I enjoyed reading this as a murder mystery and I appreciate the level of care that Bardugo puts into the world building and atmosphere. She builds intrigue and tension throughout the story, though I can understand why some people might find this too slow for their tastes. The dual storylines are a little hard to follow at first because there's so much to know about the world from the beginning, but I was able to get into the hang of it and just focused on enjoying watching things unravel. Character motivations could use a bit more work, but I think this might be remedied in the sequel now that the world has been set up.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
November 15, 2019
This was honestly…. really disappointing.

I enjoyed the beginning, the world, the school setting and the magic seemed interesting but it went downhill fast.

Soon it was clear that Darlington was the only thing interesting and he wasn’t there for most of the book so… bleh.

Generous 2 star. So much potential but did not care for the story at all and frankly the last 3 hours of the audiobook could have simply not existed :/
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.7k followers
January 11, 2023
leigh bardugo is synonymous with five stars, as far as im concerned.

so believe the hype because its real, its here, and its very adult.

alex stern is doing slytherin proud. 🖤🐍


the hot trend for 2019 is snakes on covers and it makes me wish i was a slytherin. their brand/culture is t h r i v i n g.

5 stars
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,194 followers
June 28, 2020
the power that that has, the intelligence that that has, the clearance that that has, the access that that has, the influence that that has, the profile that that has, the international implications that that has
Profile Image for Sabaa Tahir.
Author 22 books32.2k followers
August 22, 2019
This book is just fabulous. It has excellent worldbuilding; deep, dark mystery; fascinating characters that you root for even when you don't like their choices; a twisty, original and unexpected plot that had me guessing all the way until the end. Highly, highly recommend.
Profile Image for Kat.
270 reviews80k followers
Shelved as 'rain-check'
July 13, 2022
why couldn’t the whole book be like the last 100 pages??
Profile Image for Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰.
173 reviews2,750 followers
December 11, 2019
"That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible. It gave back the world all lonely children longed for. "


-dnf @30%-
I don't think I have ever been more disappointed in myself for not being able to love this book. Leigh Bardugo continues to be my queen of fantasy, this one was just a complete and utter miss for me.

*all the sighs*
I'm still not certain that this review will get all my thoughts across. I'm also very blatantly stating this now... because I DNFed this book, this review isn't going to be able to provide any summaries, commentaries etc etc. It's partially why I didn't give it a rating; firstly because I couldn't even get halfway and secondly, because I think I might return to Ninth House at a future date. I want to give this book more of a chance but as it stands now, this was not for me.


I've read a lot of people opinions on how it gets better and I'm holding on to that for the next time I try. A caveat though; this book and everything about it (aside from it being Fantasy) really shouldn't be compared to the Grishaverse or Leigh's previous books. They are intended for two different types of demographics and Ninth House deals with some very heavy "adult" themes.

To start things off (very bluntly), I got bored. There was nothing that kept me turning the pages other than self-determination and it came to a point where even that wasn't enough. I was doing that thing where you read a paragraph and then read it again (3 times) because you realize you weren't paying any attention at all...I found the pacing in this book to be excruciatingly slow. Nothing significant enough was happening that had me at the edge and the "mysterious" elements didn't hold enough suspense or warrant excitement from me. Again, this opinion is simply my own and it might have been a fact of picking this book at the wrong time.

Another key thing I noticed that caused -several- naps whilst reading was the writing style. The writing in this book is very narrative, and while it's not without merit, it simply didn't captivate me. I felt like it was telling me, rather than showing me and I craved for emotional description from the characters. Which leads me to another note...I got really weary of Darlington. This is going to be very problematic because A LOT of people place him as the winning character of this book. Still, I found myself leaning towards wanting Alex's chapters more than his. Nothing about Darlington made me anticipate meeting him...


There were way too many infor-dumps and if I had to sum up my reading experience, it would be a quote directly from this book:
"You start out excited, and by page two you realize it’s all a lot of words and not much drama." When I saw that, I felt like I was being called out to be honest (drama in this case meaning something actually, yknow... HaPpEnIng). I needed to stop reading before it put me in a slump, so I did. On another note though, Amazon Studios is going to develop this into a series and THAT, I'm looking forward to. It might just push me to read it before I watch it!

Buddy Read with this cutie although, I don't really know if it counts because she's being a trooper and still reading and I'm now just waving the moral support flag.

do i have a considerable amount of books that i already need to read? would i drop (quote me on this) everything for this? if leigh bardugo wrote a 100,000 word essay on the growing strategies of cacti, would i also do the same? yes, yes and also yes.


