Cover Image: Nona the Ninth

Nona the Ninth

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Member Reviews

I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2023 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="https://rusaupdate.org/2023/01/2023-reading-list-announced-years-best-in-genre-fiction-for-adult-readers/">
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"...The excellent "Nona" brings Muir’s space opera down to not-earth, leaving behind the haunted gothic palaces, space stations and graveyard-dormitory hybrids of the first two novels to explore life in a city far away from the godlike necromancers called Lyctors (and the godlike God named John.) 

Nona doesn’t know who she is, both literally and metaphorically, but she’s a quick study — and more importantly, she knows who she loves. She loves the people who care for her (people readers know well, who have secrets to keep and lives to save). She loves her gang (a pack of wild schoolkids with names like Hot Sauce, Beautiful Ruby and Kevin) and her teacher (a one-time veterinarian the kids call the Angel). She loves the dangerous rebel leaders she encounters every so often, even if Commander We Suffer And We Suffer and Lieutenant Our Lady Of The Passion don’t exactly return her affections. (Lieutenant Crown Him With Many Crowns, at least, is firmly Team Nona.) She even loves the menacing blue circle in the sky. And she really, really loves dogs — in particular, Noodle, a six-legged wonder who doesn’t like to wear little booties on his many feet even though the pavement is really hot."
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Tamsyn Muir on Lyctorhood as Genderfuckery and Greasy Bible Study in Nona the Ninth

The best way that I can sum up the experience of reading Nona the Ninth is (and I say as much below in this interview) like watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier and sitting on your hands screaming at Cap to realize that it’s Bucky!!! beneath the mask. Every memorable line in Tamsyn Muir’s The Locked Tomb series is embedded in layers of context, like skeletons buried just below the surface of the Ninth House. So even though we don’t know who Nona is at the start of the third novel (despite having a bevy of theories), it quickly becomes apparent that we know her world and that we recognize the people she loves, even if they’re known by different names.

And yet—part of the fun of Nona is experiencing moments and characters completely devoid of context. Like this interview: I could tell you, with no further explanation, such delightful phrases from Muir as “this book has a serious case of gender”; “a psychosexual mess of roleplaying and bad meals”; “a ten thousand year old James Bond MILF with attachment issues.” But it’s even better when you know what questions—and which necromancers, cavaliers, Lyctors, Edenites, or all of the above—these answers apply to! Come for the hamburger T-shirt and dog-invited birthday party, stay for talk of found families, resurrection versus rebirth, and enticing fodder for Alecto the Ninth fan theories.

I can also tell you that this interview will hit different both before and after you read Nona. For now, you can proceed without fearing getting spoiled (the only vague ones we’ve warned you about in their own section about midway through), but you’ll want to come back after you finish the book and give this another read. Because Muir is performing some bone magic, except with words—everything has two meanings depending on where you’re looking from.

***

Natalie Zutter: So I thought you were just being cheeky when you described Nona’s back copy as “How do you cope when the biggest jerk in the universe… turns out to be your secret crush’s out-of-town cousin?!?!,” but you completely delivered! How do you stay on top of such deliberate teases that pay off after people have read the book?

Tamsyn Muir: Honestly, the teases are easy—they’re just stuff I found funny or tickled me (or my editor) during the novel. OR they are total non sequiturs that don’t appear—I still get people asking pathetically about dog prom (mainly… my editor). I have a terrible love for saying things out loud in interviews or otherwise that people don’t notice until it is way too late, or putting things in that people’s eyes skim over. I am a walking Agent Arthur book.

NZ: Nona utilizes one of my favorite storytelling tropes, in which the narrator doesn’t know who various characters actually are, but the reader does—in this case, mostly through the use of aliases or formal titles, but with physical descriptions and/or context clues that amp up the dramatic irony until the big reveal. Reading the book was very akin to watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when you’re desperately waiting for Cap to recognize Bucky. How intentional was this? Was it fun to play with?

