Witty and unconventional, this book will put you into a tailspin much like its predecessor, Gideon the Ninth.
For a good portion of the book, I wasn't 100% certain what was happening, it took me for a wild ride, a fever dream if you will. Not usually a fan of Sci-fi, but I will recommend this series every time. This author is fiercely intelligent and it shows in her writing, can't wait for the next.
Vastly different to Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth follows the fractured mind of our plucky little necromancer and her descent into madness as she fights against her own mind as well as the machinations of her fellow lyctors.
Whoa, this book is ... intense. And I thought Gideon the Ninth was chaotic! I'm not quite sure how I feel about Tamsyn Muir's sequel, but I'll always be interested in whatever she writes!
I have to start this by saying I loved the last 100 pages of this book. LOVED. Unfortunately I found the first 400-ish were a slog to get through more often than not. I get that the writing is created to leave the reader as off-kilter and confused as Harrow herself, but it went on a little too long for my liking before all the pieces started falling together. If there had been a few more hints to answers woven in starting about a third of the way into the book, I think I would have enjoyed it better. Instead I was confused and considering giving up, which would have been a tragedy.
Because once answers start coming together, this book is a freakin' DELIGHT. I enjoyed the switch between second and third person narration from the beginning. It was very atmospheric and set a very strict line between those two narrative paths. It gave the tiniest whisper of an idea of how things were being put together, but it went on far too long. There is only so much of Harrow feeling lost, destroyed, and like she's going mad before it feels like things are running in circles.
I don't wish to spoil anything, but know that for most of this book, it mixes up and completely rewrites what happen in Gideon the Ninth. Once the reasons for that become more known, that's when things get really fun. Unfortunately it takes about 400 pages to get there. Still, I have high hopes for the final book in the series.
This is a sequel. Seriously do not start this book without reading Gideon the Ninth. If you were vastly upset at the end of Gideon the Ninth, do not expect this book to make it up to you or even acknowledge your broken heart until two thirds or so of the way through. Muir's not going to coddle you. Instead there will be the most visceral (really) description and the liberal use of every word ever to refer to bone. This complicated tale rewards attention and is a treat for those who enjoy deft characterization and strong writing. This is exceedingly twisty, and entirely weird, and highly ambitious and executed with a remarkable degree of success.
I loved the first book so I was really disappointed in this one. It's written in second person which is very hard to pull off, only a few writers can do so and I don't think Tamsyn Muir is one of them. Seems to follow the unfortunate YA trend where amazing debut books lead to disappointing second books. I'm assuming it's going to be a trilogy - I defintely won't be reading the third one.
What a trip, being gaslit by the second book in a series about a first book I already read. The confusion was bold and fascinating and made for an incredible realization about 3./4 of the way through. I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one, just hoping to be put out of my misery soon....
HARROW THE NINTH is a completely different beast than GIDEON -- in the best possible way. Muir expertly captures Harrow's distinct, clipped, waspish voice and paints her just as vividly as she did Gideon. Not knowing what the true reality was was trippy and confusing but when everything came together it was wholly satisfying. I cannot wait for ALECTO THE NINTH!!!!!
I am going to invent time travel purely so I can skip ahead and read Alecto the Ninth.
This was not what I expected, but 100% what I wanted. And the entire ending is just pure insanity. I think the soup probably takes the top spot for my favorite moment, although there's so much to choose from.
It starts off slow and kind of dense, but once the action begins, it's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. It reads as a true epic, one that makes you feel the world really has been reshaped as you read it. Would recommend.
The second novel in the Locked Tomb series, and follow-up to the widely-acclaimed GIDEON THE NINTH.
A worthy follow-up, populated with similarly engaging and well-drawn characters. Muir's prose is very good, and flows nicely.
I enjoyed this novel and the first book. I can't say I loved it as much as many other people have, but it is nevertheless an entertaining and enjoyable read.