"By the time Alex managed to get the blood out of her good wool coat, it was too warm to wear it. Spring had come on grudgingly; pale-blue mornings failed to deepen, turning instead to moist, sullen afternoons, and stubborn frost lined the road in high, dirty meringues....
....That was in the spring. But the trouble had begun on a night in the full dark of winter, when Tara Hutchins died and Alex still thought she might get away with everything."
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
December 10, 2019
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for BEST FANTASY 2019! what will happen?

THIS happened! WINNER! goodreads choice awards best fantasy 2019!

There were always excuses for why girls died.

i am going to review this carefully, for all of you who were too cool or too civilized to run for copies at BEA and have to wait for october to grab a copy. me, i regret nothing.

when i first heard about this book, there was only a little teaser of a synopsis available, and when i finally got my hands on it, i didn’t revisit it or read anything printed on the ARC - i just dove in blind.

let’s just say i was unprepared for what this was. i’d assumed, from having read all the bardoogs before this, that this would be set in some fantasy realm which roughly correlated to real-world locations, but was entirely fresh and new and magical. so imagine my surprise to read about this girl kicking it in new haven and eating mamoun’s falafel. mind = blown.

those of you who are better about reading what a book is about before you hunker down between its covers will be less surprised, since it pretty clearly states it takes place at yale, but it took me a minute to recalibrate my expectations.

not unpleasantly so, by any means.

bardugo’s first adult novel is… spectacular. and it is emphatically modern—all of its themes of class and race and gender, all of the female rage and elitist entitlement, and alex stern, my new favorite character, teetering on that knife’s edge of the heroine/antiheroine divide.

never fear, there’s plenty of fantasy and magic and all of the brilliance one expects from a bardugo novel, and DAMN, does it have teeth.

Alex felt something dark inside her uncoil. “You’re a flat beast,” Hellie had once said to her. “Got a little viper lurking in there, ready to strike. A rattler probably.” She’d said it with a grin, but she’d been right. All this winter weather and polite conversation had put the serpent to sleep, its heartbeat slowing as it grew lazy and still, like any cold-blooded thing.

it’s a mystery/horror/fantasy cocktail that packs a serious punch. it is fierce. it is ferocious. it’s all sinuous with iridescent scales and fangs.

it ends on a promise of more to come, and i NEED there to be more coming, because i am smitten with alex stern.

I let you die. To save myself, I let you die.

That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.

i will keep company with her any day of the week.
if she’ll have me.


an easy five stars, with review TK, but to answer your final question, ms. bardugo:




update: BEA will not be burned down this year.



every year, i have a few "if i don't get this at BEA, i will burn down BEA" titles.
this year i only have one.

leigh bardugo
university secret societies
sinister occult activities

all of the good things at once.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
July 23, 2023
In anticipation of the recent release of Hell Bent, I wisely chose to reread Ninth House. The first time I read it, in July of 2020, I listened to the audiobook while on a road trip.

I've left my full, original review up below. You will see that at that time I rated it 3.5-stars, rounding up to 4. This time, it's nothing but a full 5-stars, baby!!

I think the difference is I was able to put my full focus on it this time around. I don't know about you, but when I am traveling, my mind is going a million miles an hour, it can be hard to concentrate.

While I can enjoy a story I am listening to on the road, the premise, the vibe and the characters, I don't think I was truly able to hold onto the finer points of this one.

Upon reread, I'm in love.

One of the aspects that really stood out to me this time around was the detailed back stories for both Alex and Darlington. I remembered a little bit of Alex's, particularly the trauma she suffered directly before being recruited to Lethe House, but Darlington's I remembered not at all.

I definitely have a stronger understanding of both of their characters now, which I feel is going to be important going into Hell Bent.

Also, I feel like I have a better understanding of the structure and functioning of Lethe House. The importance of the different roles and who fills those roles.

I love how dark Bardugo gets with this story. With this being said, though, although most of us are aware of the numerous trigger warnings, if you aren't, please be sure you find those and are aware prior to jumping into this story.

Finally, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the murder mystery aspects. The investigations into the other houses and all of the supernatural aspects help to make this story quite compelling.

At this point, I have started Hell Bent and am absolutely loving it. I'm not sure how many books are slated to be in this series, but you best believe, I will be picking up every single one.