TM: It’s totally intentional! I’m wonderfully glad when it is fun and sad if it is infuriating, but at the end of the day I can only cater to myself. Nona is a walking dramatic irony generator. At this point I could let myself relax and trust that people were familiar enough with the world that they could enjoy it while I tied a blindfold around the POV—and also have the fun of getting to experience that world from a totally different vantage point. That’s why the Dramatis Personae is mostly dogs, code names, and Camilla.

NZ: This book has the least amount of bone magic of the series, but it’s not entirely absent. What made you decide to tell the story from the perspective of a character who can read not just body language, but literal movements of bone and skin?

TM: Oh, it’s so hard to not spoiler here. It is something essential about the character that I wanted to seed in. On a more meta level it was good and fun after writing Harrow, who is deeply paranoid and whose readings of people are either sort of faceblind—her understanding of non-Ninth mores is very poor—or worst possible interpretation. There’s body-language reading in Harrow with the Lyctors, who do it because they have ten thousand years of being in each other’s orbits: Nona’s is much more primal.

NZ: Gideon and Harrow heartbreakingly explore and interrogate the fraught power dynamics of the necromancer/cavalier relationship, but Nona brings together a bunch of loose keys, as it were—disparate necromancers and cavaliers severed from their other halves (or, in the case of Camilla and Palamedes, separated by a few seconds of consciousness). What was it like placing these characters together into found families or across the Blood of Eden interrogation table?

TM: Often I hate the phrase ‘found families’, because at its most yuk and saccharine it is an idealized friendship that caters to our most pathetic instincts—What If Someone Else Loved You Unconditionally Without Baggage About Your Shared Grandma And You Didn’t Have To Work Hard At It Ever—but the truth is that at its most beautiful, it is about unexpected commonality. Pyrrha would not have chosen to live with the Sixth House (she would’ve understood the Second a lot better and been able to manipulate them to her will more easily). Pyrrha is a ten thousand year old James Bond MILF with attachment issues, newly released from soul prison, who is forced to hang out with two intensely codependent, moral, ambitious nerds. She questions a hell of a lot about things they think they know everything about—and they question her on how comfortable she is in her cynicism. It’s a very strange household. And they are a found family, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that in the last movement of the book Nona questions what that even means—their motives, what they all truly wanted out of each other, their pretenses: are they a family, or are they all just a psychosexual mess of roleplaying and bad meals? (The answer is yes.)

Of course, a psychosexual mess of roleplaying and bad meals can be beatified by love. That’s the part I had fun with—what love, in its purest and most messed-up forms, looks like between these people. In a way Camilla, Palamedes, Pyrrha and Nona are love’s dress rehearsal for the last book. You have not begun to see the horrors of love.

NZ: Death and resurrection are the life cycle of the Locked Tomb series, but Nona takes things in a slightly different but parallel direction by dealing with rebirth: Nona is slowly figuring out whoever she actually is, but she is also six months old and does things that babies do, like kissing her own reflection and telling everyone that she loves them. What differences have you found in writing about rebirth versus resurrection in your universe?

TM: Oh, that’s a fun differential! Especially because although Nona’s rebirth is a focus here, so is Camilla and Palamedes’ (now seen in their ‘two Sixths, one Cam’ incarnation) and Pyrrha’s (ten thousand years’ jail in her best friend). A question that Nona posits is, will these people choose rebirth—are they going to pick something new? Because resurrection, genuine resurrection, is the true second chance to pick up what you had before and keep going: rebirth is the new and unknown. Neither is necessarily better than the other, and indeed this series is about bad rebirths as well as good resurrections.

But Nona herself is having a lot of fun with rebirth. She doesn’t have to be weirded out by it in the way that Camilla and Palamedes are weirded out by her—she’s determined to ride this gravy train all the way into gravy station, where the dogs are.

WARNING: The next two questions are vaguely spoilery for Nona

NZ: In varying ways, Pyrrha, Camilla-and-Palamedes, and a certain Lyctor in leather pants all fuck around with gender, with their pronouns shifting based on whose eyes are looking out from the body. Was this something you always anticipated with certain cases of Lyctorhood (slash other forms of soul-sharing), or did it happen in the writing?

