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.
Reading Gideon the Ninth for the first time is a chaotic dump of dense entertainment; Rereading Gideon the Ninth is a masterpiece. The first time through, it took me about 100 pages to be fully invested in the story, though Gideon’s brash attitude and compelling internal voice (and external, to be clear) endeared me to her immediately. Still, it wasn’t until Gideon and Harrow left home for the challenges in Canaan House with other necromancers and cavaliers that I became fully invested. The second time through? I was all in, immediately!
These girls! Gideon and Harrow are giant messes, and Harrow in particular is legitimately nasty. And yet I love them with my whole shattered heart! Muir’s characterization skills are flawless, and with each additional character she just keeps showing off by creating unique, fully realized people. Dulcinea! Palamedes! The aggrieved teens! Magnus and Abigail! Literally just everyone (except for you, Eighth House).
I am not, and have never been, a goth lesbian, but WOW does this book make a compelling case. Admittedly. there is a lot of body horror in the story (skeletons galore, beasties and monsters made of bits of people), but Gideon’s upbeat personality makes it all bearable, and this is coming from a Very Squeamish Person. Gore aside, the worldbuilding of a magical system entirely centered on death is incredible. The fact that there are nine houses, each with a different way of manipulating necromantic powers, is truly mind blowing. The religion that is shared but practiced differently on each planet is morbid and wonderful, and I loved the reveal that the heavy-handed religiosity that we are introduced to via Harrow is considered archaic by the other houses.
Okay, okay, let’s get into the plot. Necromancers and their cavaliers are sent to a mysterious house to solve the mystery of immortality – aka lyctorhood. Everyone immediately assumes it is a competition, which is ridiculously paranoid. Eventually the monsters force some to work together, but maybe the true monster is within the group?? It is a little slow to start, but as I said before, there is a LOT of information being laid out that becomes super important in both this book and the next (so much talk of eyeballs!). It is a wild romp, and I love everyone and everything about it.
What Make This Book Queer?
Gideon is a horny repressed jock lesbian, and she has got crushes on everyone – Dulcinea the sweet sick woman, Coronobeth the hottie, and Harrow the archnemesis! This book is fanfic tropes come to glorious life, and we do not deserve it.
The relationship between Gideon and Harrow is particularly satisfying. They grew up together and they have MAJOR beef with each other. However, if you are a fan of enemies-to-lovers, then my friend. You will be delighted. I love a story with a “I hate you! OMG, you might be dead, NOOOO!” realization. They are traumatized by the slightest vulnerability in each other, and it is satisfying at a bone-deep level to watch them start to work together, respect each other, and trust each other.