If this series sounds interesting to you and you haven't started it yet, you absolutely should. There will be no better time to read these first two books than right now...

Original Review:

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ninth House is moody, dark and secretive. In other words, it's everything I love in my fiction!!

This book is a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.

I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What's not to love about the Yale campus in Autumn, paired with secret societies and magic?

On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed the story even more if I had read a hard copy.

I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the fine details if I had been holding the book in my hands. There's a lot to take in here.

There are intricate details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as a back and forth between timelines. I think I just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.

I was intrigued by Alex as a character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life; raised by a hippie Mom in California, yet somehow, mysteriously ends up at one of the most elite institutions of higher learning in the world.

After a close call, Alex ends up not in the morgue, but being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale. Why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn't recommending her for the slot.

Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.

When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.

It's also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.

Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.

Essentially a Murder Mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.

One of these that I found extremely interesting, was the examination of the amount of privilege on the Yale campus. The way that uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.

There is also quite a bit on page regarding drug abuse, addiction, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.

With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo's transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.

It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem incredibly real. I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.

I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.

Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?

The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!

Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,382 followers
October 11, 2019
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷


★ This time I decided to bring you my review immediately without the usual RTC because with a rating like that, everyone is curious and many people already asked me to review this one and what my thoughts are on it.

★ I need to make some things clear before you come to put my head on a pike! Bardugo is one of my favorite authors, I read all her books, I do own all her books (Including the collector’s edition of SoC and CK) so if you think that I have anything against her then you are wrong. I am just the kind of person who will stick to being honest even if it is my favorite author.

★ I also need you to know that I contacted both publishers asking for an E-ARC and I am still waiting for their replies xD. It is like the publishers knew this was not for me. Maybe magic is real after all!

★ Another thing is that I do read books across all genres (mostly fantasy and contemporary but I have read and enjoyed all genres out there) so this is probably not a genre problem. I also read MG, YA and recently Adult titles so I have experienced the different writing styles through my reading Journey! I read this book from cover to cover (Including the Acknowledgment and about the author page) So what went wrong?

“All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down”

★ I don’t know if things went right to begin with, many of my anticipated books this year ended up disappointing me (Recursion, DarkDawn, Aurora Rising…etc) This was my most anticipated book of the year and my expectations were high, I do not know if this affected my experience because a good book will still be good even with high expectations (I had sky-high expectations for The Sword of Kaigen this year and still found it to be AMAZING).

★ I got this book immediately when it was released and jumped right in, I did not easily get into the story and started to worry, After 50 pages, I was having a reading crisis and texted my friend David who DNFed the book, he was not happy about that because it was one of his most anticipated books too. We talked a bit and unfortunately, we agreed on many things. I told him I will continue reading, which I did and I was still feeling the same so I went into GR and the reviews mentioned that it gets better after the 100 pages. In the past, I had problems with getting into Bardugo’s books, the first time I read Six of Crows, I was not feeling it and put it aside for later when I came back and it became my favorite duology! But that time, I felt that the book is really good and I was not enjoying it because I was not in the mood. This time I did not feel it was good and I was in the mood so I decided to push through.

★ Reading the book through the last 4 days started to feel like a chore and it almost put me in a slump. My reading process was reading a few pages every hour and leaving the book aside, then searching for more GR reviews that were not happy with the book and I agreed with almost every one of them!

“People didn’t need magic to be terrible to each other.”

★ The start of the book was shaky, there was a lot of info dump and a lot of intellectual references that I did not understand! I said let’s see what happens after 100 pages, I was still confused and not happy with my reading experience, one of the reviews said that the first 200 pages had a lot of info so I extended that to 200 pages! And my disappointment only extended with that!

★ Listen, my point is that if a book needs 200 pages to make me get into the story then that is just too much for me, there are whole complete great stories in under 200 pages so this is not a valid excuse for me writing-wise!

★ Anyway, I decide to finish the book, maybe, just maybe there will be light at the end of the tunnel. But at the end of this tunnel, I am surprised by the smell of something fishy, something like the electrical crackle of ozone after a storm. And if you are saying what is wrong with this guy! This was an actual quote from the book!

“It left a stink that was something like the electrical crackle of ozone after a storm coupled with the rot of a pumpkin left too long on a windowsill.”

★ Like I don’t believe this is the same author whose quotes fill the profiles of half the YA reader’s bios online! High expectations or was it bad writing, help me decide?