TM: My early readers have told me that this book has a serious case of gender. I think ALL the books have a serious case of gender; I consider my lesbianism to have a serious case of gender, and I’m not alone in… the lesbianism of gender (these words have stopped having meaning as I type them). I’m quite private about my personal experiences ’cos my friends and loved ones know my contexts but I don’t feel the need to be public about them and I hate being pushed into having to share stuff. Everyone hates when I’m pushed into sharing stuff, it ends up just being me bloviating on and at the end we’re all embarrassed.

But Lyctorhood from first blush has been a huge genderfuck as I understood it, and of course I got to understand it intimately from the get-go because I made it. Pyrrha uses gender like a nightstick. (Pyrrha uses most things like a nightstick.) Camilla-and-Palamedes both have a very strong sense of self and gender as Camilla, as Palamedes, while at the same time Camilla-and-Palamedes is a clusterfuck. Gender is kind of a weird buffet in the Locked Tomb universe as it is. Pronouns often exist independent of gender identities—there’s one character in particular who lives with bestowed pronouns and who is violently proud of them while at the same time quite likes experiencing what other pronouns mean. Titles are important for different people for different reasons. The choices people have made—or haven’t made—as to what their names are, what they’re called, are meant to be significant.

NZ: You really lean into the religious imagery with this book, from Nona’s Virgin Mary-esque pose on the cover to the John interludes, where he explains what happened a myriad ago to a certain someone. Was this intended as any sort of riff on the Biblical tale of Jesus in the desert with the devil for forty days, a.k.a. the Temptation of Christ? Or should we be looking more at the Healing of the Pool, which two of the interludes reference—will that play into Alecto and the conclusion of the Locked Tomb series?

TM: Yes.

Okay, to be less of an ass—much like gender, the Biblical imagery in this one comes out the closet. Readers will end up STICKY and GREASY with GENDER and BIBLE (that makes my book sound a lot more heavy-hitting than it is; it’s a book about comedy t-shirts). In a way this book retreads the Christ mythos explicitly—but when you’re mortal, when you acknowledge you’re calling the disciples and you’re referencing Bethesda, is it even a metaphor any more?? (Yes! But also no!) Biblical interludes in The Locked Tomb are achronological—they’re also complicated by having, like, six Christs. Check under your chair. Everyone gets a Christ. But then again—has it all been set up more or less inadvertently to mimic a Christian narratological pathway? Lyctorhood itself is a deeply screwy Dream of the Rood (Dream of the Rude? Note to self: do something with that).

I’ve already pretty much revealed that Alecto begins with the descent of Christ into Hades. So I can safely say that Alecto continues this line of questioning, except Alecto also posits, how many formal outfits can I stick the cast in and what colour.

***

OK, back to the broader questions:

NZ: Once you decided to make Nona into its own novel, did anything about the story change?

TM: No, alas. I’ve been forced to confront the fact that everything I wanted to do with Act One of Alecto, i.e. what became Nona, was its own novel. If I’d left it in Alecto you would have just been reading a novel where Act One was its own novel (so you could novel while you novel, etc).

NZ: Was any of the behavior in the settlement (wearing masks, eyeing one another suspiciously for symptoms of a disease, etc) inspired by the last few years of the pandemic?

TM: It became horribly prescient. I’d actually planned it out before the pandemic hit, but once the pandemic hit it took on a hideous new form that hit quite hard. I was like, ‘Ohh, this takes on… disreputable new meanings.’ In a way I’m quite lucky because I feel like readers will bring a hell of a lot of their own experiences to that table.

NZ: You mentioned during the Nona cover reveal that you wrote a 30k “divergence” for Gideon and Harrow while drafting Nona—is this an AU, and will we ever get to see it?

