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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Harrow The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)

Official Author Website
Order the book over HERE
Read Caitlin’s review of Gideon The Ninth

is the bestselling author of the Locked Tomb Trilogy, which begins with Gideon the Ninth, continues with Harrow the Ninth, and concludes with Alecto the Ninth. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award and the Eugie Foster Memorial Award. A Kiwi, she has spent most of her life in Howick, New Zealand, with time living in Waiuku and central Wellington. She currently lives and works in Oxford, in the United Kingdom.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB:She answered the Emperor's call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman's shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor's Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off? 

FORMAT/INFO: Harrow the Ninth was published August 4th, 2020 by It is 512 pages split over 53 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. It is written in both 2nd person and 3rd person from Harrow's point of view. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Harrow the Ninth achieved her dream of becoming one of the Emperor’s Lyctors, but the process nearly cost her her life. Imbued with even greater necromantic power than she’s had before, Harrow barely gets a moment to rest before she’s confronted with the news that the Emperor is at war with a deadly enemy, and it will be at the Lyctor sanctuary in a matter of months. She trains for the confrontation, but soon realizes not all the other Lyctor’s are her allies. In fact, they may just want her dead.

Unsurprisingly, Harrow the Ninth is an unusual book, told in alternating perspectives: Harrow’s present day recollections are told in second person, while flashbacks to previous events at Canaan House, the location where she underwent a series of trials to become a Lyctor, accompanied by her cavalier Ortus, are told in third person. But wait, I hear you say, her cavalier wasn’t Ortus, it was Gideon! What happened to Gideon? That question, my friends, is the crux of the entire book. You see, Harrow’s never heard of a Gideon in her life.

Like Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth is a book that requires patience. A LOT of patience. The reveal that puts everything in perspective comes incredibly late in the book, frequently leaving you lost and bewildered as everyone besides Harrow acts with outside knowledge. Harrow is a more consistent book than Gideon, easier to follow overall, but if you are put off by endless discussions of necromantic theory or are the kind of person who wants answers sooner than later, I’d recommend giving this one a pass.

That said, the bizarre gothic mystery vibe of the series continues, so if you enjoyed Gideon the Ninth, you’ll probably enjoy Harrow as well. The present-day sections of the book are easy enough to follow, even as the flashbacks leave you scratching your head. It WILL all make sense in the end (well, mostly) and the last hundred pages or so were the same kind of unstoppable ride that the end of Gideon the Ninth was. I even teared up in a few places as some payoffs landed. But to get there is to tread through some slow, obtuse sections, owing to the fact that you know there’s a bigger picture you don’t understand.

Harrow is not the coarse POV character that Gideon was, which will be a relief for some, a disappointment for others. That partially comes from the use of second perspective for large portions of the book, which didn’t bother me overall, even if it gave the narration a certain detached feeling. But Harrow as a character in this book feels a bit detached herself, overwhelmed by the coming battle, knowing that she’s missing something but that she doesn’t know what.

The Locked Tomb is one of those series that many will either love or hate. It’s strange and weird and baffling and enthralling all at the same time. Did I love this book? No. Did I find myself unable to put it down because I wanted SOMEONE to explain what was happening? Absolutely. The payoff at the end was thoroughly enjoyable and made up for some of the slower earlier parts, though I wish the audience wasn’t kept in the dark for so long.

CONCLUSION: Harrow the Ninth will scratch the itch for the right kind of reader. For me, it was the kind of read I appreciated, though it’s harder to recommend to the average person walking down the street. But if a book with “the vibe of Jane Eyre, except there’s necromancers and it’s on a space station and an unimaginable horror is coming and also several people are trying to kill Jane Eyre” sounds like your cup of tea, have at it!


Andrea said...

I read the book and still don't know where Gideon was.

Magic and Dust said...

I am so curious about this series. But i am afraid i won't like, so i am postponing. I don't know if i am that kinda reader.


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