★ After 200 pages and the decision to finish it no matter what, I was lost, I could not remember the names of all the secret cults or characters and what role they play due to the afore-mentioned info dump.

★ I did not care about the characters, I do not care about Alex or Darlington (Alina and the Darkling as some eagle eyes fans noticed), I did not care about Sandow or Hellie or Dawes. After 200 pages of not connecting to them, there was no redemption from that and they fell flat for me, a meteor could have come out of outer space and killed them and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash then!

★ I have seen this book classified as fantasy, thriller/ mystery, contemporary and even horror. I can understand that because the book tried too many things at once, I think it is supposed to be fantasy mixed with thriller which I think did not work for me, the book was too long for the thriller/ mystery genre. I think it could have been half of this number of pages and that would have been better.

“There were always excuses for why girls died”

★ Moving on into a very important thing that everyone is talking about, how dark is this book and the TW! I am sure that this includes dark things: It has multiple rape scenes (Child included), abuse, drugs and eating {Redacted}. But I am not sure why!! I did not think that all of these were needed and I did not think that they moved the plot or added anything to the story in general. Exactly before finishing this one, I was reading Solace Lost which is a grimdark fantasy novel and it has a lot of dark themes and the characters go through a lot and It all made sense to me. My point is: I do not have a problem with those topics or think it is taboo to talk about them, I think it is important to do so but in the right context. I was literally zoning out during a rape scene in Ninth House and then went and read it again, that was how little of an impact it did have on me and I think no rape scene should have this effect.

★ Furthermore, I have been reading a lot of adult fantasy recently, I think there is a difference between writing an adult fantasy book vs a YA book. Just like there is a difference between writing MG and YA! I am reading less YA these days and I did want to continue reading my favorite authors. So when some of these authors decided to start writing adult books I was excited. I am not so sure about that now because I think the transition into adult fantasy after spending years and tens of books in writing YA is not as smooth as I thought it would be. The writing in Ninth House felt like a YA novel and many of the older bloggers agree. I think I will consider it YA with very adult themes. But the writing, the characters and plot, all felt YA.

“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”

★ Summary: I am writing this review because when I was reading the book, I wanted a review like this one, so this is for all the disappointed future readers. This book turned from my most anticipated read of the year into my most disappointing one. The pacing was slow, the book was boring, the characters were flat and the writing is not as good as I am used to. I still think Bardugo is a great author but it looks like this series is just not for me. There is certainly a pressure to like this one because it is Leigh Bardugo after all but I am not falling into that rabbit hole. I am not saying you should not read this one, because there are certainly people loving it out there, I am saying that if you started it and you can’t get into it, you are not enjoying it and feeling bored, then I felt the same and I am assuring you it does not get significantly better. I think I am done with this series but I am still interested in Bardugo’s novels in the Grishaverse!

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Profile Image for Caz (littlebookowl).
302 reviews40.2k followers
September 4, 2019

This was something else - incredible writing, so atmospheric, bloody, gruesome, intense.

The ending was RUDE, I need the next book NOW!

Content warning: sexual assault including child rape & date rape drug, self-harm, suicide, physical abuse, overdose, violence, murder.
Profile Image for ✨ A ✨ .
432 reviews1,792 followers
April 16, 2023
I, the biggest scared-y cat, actually enjoyed this?! Leigh Bardugo really be working that magic

‘We are the shepherds.’
The time for that was done. Better to be a rattler.

Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern, a drop out, a girl who can see the dead, the only survivor of a multiple homicide — is offered a chance of a lifetime: a free ride to Yale University. She can leave her terrible past behind and start fresh.

However, Alex knows that nothing is without its price and in exchange for this new life, Alex is recruited by a society tasked with the duty to keeping the occult activities of Yale's secret Ancient Houses in line.

Sounds like a simple job, right? Wrong.

When a dead girl is found on campus on a Thursday night, a night when the societies meet or perform rituals, Alex knows that the murder is not as simple as the cops claim. All she has to do is prove it.

"All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down."

My Thoughts:

Believe me when I say I went into this with the lowest expectations. Ninth House has been on my shelf for seven months. The mixed reviews and plethora of terrifying trigger warnings had me hesitant to dive in and until now, I haven't had the courage to pick it up.