TM: Ha! I loved writing that AU—it was ace! Problem is that it is entirely its own story and is probably more like 50k if I bothered to write out the end. (I wrote to a specific part.) I wouldn’t want it out there before Alecto, is the thing. I’d just whack it up on AO3 except I think that would be, as the kids call it, cringe. Like a grandparent who arrives at your stripper party with their own weird, coughing stripper. I’m sorry because it has characters I really like who don’t make it into the Locked Tomb at all—Ram and Capris Asht, Colum Asht’s awful brothers; Modesty Even and Jessejon Threen; and Valentine the Ninth, whom the whole thing is named for. Then again, so much of it is epistolary from Gideon Nav’s POV you are better off not getting it because she is an appalling letter writer.

NZ: Soooo I only just learned that Alecto is the name of one of the Furies in ancient Greek mythology. Do tell!!

TM: Alecto, Ἀληκτώ—we don’t actually know what this Ancient Greek means but it’s most likely something to do with ‘the unspoken one’/‘the unspeakable one’; Robert Graves calls her ‘the unnamable’, which isn’t fact but is a good Graves one (Robert Graves has very much infiltrated this entire novel: there’s a huge reference that’s really me amusing myself because even Classicists are like when they hear it, ‘oh, that’s GRAVES though’). It can also mean ‘the unceasing—ceaseless—implacable’.

There were three Furies—Megaera and Tisiphone as Alecto’s sisters, and culturally we’re most familiar with their appearance in the Oresteia, in which they hunt down Orestes for the murder of his mother Klytaimnestra.

Certainly John does not like to name her, which is why her name is such a big deal in Harrow the Ninth.

NZ: Any hints as to the general vibe of the Alecto cover?

TM: It’s Tommy Arnold, so: 1. It’s beautiful!! 2. It’s very scary!!! 3. THAT (redacted) IS OPEN AS HELL!!!

NZ: In a LARB interview where you mentioned disconnecting from social media/the Internet during the beginning of the pandemic, you said that about all that was left to you was GeoCities shrines to people’s Neopets. What kinds of Neopets would different members of the Nine Houses foster? What about Nona?

TM: Nona would be creeped out by Neopets. Nona would be creeped out by the Chia. The skeletal structure of the Chia is uncertain. She would have far better understood the days when the Brucie pet was literally Bruce Forsyth. The Kiko makes her uncomfortable.

Don’t ask me to list more Neopets, I’m already showing my age. I still have my Webkinz duck, Googles. Any more of this and I will just start to exhale puffs of dust like a mummy.

NZ: OK, since you’re game to tease, one final (again, dancing on the edge of spoilery) question. This book has allowed us to spend so much time getting to know other characters from the first two books, but I can’t let this interview end without asking about our favorite Ninth House misfits: What can you say about where Harrow is at by the end of Nona slash start of Alecto? What about Gideon—body, soul, either/or, all of the above? Tease away!

TM: Harrowhark is in Hell.

Via “As Yet Unsent” and some hints in Nona, we know a lot more about where Gideon’s body is and what it has been doing (if you believe Coronabeth Tridentarius, providing some entries for her spank bank, but I would not necessarily believe Corona on this or anything else). The state of Gideon’s soul (and Harrow’s) are questions for Nona and Alecto. Remember that if Gideon’s soul is a Happy Meal, Harrow only ever ate the cheeseburger; whither the fries, the soda, and the tie-in toy?

You didn’t ask, but I like to think that Teacher is finally in the IHOP.
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A great addition to the Locked Tomb series. I absolutely loved Nona, The only problem is the wait for the next book.
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An absolutely wonderful book, Nona is so full of heart and hurt and warmth whilst hinting at something much darker and deeper developing beneath the surface! Muir's writing as always is a balm to the soul with it's flawless humour and turns of phrase!
I did spend most of this book confused but happily so and cannot wait for Alecto!
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The Locked Tomb has never held your hand as far as what's going on in the story, and this is no exception. But, more so than ever, it serves to put you in the characters shoes. Nona is lost, and has no memory of who she was. But she's found family, and loves the world she lives in anyway. 
And this is honestly, that's about 3/4 of the book: Nona loving and interacting with the messed up world she finds herself in. It's much lighter than the others in the series (until it's absolutely not), and really goes to show how messed up the houses are compared to the rest of society. 
The pacing is a little weird at times, but is more than made up for by much needed and appreciated flashbacks and reveals, as well as wholly unexpected character returns. (But honestly, why would I ever expect anyone would stay dead in a book about space necromancers?)