I absolutely loved Gideon the Ninth, so I was so excited to read the next book in the series. Harrow the Ninth is a surprisingly completely different experience but so worthwhile. This one really makes you work. The timeline jumps around, there are some new characters that aren't fully identified at first, and you can't always trust the characters' memories. I enjoyed seeing Harrow grow in this book and can't wait to revisit this world again in Alecto the Ninth. I've been recommending this series to anyone who enjoys fantasy.
So, the thing about Harrow the Ninth is that it is completely fucking incomprehensible. On purpose. It's also kind of brilliant.
But like, here's the thing. You don't realize that it's brilliant until after the fact, and the only reason I made it through the whole book for there to be an after the fact, is because I looked up spoilery articles and trawled reddit subforums for - I kid you not - hours. I read detailed summaries. I read discussion threads. I read theories. See, I'm the kind of reader who loathes being confused. Seriously, nothing will get me to DNF a book faster; it's the main reason I was so frustrated with Gideon the Ninth. So, when I started this book and immediately felt myself sink into total confusion, I was like, fuck it, we're going to Spoiler City.
And, well, that worked. Even all those reddit subthreads I was trawling suggested that this book really only works on a reread, when you understand everything and so can appreciate all the little hints and convoluted plot. And it's true; had I read this book without knowing anything, I either would have DNF'd it within two chapters or I would have soldiered on while constantly wanting to claw my own eyes out. As it happens, I went in fully spoiled regarding the narrative structure and all the major reveals, and I had a blast.
Don't get me wrong; I am still extremely confused about a great many things, though I have reached that point where I literally don't know what I'm supposed to not know. Am I confused because I didn't pick up on certain hints in this book? Am I confused because this book raised more questions than it answered? Who even knows.
That said, with my confusion significantly minimized, I was able to sit back and enjoy what makes this book - and this series as a whole, really - truly awesome. The characters are all brilliant: sharply drawn and utterly unique even when there are so many of them. Even in Gideon the Ninth, I never had trouble keeping track of the myriad of characters because they're all so fleshed out and vibrant. The writing is absolutely fucking exquisite - sharp and erudite and clever and humorous. I love the way Tamsyn Muir manipulates the English language.
And then there's the memes. There's an honest to god "none pizza with left beef" joke in here and it made no sense but it fucking destroyed me. There's also the homage to fandom and fandom culture; the entire book is essentially a "Five Things/Five Times" fic. It doesn't surprise me that this series seems to be hitting very close to home for people who grew up immersed in fandom. This is why, despite my many issues with these books, I can't help but love them fiercely, in a way that kind of defies objective analysis, because they feel like a celebration of the fandom nostalgia of my youth.
And there's the queer rep, the very casual on-page queerness, and more than that, the complexity of it. Queer women in Harrow the Ninth are messy and their relationships with one another are not wholesome or even necessarily healthy, but they are given space to be complete and total disasters in a way that is rarely seen in genre fiction. All of Harrow and Ianthe's interactions were utterly delightful in a way that also made my skin crawl, and all the implications about the sort of relationship Harrow might have had to Gideon was the stuff of tragedy and high drama.
So, yes, I do think this book is brilliant, and I think it's done things that have never been done before, and I can totally see it spawning its own devoted fandom, and I hope it wins a Hugo next year, but I can also completely understand why some people might absolutely despite it, because a part of me does hate how purposely inscrutable it all is. Part of me hates the pacing and the unnecessary length, even as another part of me loves just getting to experience the writing and characters. What can I say, it's complicated. There's a reason this book took me nearly three months to finish.
But. At the end of it all, it's a book that engenders so much emotion from me, whether it's delight or frustration, and it is a book that has left me reeling and pondering and theorizing, and that is no small thing, to permanently embed yourself in a reader's brain space, rent free. So. Here's to a thrilling and equally mind-blowing conclusion.
I was wrong. Gideon the Ninth didn’t need a sequel.
Or maybe it did, and it just didn’t get the one it needed or deserved.
I’m not sure what changed between the first and second book in this series, as the tone is nearly the same and the topic is the natural continuation of Gideon’s story, but something went very wrong plot-wise that left me wanting.