I will not deny that I am a squeamish person. But knowing what to expect thanks to the TW's —made available by other reviewers (check them out at the bottom of this review) — helped prepare me. I think if I'd started this blindly I would most definitely dnf'ed.

the writing

I can't say that this is an easy book to read. After some of the more gruesome scenes I took a little break before reading again. There was one particular scene that I'm still trying to erase from my memory. But then again guys, I don't have a high tolerance for gross stuff, y'all will probably be fine.

Chapters alternated between Alex and Darlington's POV, flitting between events in the past and present, in a way that was not too jarring. I read some chapters from my physical copy and listened to the audiobook for some chapters.

As this is basically a mystery with urban fantasy elements, the pacing is slow — which I was not upset about. I don't mind slow as long as I'm not bored and there were plenty of action packed moments as well.

The magic featured in Ninth House and the way the societies work was really interesting to read about. I took notes to keep track of which Houses practiced certain magic and then realised that there is a table at the back of the book that explains 😂

the setting

You can tell when an author is connected to their writing, you can feel it in their words. I think it's so cool how much Bardugo based this book on real fact and that she knew the setting so well. She went to Yale and was even part of one of the Ancient Societies in the book!

This book made me want to visit New Haven myself to see if it does indeed feel as magical as this book described.

the characters

I adored the characters. Alex is one of those loveable morally grey characters that Bardugo is great at. She's a survivor, fierce and I have nothing but admiration for her.

If I had known that Darlington is basically an older Richard Gansey III (from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater) — I would have read this much sooner.
His gentleman nature, his love for books, New Haven, Yale and magic — his wonder— was infectious. I could not get enough of his chapters.

‘This was why he had done it, not because of guilt or pride but because this was the moment he'd been waiting for: the chance to show someone else wonder, to watch them realize that they had not been lied to, that the world they'd been promised as children was not something that had to be abandoned, that there really was something lurking in the mood, beneath the stairs, between the stars, that everything was full of mystery.’

There were other characters who also crept up on me, like Dawes, Turner and even Mercy.
I hope to see more of them (and even delve more into their characters hopefully? Please?) in the next book.

final thoughts:

The ending had some twists that I was expecting and then shocked me with some unexpected ones. Right now I'm mourning the fact that I'll probably have to wait ages for the next book and I've no idea how I'm going to stay sane until then.

Thoughts on the audiobook:
The audiobook was brilliant. I really loved the narrators voices. They really made the characters feel real and even though I didn't listen to the whole book via audio, when I read chapters from the physical book I imagined it in their voices 😂. ALSO, the audiobook features an interview with Leigh Bardugo at the end. Highly recommend the audio.

« Thank you to the publishers for gifting me a copy for review »

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Extreme violence; graphic sexual assault; rape of a child; rape drug; rape of a person under the influence; suicide; drug abuse; self harm; overdose; murder

20 March 2019
There are 70 users that shelved this as young adult.
What don't y'all get about the words “adult debut” ????

Also ... I am loving this cover. So Slytherin 🐍
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,538 reviews9,967 followers
June 1, 2020
I don’t know what the hell I was thinking the first time I listened to this, I mean I fell asleep a lot. Tried to relisten and had to skim through for falling asleep. The only part was about an evil person forced to eat shit that I thought was gross and cool. I was falling asleep again so 1 Star and I unhauled and got credit back for Audio.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Cardan Greenbriar.
90 reviews942 followers
December 9, 2019
after reading drunk hangover:

oh i'm sorry did i make a mistake?

The Darkling didn't make the cover

The Darkling is the whole book himself

And Leigh was cackling behind

pre reading:
Two theories:

Either The Darkling made the cover


The cover is The Darkling
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,627 followers
December 1, 2020

Many thanks to Macmillan Audio for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

[12/10/19] - Congratulations, Leigh Bardugo, on winning the 2019 Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy!!!


I totally forgot to tell you guys that, in an interview at the end of my audio file, Leigh stated:
"I am, alas, not a shapeshifter but if you give me a large pizza I can shift into a slightly bigger version of myself."

if that's not the biggest mood ever...

”It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed”

So, do you ever have those moments that just kind of shatter your identity and how you view yourself? Well, that’s me right now. We all know how much I hated Six of Crows. My feelings morphed from bitterness to joy. It truly is fun to hate with a passion. But we’re not talking about Six of Crows. We’re talking about Ninth House. I’d honestly like to pretend that Six of Crows never happened because this book was the exact opposite. Entertaining, scary, gripping and full of superbly written characters.