Nona is absolutely lovable from the start, and it really drives the book forward. It also seems to set up fantastic things for Alecto, and i can't wait to see how this all resolves. I get the sense that multiple rereads will spawn excessive theory building and an even deeper cult following among fans.
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The third book in the Locked Tomb series introduces quite a few new characters in addition to the titular Nona. Muir's writing continues to be exemplary, but I'm not sure that I agree with her decision to make this story a full novel rather than the short diversion it was originally intended to be. Nona is a cypher throughout the book and doesn't really contribute to the activities going on around her. We, as readers, know (or at least assume we know) what's going on with her and are just waiting for the inevitable shoe to drop. When it does drop, the book becomes a frenetic race to the finish line and the setup for the final book in the series. Definitely intrigued with where we are in preparation for Alecto the Ninth but I'm not convinced that Nona was really necessary. Time will tell, I'm sure.
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Just as tightly plotted and intricately structured book in this amazing series. Nona offers a surprisingly tender twist, but it has all the buckwild action and necromantic shenanigans I expected.
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Don't mind me, I've just ascended to a higher plane of ✨existence✨

Anywho, I highly recommend reading the Locked Tomb back to back to back, and I am very nearly certain that a reread of Nona will unlock (hehe) things I missed.

Things I recommend before stepping into this third tome (no, the puns will NOT stop):

✅ Internet connection (you're gonna want to look up those names and bible verses)
✅ A notepad (you're gonna want to write down those names and bible verses)
✅ A skull mug filled with hot liquid (you're gonna want to stay hydrated)

A lot of the weird shit from the previous books was explained, although now we have a host of new mysteries to figure the fuck out with A.L.

I did feel that Nona was stretched out a bit too much (I think it was originally supposed to be part of A the N), but the extra length didn't take away my enjoyment, and I'm happy that it was a separate book because this was a LOT to unpack.

Might write further on this, maybe share some quotes, but in all likelihood, probably not. It's weird, it's got lesbians and queer people galore and it's definitely trying to convert you into a cult of some sort, but all I know is that my life is going to be settled when I can finally read book 4.

One last thing: this is one of the few times I have ever felt like I am part of a ~fandom~ with people eagerly waiting for the release and doing feverish rereads leading up to the main event. So, now I know what SJM stans must feel like EVERY. DAMN. DAY. of their existence.

I received an ARC from NetGalley
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Well, if you wanted more Griddle you are not getting what you wanted in this book. I will say anytime someone says "It was originally going to be part of a longer narrative but I decided to make it a separate book" I get nervous, and I wasn't wrong to be so this time around. I would have liked this better as a shorter interlude to a different book, probably. Overall, the book didn't work for me and I was sad that the actual fun doesn't really start until near the end. John is the worst (obviously, he is meant to be the worst) and overall, the only good line and the only one that brings me back to my favorite book in the series (Gideon the Ninth) is said at basically the very end of the book, and I did find it funny.
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I’m still stunned I was granted a copy and I’m so so so glad that I was because this book was insanely good and just as confusing as the rest lol
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OMG OMG OMG! I was shaking when this appeared in my inbox. I absolutely loved Harrow the Ninth and could not wait to read Nona the Ninth, and let me just say, it was worth the wait! Tamsyn Muir writing was so beautiful in Nona the Ninth. The book reminded me of an epic symphony, a beautiful plot with an epic climax. Ugh, I cannot wait for everyone to read/listen to this masterpiece
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Since the Locked Tomb series as a whole frequently defies description, it shouldn’t shock anyone that its latest installment, Nona the Ninth, does too. A book that wasn’t even supposed to exist in the first place—the bones of this story were originally slated for the first act of the upcoming series finale Alecto the Ninth—Nona is the series’ most personal and human. To be fair, it also contains just as much violence and cruelty as its predecessors. Characters die, get resurrected, and swap bodies just as easily as ever. But where Gideon the Ninth ended in tragedy and Harrow the Ninth was a study in grief, Nona the Ninth feels like something altogether different: A story about life, and maybe even a little bit about hope.
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Nothing gets me on my crazy Catholic bullshit like a new Tamsyn Muir book. When I finally (FINALLY) got my hands on Nona the Ninth, after ten thousand (fact check: two) years of pining for it, I curled up on my sofa with it and my Bible and unfortunately no wine because I was on a clean living kick, and read it and thought of tweets like “New Revised Standard Version in the streets, King James Version in the sheets”, a tweet you were only spared because I couldn’t stop reading Nona the Ninth long enough to write it.

