Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.
Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
What I knew going in
I have been aware of this book for a while, but I wasn’t interested in reading it until recently. I guess you could I was judging it by its cover. Sometimes I can be very particular about what I read. Other times, I am less so. When I heard a few good friends of mine discussing how much they enjoyed the book, my curiosity was piqued. So I started doing a little research. I talked to my friends about it. I read some customer reviews. I would pick it up and look at it every so often until I finally just bought it. Then it sat on my shelf for a few weeks before I decided to bite the bullet and give it a shot.
I was also very intrigued by the line on the back about “the most fun you will ever have with skeletons”. I just had to know.
I went into this book without any real expectations. The pacing was different from the book I had just finished reading, so it took me a second to adjust to it. The world view at first is very narrowed but Gideon’s irreverent tone quickly endeared me to her. She is someone who does not like where she is and is willing to fight tooth and nail to find a better life for herself. A better world. This is a universe that was once grand and full of life. Now there is an air of decay and loss, but in a world of necromancers, this is not such a bad thing. I found the world fascinating, and when the mystery came in I knew I was a goner.
What I loved
This whole book is a puzzle. The world is much grander than is shown at first but throughout the story more and more of the greater universe is unfolded. And it’s amazing. I also loved watching the contentious, complicated relationship between Gideon and Harrow evolve as they faced various challenges scattered about the haunted castle. I don’t want to spoil too much about the story, so I am not going into a lot of detail on the situation. But reading this book is like solving a puzzle where you don’t yet have all of the pieces. I actually enjoyed the fact I had no idea where things were going. Like Gideon, I was just along for the ride.
There are also some things about this book that I can’t quite put into words. Even though the world is so incredibly unlike ours, I found the story incredibly human. The characters are real and they are messy and they are complicated. They all have their own conflicting goals and dreams. They have their own (metaphorical) ghosts haunting them. It’s raw and it’s beautiful.
Who I recommend this too
Gideon the Ninth pulls elements from science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But, if you ask me, it is ultimately a mystery. It’s an escape room for the characters and a multi-layer puzzle box for the reader. If you are looking for something fresh and new, I highly recommend this. It will take you by surprise into a world unlike any you have ever seen and leave you wishing there were more like it. And it will leave you screaming a little at times. It’s great.