So, what’s this book about?
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicides. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern - As I mentioned earlier, this book is full of great characters but Alex, who, yes, just happens to be the main character, was the best in this whole book. Alex is, as Darlington said, stating the obvious, “not what she seems”. Alex Stern can see ghosts, or Grays as they are called in this world. Now, she’s not the only one who can see Grays but her abilities with the Grays are not at all what they seem.

Aside from her powers, which are f**king awesome, Alex is also selfish. As with most of the selfish characters, I study, she is selfish for a reason. She is defending herself. Since childhood, Alex has believed herself to be crazy because she can see the Grays while no one else around her can. I really loved Alex’s character ARC and I cannot wait to see it explored further in book two which had better be coming soon. WE’RE COUNTING ON YOU, LEIGH!

Another reason you should read this is the world-building. Something Leigh Bardugo has always been talented at, (Yes, even in Six of Crows) is world-building. In this contemporary world, ghosts exist and they are called Grays. There is also magic and all sorts of other supernatural sh*that was an absolute blast to read.

Even better than the world-building was the setting. This book was set at Yale University, which, as she stated in her interview at the end of the audiobook, Leigh actually attended! The atmosphere was very cozy yet chilling and unsettling. I honestly don’t think there could have been a better setting for this novel.

Finally, I loved the plot. Unlike Six of Crows, it actually took off and went somewhere. You should know that the first half is slow(ish) but strap in and wait because the second half is a total rollercoaster of emotional plot twists.

Overall, this novel is a stunning, atmospheric and chilling novel for fans of Riverdale and the The Hazel Wood. Both old and new fans will be amazed by this work of art.

Final Note: This book IS NOT YOUNG ADULT. I cannot stress it enough. Both Leigh and her publishers have classified this as New Adult and it should be viewed as so, because it goes to some very dark, very heavy places.

Bottom Line:
4.5 Stars
Age Rating: [ R ]
Content Screening (Spoilers) - Educational Value (2/5): [Mythology and history of magic, Demonology] ~ Positive Messages (2/5): [Female empowerment] ~Violence (4/5): [Body horror, gore, rape, physical assault] ~ Sex (3/5): [Rape, discussion of sex] ~ Langauge (3/5): [Sh*t, f**k, d*mn, Asshole] ~ Drinking/Drugs (4/5): [Medicinal drugs, magical drugs, overall a ton of drug usage]
TW: Rape, (Magical) Rape Drugs, PTSD, Death, Murder, Suicide, Racism
Reps: [Disability]
Cover: 5/5 ~ Characters: 4/5 ~ Plot: 4/5 ~ Audio: 4/5 (I love Lauren Fortgang)
Publication Date: October 8th, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron, an imprint of Macmillan
I, the passionate hater of Six of Crows, loved this book. brb, while I have an identity crisis
And so it begins. Will I love it or will I hate it? We shall have to wait and see.
at this point, i'm more than intrigued. i'm excited
Even though I hate Six of Crows, I'm intrigued..


Ninth House - ★★★★★

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Profile Image for Daniel B..
Author 3 books32.5k followers
December 6, 2019
An absolutely brilliant read.

I found myself completely taken by the blend of examining social issues and well-realized occult themes. This was my first read for Leigh Bardugo, and it has absolutely convinced me to read more from her in the future.

Ninth House is flat out brilliant. There is a reason Stephen King called it one of the best fantasy books he has read in recent years.

"best fantasy I’ve read in years" - King

The main protagonist is well-realized and motivated. The world is our own but twisted enough to draw out a dark fascination from any reader. You MUST know just how deep these dark elements go. How will this mystery play out?

These elements come together to become one of the most addicting reads of the year.

Full Review:
Profile Image for Zainab.
384 reviews531 followers
April 30, 2022
OOF talk about disappointment.

I’ve been waiting for this book to come out ever since its release was announced so you can imagine just how annoyed I am. I tried SO hard to finish at least half of the book but I just could not.

I’m not gonna lie, I just cannot believe Leigh Bardugo wrote this. The same author who wrote Six Of Crows, wrote this? Nah.

All the 200 pages I read, I didn’t have a single clue about what was happening. Didn’t know who (or what) this Dante was, realized halfway through that Alex hadn’t finished highschool and that was rescued from a life of misery blah blah.

In all of this mess, it’s kind of hard to give a damn about Yale’s secret societies.
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