Though the book has a similar feel and adjusts well into Harrow’s voice rather than Gideon’s, it misses badly on most of the aspects that made the first story in the series so good. The subtle, rough humor of the first story is gone here, replaced by try-hard gallows humor that doesn’t land and in jokes that don’t seem to have any Ins to tell them to.
The story is slow and repetitive, and ultimately doesn’t do all that well at differentiating itself from the first book in ways that matter.
We all know Muir is an excellent writer. That shined through in the first book and creeps in even in this lackluster sequel, though here it’s evident only in the words and sentences themselves rather than the content.
I wish this had been better, as I had quite looked forward to diving back into this world. Alas, some sequels are just not meant to be.
Much like Gideon's book before, this was jumbled and chaotic - albeit intentionally. Harrow is the most unreliable of narrators, which the events of Gideon the Ninth have only amplified. I finished but don’t think I grasped all that happened? Personally I already dislike the use of 2nd person as a POV and the intentionally jumbled way these stories are told can be hard for me decipher. I like them but don't quite love them. Gideon is an indelible character and while Harrow has potential, i don't think she is to the same level -- yet. Interesting continuation for the series and will require a reread.
Maybe it's a 2.5 but no more than that.
So, Harrow the Ninth is nothing like Gideon the Ninth- this is true of both the character and the books. Much of this book is in the second person, which is perhaps a clue as to the narrator of the book, but I don't much like second person and I didn't like it any more than usual here. It felt like a narrative trick more than an effective way to tell the story.
The story itself is quite dense. Harrow is now a Lyctor, as is Ianthe, and they meet a few more Lyctors once they arrive at the haunted space station that is where the Emperor and his Hands reside. To get to this station, they have to travel interdimensionally through the River, which is sort of a sideways version of reality with lots of hungry ghosts that can eat careless or inexperienced Lyctors. I never really understood the River, honestly, partly because the infodumps in this book are really dense.
So, Harrow is at the space station. Her only companions are Ianthe (who has never shown herself to be someone who plays well with others) three Lyctors who think she is worse than an infant since they're all ten thousand years old (literally) and the Emperor, the one who resurrected this society but apparently did some very bad things while undertaking that task. This whole crew has killed entire planets, and planets can be ghosts too. Vengeful ghost planets intent on their destruction has even these mighty necromancers on the run. As an aside, it seems to me that this entire society is based on some horrible sin of the Emperor's and it seems that the original sin that made this place is eventually going to be the end of it. Think of the Necromongers from Chronicles of Riddick. This is a fundamentally evil society that goes out and conquers worlds and then feeds those worlds to the never-ending need of the necromancers for more magical power, which comes from both the life and death energies of these conquered worlds. I never really understood the life energy vs. death energy magic jargon either (of which there is plenty) but that's what runs everything and necromancers go into their version of techno-babble on the regular, so that kept me a bit confused.
So, there's a complicated universe here that the author has built, and I am interested to see what happens to it.
Characterwise, the Lyctors never really grew on me the way the crew from Gideon the Ninth's book did. Maybe because it's really hard to write realistic ten-thousand-year-old characters. Maybe because they were all either jerks or so inscrutable that I didn't care about them. So I didn't have much to care about. Harrow, unfortunately, was also quite uninteresting really. I was really disappointed in this. In the first book, Harrow was laser-focused on protecting and aiding her house and she was going to to whatever it took to do that. She knew that she was the last scion of the Ninth and if she didn't do something the whole House was doomed. I could respect this drive of hers in the first book. She might not have been nice, but she was razor sharp focused and wicked intelligent, and frankly because of her concern for her House she had more of a moral goal than Gideon ever did.