One fact about the Locked Tomb trilogy is that any man who falls behind is left behind; by which I mean that it is impossible to describe the events of this book to someone who has not read the prior two books. I know this to be true because I have read Harrow the Ninth eleventy-thousand times, and I have even written a blog post that tiresomely explicates its references to memes and Bible verses, yet when I picked up Nona the Ninth and flipped to the end to check how things were going for certain parties, the pages that I read were goddamn gibberish. I remember this from getting the ARC of Harrow the Ninth. Here was I, all determined to discover what was going to happen, and here was the end of Harrow the Ninth like “and then Mercymorn exploded, and some sunglasses, and we went under the River, and there was a Body GOOD LUCK BITCH.”

I love it here; I love everyone in this bar.

Thirty seconds after I had finished reading Nona the Ninth, I handed my copy to my mother. She said, “Were any of our theories right?” and I just stared at her with unseeing eyes like a necromancer whose blindness may or may not have protected her from the blue madness wrought by Varun the Eater (Number Seven). She said, patiently, “Who did Nona turn out to be?” and my facial expression did not alter because the fuck do I know. (I think I do know. But I am not confident.) It’s like when the first of my Twitter mutuals copped to having read Harrow the Ninth, way back in the innocent time before the plague, and I immediately DMed them to demand they tell me if Gideon was alive, and they were all like, “S…ort of? Yes? Or, maybe?”

If this makes it sound like Tamsyn Muir continues to be coy with the giving out of answers, that is an accurate takeaway. Or to put it another way, Tamsyn Muir has this uncanny knack for letting loose an avalanche of answers, at the end of which you have ten thousand more questions than you had in the first place. Of those, the one I have been shrieking most loudly at my friends-and-relations (who bear it very patiently, considering) is WHO THE ABSOLUTE ENTIRE LIVING FUCK IS E!!!! (I refuse to inquire if Gideon and Harrow are going to be reunited and okay. Of course they are going to be reunited and okay. They might both be dead; I am not sure; it does not affect my belief in their future happiness. I did a little Tarot spread for them, and the outcome card was the Six of Wands, so things are going to be fine.)

“Jenny please just tell us what the book is about.” Yes, okay. Sorry. So the book is about a girl called Nona, who only attained consciousness a short while ago, and who is living inside a body that doesn’t seem to be hers. She lives with Pyrrha (I love Pyrrha so much) and Camilla, who sometimes is Palamedes, and she goes to a school where she has a little gang of friends who are children. This is good for Nona because although she seems to be nineteenish, she is in many ways a child too. She can’t read, but she can speak every language. She loves everyone in her life, including and especially her teacher’s little dog Noodle. She and her little family are in constant danger from threats that include the armies of the Nine Houses, a Resurrection Beast in ?orbit?? or something? over their planet, and various Blood of Eden factions.

If I am absolutely honest, I have to confess that Nona is not quite my thing, as a character. Obviously she’s a good girl, and she cares about her people and she cares about Noodle, and that’s all well and good. But if I am anything, I am a second-book-in-the-trilogy bitch all the way up to my eyeballs, and if I am anything else, I am soft for a Shuos Jedao / Captain Flint type, and what I am saying is that Harrowhark Nonagesimus was always going to be the narrator of my heart. Good though Nona is, she was the least interesting character in her book, partly because everyone else has more information than she does, and I — frustratingly — had access to very little of it.

