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 homicide. 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.
The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.
CW/TW: Drug use, overdosing, murder, death, loss of a loved one, gore, PTSD depiction, grief depiction, self-harm, bloodletting, rape/sexual assault (including rape of a minor ), talk of suicide, physical abuse, a magical date rape drug, forced consumption of human waste (feces), and racism.
Soooooooooooooo, Ninth House. This book has had probably the most controversy this year, and for good reason. The list of triggers of the book became public late summer/early fall and made readers question if they wanted to approach the book.
Now, don’t get it twisted, triggers are INCREDIBLY important. That being said, this book was advertised as grim-dark adult fantasy, and having intense triggers is not out of place for that sub-genre. Readers should know what they’re getting into and have every right to choose whether or not to pick up a book based on what they can and cannot handle. I was just surprised by how many people outright canceled this book due to the triggers. Again, there is a difference between knowing that content is not right for you and blindly canceling for the use of dark topics. But, with that elephant out of the room, I’m thrilled to say that I really enjoyed this dark, twisted store.
“Peace was like any high. It couldn’t last. It was an illusion, something that could be interrupted in a moment and lost forever.”
Alex – Alex is our main character with the ability to see and communicate with the dead. Others don’t know she has this ability and not being able to be open about it resulted in Alex being ostracized in her youth. After an almost-overdose, Alex is given a second chance, including a full ride to Yale, as long as she helps a secret organization monitor the secret societies of Yale.
Darlington – Alex’s mentor and golden boy of Yale/Lethe. He goes missing towards the beginning of the novel, and figuring out what happened to him is a side plot of the main story. In flashbacks, we also find out how much help he gives Alex and watch their friendship grow.
Dawes – Dawes is the info center of Lethe. She is the go-to person if you need help/healing/or some broad information.
Turner – Turner is the detective on the Tara Hutchins case that drives most of this story. He is a part of Lethe and is one of the few people privy to the 8 tombs of Yale and aware of the supernatural aspect of the world.
“Only two things kept you safe: money and power.”
This book has several intersecting plot threads, and I thought they were all approached and integrated well. This book follows Alex helping monitor the 8 tombs of Yale while believing that a nearby homicide may also be connected to one of the tombs. We also get a lot of insight into Alex’s tragic, trauma filled past. Alex was assaulted at the age of 12, ostracized at school, and exposed to drugs around the age of 15. Her boyfriend involved her in the selling of drugs and was abusive.
Also, Darrington chronicles his adventures in monitoring Alex and researching some mysteries that may hold a deeper secret.
At its core, this is a story about overcoming trauma and finding new strengths. Seeing the hardship that Alex was exposed to at such an early age and watching how she builds herself back up is heartfelt and inspiring.
This book also shows the dangers of unsupervised magic in the hands of those who are too powerful. One of the harder scenes to read in this book was when a girl was assaulted with the use of a magical drug and the perpetrator was clearly getting off on the power and adherence from the girl.
I really enjoyed learning more about the different houses and seeing how they operated. I, like many others, have a sick fascination with conspiracies and secret societies and I loved learning about these ones.
Lastly, I loved how many things tied back into the ending and overall story. I love it when little details have larger meanings. This was definitely a strength of the book. Watching the little pieces fall into place resulted in an incredibly satisfying reading experience.
“People didn’t need magic to be terrible to each other.”
Going in with low expectations definitely was a plus as I was able to experience the story and I enjoyed the dark, twisted ride I went on. I was so intrigued by the mysteries that arose in this book and thought the conclusion was incredibly satisfying. I am definitely excited to pick up the next book in this series, as well as some other Leigh Bardugo novels!