In this book, Harrow falls totally apart. She broods about her situation, doesn't try to understand the situation well enough to take control of it, drifts off into backstory memories often, and is unfortunately mentally unstable. This pissed me off. Harrow's defining attributes in the first book were ambition, strength, ruthlessness and responsibility. All of these things got kicked out the door here. I hated the voice of the book and I hated what the book did to Harrow. I think in the end the book tried to justify this by hinting that Harrow didn't want to consume Gideon, but frankly I didn't see why she wouldn't do something like that- what was the downside for Harrow? None that she knew of except that she would possibly have to give up total control of herself. She might have cared for Gideon, but the Harrow of Book One would definitely have consumed her for the power to survive and to save her House. So this basis for the book was one I just couldn't believe. I know that the author set things up in order to make Harrow herself the haunted house of this book, but I didn't like it.
In this book, I didn't see any more evidence for a romance between Gideon and Harrow- quite the opposite. Harrow is in love with the Body in the Tomb that Can Never Be Opened (because of course she did open the tomb). Gideon seems to understand this. So again, there doesn't seem to be a reason to spare Gideon from the Lyctor process. In fact, Gideon once mourns that she offered Harrow her life and Harrow "didn't even want it". Gideon is in fact the narrator of the book (it shifts to first person when she gains some agency) and I liked it better when I wasn't in Gideon's head. Third person again, please!
So, I am interested in Alecto and I do want to see what happens next. But if I'd read this book before Gideon, I probably wouldn't have finished the book, much less been willing to continue. I think it's got to be read for the backstory exposition, but I didn't find it to be an enjoyable experience and it ruined a character that I'd liked.
Last year I read Gideon the Ninth and loved it. In fact, it was one of my favorite books of the year. So it was with no small amount of excitement that I anticipated the sequel. I was ecstatic when Tor Publishing agreed to send me an ARC. And then it took me an entire month to read.
Okay, so I don’t actually blame the book for that. I blame quarantine brain. But sadly, I don’t love Harrow the Ninth as much as I did its predecessor. I still really enjoyed it, it just didn’t resonate with me in the same way.
This novel follows Harrowhark from the first book, but she feels like a very different Harrow from the one I’d grown to love. There are very legitimate reasons for this that I can’t share because of spoilers, but it gave the whole story a different vibe.
In fact, I found Harrow to be very passive in this book. Things happen to her and she reacts to them or merely witnesses them. She’s still a total badass and clever as hell, but I wanted her to have a more active role in the plot.
Speaking of plot, I was confused for a good chunk of this book. And yet, the writing is still good so I wasn’t mad about it. It just took me a little longer to connect to the story. The story is told in two timelines and both initially seem to undermine the plot of the first book. Again, there are reasons for this that become clear as the story goes on.
This review seems really critical, but I actually did have a good time with this book. The last third is easily my favorite part. It brings back the humor that was more prevalent in the first book. I wish the first two-thirds were shorter and the last third longer.
Let’s talk about the twists. What’s interesting about Muir’s writing is that the twists themselves are takes on twists that have been done many times before. But because of the way she crafts them and the way necromancy works in this world, its virtually impossible to guess them ahead of time. That makes them fresh and thus very enjoyable.
Every character in this book is morally gray. I love it. They’re out both for the empire and themselves. I think the Emperor is my favorite side character because of how much he feels like just some dude, while also being the most powerful being in the galaxy.
My favorite part of this book is when a certain character from the first book comes back. I missed them so much and was so happy to see them again. While, as with Harrow, I wish they’d played a more active role in the plot, I was mostly happy to hear from this character again.
This book has been really hard to review because it’s so hard to explain, not just because it’s a sequel but because of the kind of story it is. Regardless, I loved this book and am obsessed with this series. I love the way Muir sneaks memes into her dialogue and narration. I love how complex these characters are. I love how well Muir combines science and fantasy. This book was fantastic and I can’t wait for the conclusion next year!
Not for everyone, this sequel to the amazingly fun Gideon the Ninth is a much harder, disjointed journey—but skillfully and purposefully so. I nearly stopped reading several times, but IGideon had been SO GOOD that I fogured the payoff would be worth the slog. It was, but bou was it rough.
This book was excellent. The only flaw, if you can call it one, is that the irreverent voice of Gideon is missing. But the story is excellently plotted and endlessly intriguing. Can't wait for the next one!