That said, Nona the Ninth is a banner book for fans of the Sixth House. If ever you have wished that fiction would give more space to best friendship (as opposed to, for instance, romance) between men and women, I believe that you will enjoy the whole arc that Palamedes and Camilla undergo, except uhhhhh possibly for one thing towards the end that I do not myself know quite how to feel about so I guess I’ll have to wait until Alecto the Ninth comes out to make a decision on that.

Major spoilers in this paragraph: When I was listing my hopes and dreams for the Locked Tomb trilogy, I said that I wanted a really really good Palamedes and Camilla reunion. Here is what I have learned, friends: Tamsyn Muir may give you what you said you wanted, but whatever the case, she will find a way to inflict the maximum amount of psychic damage on you as she goes. Before Nona came out, I spoke to a friend who was rereading Gideon, and they were like, “Can you imagine Crux’s face if he ever found out Gideon was God’s daughter? Like, I know that could never happen, but can you imagine?” and I was all “wow yeah that would be satisfying,” but secretly inside my own heart I was thinking, “It will not be satisfying and you will be devastated.” Anyway that was a very charming thing that happened to me, and I wanted to share it. Hopefully my friend was able to derive satisfaction from Gideon’s very spot-on burn of how badly Crux fucked up both her and Harrow. I certainly enjoyed it. I am very much in the tank for Gideon and Harrow’s devotion to each other, and it sends a zing of pleasure up my spine any time one of them heatedly defends the other. They’re so in love! They’re such good girls! I love them!

In interstitial chapters, John is explaining to Harrow — but he doesn’t really really seem to be talking to Harrow — what he did and why things are like this. You do not discover answers to questions like “is Harrow alive” or “where did necromancy come from really” but you do discover answers to questions like “why does nobody ever talk about Ulysses and Titania” and “is it chill and fine to turn cows inside out, or will people get upset” and “how soon did people start correctly identifying that John is a fucking cult leader.” There is also the creepiest possible scene which I will share here for extensive discussion in the comments:

    He was scooping indentations in the sand, making big, print-block child’s letters with the tip of his forefinger. As she watched, he made a pothook–J–then the finned spine of E. He wiped that E clean, and replaced it with A. He wiped that clean, and he drew the prison bars of H. This J and H he barred around with an uneven heart.

Just a few quick follow-up Qs:

    What?
    How is John so altogether fucking creepy?
    J is John and H is Harrow and A is Alecto, so who the shit is E?
    What?

Implied major spoilers in this paragraph: I had a dream in graphic novel form about some Catholic teenagers ruining one another’s lives, and in the dream one of the Catholic teenagers was reading Nona the Ninth and she looked up from the ?page? (idk she was a pen and ink drawing, I don’t think there even was a page, it was a weird dream) and said, “Is E the Earth?” and now I can’t stop thinking about that. E is the Earth, right? Alecto’s the Earth? And if I may, how many fucking times has John rebuilt all his fucking friends? Please discuss in the comments. I am troubled by the implication that a) they possibly may have had different names the first time around; and b) John resurrected them after killing them; and c) it is not outside the realm of possibility that John has done this more than once. Eeeeeeuuuuurrrrrrrgggghhhh.

Have you read Nona yet? Did you love it? Do you have theories you wish to share in the comments?
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I will die on the particular hill that "Tamsyn Muir is a bona fide genius" and will be dissuaded by nothing and no one. NONA is somehow the most joyous Locked Tomb book and also the most devastating. Like Palamedes and Ianthe, I spent much of the book missing Harrow terribly, but I also found new depths to my seemingly-endless love for every single character. They're all beautiful and awful testaments to the wonder and terror of love. This book has taken over occupancy of my entire brain, and I regret nothing. I will be selling approximately one million copies, as I cannot rest until everyone on earth has read these books!!
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I'm convinced that Tamsyn Muir simply cannot write a bad book. Nona is my least favourite book of this series so far, but that's not saying much to be honest, because I still enjoyed it so much. We get a lot of developments plot-wise--a lot more information about the history of this world, about how the events from the end of Harrow have progressed and unfolded--but by far what I love most of these books, Nona included, is the memorable and deeply moving character work. I adore these characters, and in Nona we get such a lovely and heartwarming trio: Camilla/Palamedes, Pyrrha, and Nona. I cannot tell you how excited (and, frankly, scared) I am for Alecto. 

