Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

You’ve never read a book like this before, I can guarantee. Described as a science-fantasy, Gideon the Ninth transcends genre in its whirlwind narrative and utterly enthralling setting. 


“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.”

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is the first instalment of The Locked Tomb series. It’s an exceptional blend of sci-fi, fantasy, gothic horror, and murder mystery. Shattering expectations with every chapter, this book has enough twists and turns to make you dizzy. 

Set in a post-apocalyptic world relocated to the void of space, powerful necromancers run a fractured society. Gideon Nav is an unwilling member of the Ninth House who wants nothing to do with it or her peer, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. However, Gideon is forced to be Harrowhark’s bodyguard as she attempts to join the Emperor Undying in immortality. 

The world of The Locked Tomb is incredibly dense and complex. This futuristic society takes a bit to comprehend, but it’s a marvel how much detail Muir puts into the setting. Necromancy is the driving force of this world, but Muir adds so many layers beyond just raising skeletons. There’s bone magic, flesh magic, spirit magic … the possibilities are endless! If there’s one thing I love in a fantasy series, it’s a good magic system. Muir adds so much creativity to what a necromancer can do, but there are still solid rules in place. None of the characters feel too overpowered, even the exceptionally strong ones. 

Speaking of the characters, Gideon is a refreshing protagonist. Her tongue-in-cheek narration is the perfect complement to the story’s often heavy subject matter. Her internal monologue makes her seem charmingly arrogant, but her interactions with others show her to be shy and humble. It’s wonderful to have a proud butch lesbian as a protagonist who is seen as attractive by every other character. 

The other characters are just as impeccably fleshed-out as Gideon. The people in this world are as complicated, dark, and twisted as the world itself; all an absolute joy to read. The characters are surprising and bracing, scrabbling out of any archetypes you try to fit them into. There’s a broad spectrum of personalities, motives and desires, which means there’s never a dull moment in Gideon the Ninth. 

This book truly does have something for everyone. It’s packed with action, high-stakes puzzles, mysteries and dark secrets. What I love about this series is that there aren’t huge chunks of exposition. You’re thrown straight into the action with barely a moment to catch your breath. While this could be overwhelming, Gideon the Ninth leaves enough tantalizing story crumbs that you’re not weighed down by details. You just want to keep pushing through until you’ve discovered every hidden treasure. Gideon the Ninth is available in most major bookstores and online. The third instalment in the series is set to be released in September.

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