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Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Nine by Tracy Townsend (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Order The Nine over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tracy Townsend is the author of The Nine and The Fall (books 1 and 2 in the Thieves of Fate series), a monthly columnist for the feminist sf magazine Luna Station Quarterly, and an essayist for Uncanny Magazine. She holds a master's degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is the former chair of the English department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, and one very patient husband.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: In the dark streets of Corma exists a book that writes itself, a book that some would kill for...

Black market courier Rowena Downshire is just trying to pay her mother’s freedom from debtor's prison when an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares. Rowena escapes with her life, but the strange book she was ordered to deliver is stolen.

The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, and when Rowena shows up on his doorstep, frightened and empty-handed, he knows better than to turn her away. What he discovers leads him to ask for help from the last man he wants to see—the former mercenary, Anselm Meteron. 

Across town, Reverend Phillip Chalmers awakes in a cell, bloodied and bruised, facing a creature twice his size. Translating the stolen book may be his only hope for survival; however, he soon realizes the book may be a fabled text written by the Creator Himself, tracking the nine human subjects of His Grand Experiment. In the wrong hands, it could mean the end of humanity.

Rowena and her companions become the target of conspirators who seek to use the book for their own ends. But how can this unlikely team be sure who the enemy is when they can barely trust each other? And what will happen when the book reveals a secret no human was meant to know?

FORMAT/INFO: The Nine is 366 pages long. This is the first volume of the Thieves of Fate series.

The book was published by Pyr on November 14th, 2017 and it's available as an e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Cover art and design is provided by  Adam S. Doyle.

ANALYSIS: The Nine doesn’t sit comfortably in any singular genre. Rather, it reshapes various fantasy subgenres in an engrossing tale that takes place in an alternate universe.

Imagine a world where Science has become a religion. God the Experimentor maintains life as an experiment. He continually reevaluates his experiment by observing the way The Nine (randomly chosen human beings whose names remain unknown to anyone but God) live their lives. Some factions and creatures want humankind to fail God’s trial.

Thirteen-year-old underworld courier Rowena Downshire loses a book that writes itself to a creature called Aiganamuxa. Afraid of her brutal patron Ivor, she chooses to report the theft to book recipient – infamous and dreadful Alchemist. Accompanied by Alchemist old friend/foe of dubious morality – Anselm – they’re thrown into a dangerous quest. They become the target of conspirators who seek to use the book for their own ends. 

The Nine hooked me from page one. Mix of imaginative secondary world, vulnerable and relatable characters and a layered plot was hard to resist. While I consider myself atheist, I’m fascinated by religions and the way Tracy Townsend touches the subject is interesting and intelligent. It gives plenty of space for spinning and reassessing ecclesiastical theories. Religion, though, is just one side of the story focused on character arcs. The idea of creation being an ongoing experiment is fun, but the book focus lies elsewhere. Don’t expect it to be a philosophical treatise; it’s a fascinating adventure tale that touches more serious issues.

The journey we’re taken on seems well-conceived. Parts of the plot intertwine in surprising ways, and some twists are genuinely surprising. All ideas presented in the book come together in elegant ways. The world is admirably dark, filled with people struggling to survive in poorly lit alleys. Given that Rowena’s mother is enclosed in debtors jails and our protagonist tries to repay her debt, the story has some Dickens vibe to it. 

Apart from humans, there are two other races in the city –anatomically impossible aigamuxa with eyes in the soles of their feetand Lanyani – kind of living trees that enjoy feeding on human bodies. 

Characters presented in the book are well portrayed. Rowena is stubborn, loyal and fierce. The Alchemist POV is introduced later in the book, so while we observe him through other characters eyes, he seems reserved and sullen. On the other hand, we see enough to acknowledge that underneath grumpy appearance, he’s a good guy with a big heart. There’s also Anselm. Anselm is cool. He’s cold and cynic ex-mercenary who enjoys his decadent retirement. He describes himself as a villain with a penchant for self-aggrandisement and a portfolio of maladjusted habits. At one time he states:

Turpitude is my problem, not degeneracy. A law-abiding life was out of the question from the start.

Also, interactions between the three characters are done very well. There’s another character I liked a lot that, sadly, was killed by Tracy Townsend. After her r/fantasy AMA I thought she was a nice person but, clearly, I was wrong. Killing cool characters is uncool, you know. 

If you look for intelligent, well-plotted book that mashes political intrigues, conspiracies, heists, found family, steam- and clockpunk stylings, redemption arcs, interspecies conflict and grey morality, you can stop right now. This is it. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy.



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