Thank you to Tor for providing me with an eARC of this via NetGalley!
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I don't always understand what's going on, but I thoroughly enjoy the ride. I want to be best friends with Hot Sauce (the coolest girl gang leader ever). Don't get me started on Cam and Pal. Someone called this book a kaleidoscope and they're not wrong.
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The much-anticipated third installment in Tamsyn Muir's Locked Tomb trilogy, Nona the Ninth—like its two predecessors—is nearly impossible to discuss without spoiling major events throughout the book. What I will say, though, is that there's a tonal shift between each book that feels like whiplash and none yet have been as jarring as with Nona the Ninth. This book is many things that the others were not: it is hopeful and full of life, containing heartfelt emotions, animals, children. Against the backdrop of what seems like the end of the world, Nona the Ninth shows, perhaps for the first time, a grounded view of who these characters are, deep down. It shows who they were, who they are, and who they will become, stripping them of any defenses they had previously and making us as readers feel things for them we never expected to. Beyond that, Nona is the Locked Tomb's most memorable protagonist yet. She is kind, loving, innocent, and not at all what we've come to expect from these books, but she is precisely what this series needed. If you haven't read the Locked Tomb yet, now is the perfect time to dive in and experience one of the most nuanced and brilliantly written series out there.
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As with the others, I feel like I only grasped about half of this time, but that's fine. I'm fine. I am not fine. Nona is so perfect and wonderful and so relatable with Noodle, the dog, and I loved everything.
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Actual rating: 4.5/5 stars 

Nona the Ninth is an entirely new look at the world of The Locked Tomb series. Tthis one mostly takes place on a planet controlled by the rebel group Blood of Eden, where necromancers and their constructs are feared, hunted and eliminated. The change from a magic dominated sci-fi setting to a dystopian one was jarring, but not entirely unexpected given the second book in the series. It’s no secret Muir likes to keep her readers on their feet as to what’s going on for most of her novels.

As such, it’s the characters that become the anchors readers rely on to understand what’s happening. Given how new Nona is to this world, she has a childlike understanding of most things and a very bubbly personality that seems at odds with everything around her. It was very interesting to see this completely new personality in a beloved character, especially how she interacted with others. Each of her group of school friends has something that makes them stand out while Pyrrha, Camilla and Palamedes take on parental roles. Without giving too much away, other favourites do appear later in the book, though the anticipation for them was killing me.

As before, Tamsyn Muir’s writing style stands out. With Nona, she writes her world through the eyes of a very particular child while retaining her penchant for interesting comparisons and memorable descriptions. Muir’s writing always delights me, and it is made even better though Moira Quirk’s reading of it who takes care with everything, including accents and even random sounds described in the book itself.

Another fun aspect of Nona the Ninth is that Muir throws the concept of gender out far more than before, and it’s wonderful to see. Typically gendered words are used in much looser contexts across many characters, with female characters using ‘prince’ and ‘sir’ as titles. This fluidity paints a world in which gender roles are much less rigid, which is a silver lining given the lives the characters lead.

As far as the plot is concerned, it’s structured like previous books where a lot of things happen in a short period of time without it feeling rushed. The overall confusion is stronger in this one, so there is more of an emphasis on Nona as a character rather than the plot itself, though that kicks in midway through the book. Because of how confusing it was, it took a while to get my bearings; I would say this is the weakest aspect of Nona the Ninth.

Overall Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is an excellent addition to a series that keeps getting more and more expansive. It was interesting to experience planets outside the reach of the Nine Houses and their rigidity, while the backstory and greater picture are finally coming into focus. Though I’m still unclear on the ending, I do look forward to the next book in the series, and anything else Muir puts out in the future. She’s an author with a distinct style that stays with you.
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