Title: Gideon the Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Age Range: Adult
Genre(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBTQI+
Source: Barnes and Noble, Audible
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Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
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 necromantic skeletons. 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.
I…I wish this review was going to be more positive, but wow this book really missed the mark for me. I can’t even explain what went wrong (okay I’m going to try, but I probably won’t succeed). This book was actually a 5-star prediction for me and one I was preparing to love but this ended up being one of my most disappointing reads of the year.
So what happened?
This book actually started off super strong. I liked the first act a lot. Gideon was presented as a super entertaining and likable main character. Harrowhark and Gideon’s rivalry isn’t explained, you just know they hate each other, but I didn’t mind that either. I thought their banter, for the most part, was absolutely hilarious, and Harrow getting Gideon to be her cavalier was entertaining.
But then we actually get to the main setting of this book and things went downhill so fast. The first problem that I had was that I couldn’t tell any of the characters apart. I constantly kept confusing who was who and who liked who. There’s a glossary at the beginning of this book that I used quite frequently and I still struggled. Some characters were distinct enough that I was able to be like, oh yes you’re so and so, but like half the cast just blurred together, so when shit started hitting the fan, nothing was impactful because I didn’t know or feel for the character at all. I was more focused on reacquainting myself with who they were.
The actual plot of the story kind of confused me too. I listened to the audiobook and followed along with the physical book, but I constantly found myself having to go back because I kept feeling like I was missing plot points. I still don’t feel like I fully grasped why all the members of the various houses were gathered in the first place or what the purpose of the trials were. Like I get that there was the goal to become a Lyctor, but I have no clue what that is or what the significance is, and that’s after reading the big ending battle.
The last 100 or so pages were also super confusing for me. I honestly couldn’t tell you, with absolute certainty, who made it out of this book alive and who didn’t. Like there are some deaths I’m pretty confident about, but there are some characters I’m honestly not sure if they made it out or not.
While the writing wasn’t anything special or inherently awful, I didn’t love the use of repetition. There were several times when this writing technique was used and I had a mental “we get it” just about every time.
“Nonagesimus,” she said slowly, “the only job I’d do for you would be if you wanted someone to hold the sword as you fell on it. The only job I’d do for you would be if you wanted your ass kicked so hard, the Locked Tomb opened and a parade came out to sing, ‘Lo! A destructed ass.’ The only job I’d do would be if you wanted me to spot you while you backflipped off the top tier into Drearburh.”
I think what was also frustrating about this repetitive technique is that is was something all the other characters were aware of. For example, in the above passage, Gideon is addressing Harrow, and Harrow quips back “That’s three jobs.” I won’t lie, that got a chuckle out of me, but this is used so many times, each the exact same way that it just annoying after a while.
Another thing that put me off this book was how unnecessarily complicated all of the names were. It didn’t help that several of these names were similar to others, further leading to confusion. I’m 100% okay with authors giving their fantasy characters cool fantasy names, but this was just too much. I started back up my weekly reading vlogs when reading this book and struggled constantly to pronounced Harrow’s last name, despite listening to the audiobook with the correct pronunciation.
This book just really missed the mark for me in so many aspects. From a confusing plot, to at times, annoying writing, I just didn’t like this one. I was at risk of DNFing this one for the third time and found myself having to read other things while I was reading this one to aid in motivating me to finish it. I want to continue on with the series, hoping that the plot is presented better and that the writing improves, but there is no way I could without a recap sight acting like SparkNotes and helping me figure out wtf I read in this book. I know this book got a lot of mixed reviews upon release and I desperately wanted to be in the camp that loved it, but I guess that just wasn’t in the cards.