- Series: The Locked Tomb Trilogy (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Tor.com (September 10, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250313198
- ISBN-13: 978-1250313195
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.4 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 638 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Trilogy) Hardcover – September 10, 2019
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“Deft, tense and atmospheric, compellingly immersive and wildly original.” ―The New York Times
“Unlike anything I’ve ever read. Muir’s writing is as sharp as a broken tooth, and just as unsettling. This book is visceral, vivid, and downright violent. In short, absolutely marvelous.” ―V.E. Schwab, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
"Warm and cold; goofy and gleaming; campy and epic; a profane Daria in space." ―Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
“This crackling, inventive and riotous book from an original voice is a genuine pleasure. Also the author is clearly insane.” ―Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan and Gun Machine
“Gideon the Ninth was a combination of all my absolute favorite things: swords and magic and spaceships and far future tech, plus childhood angst, slow-build romance, and characters banding together to solve mysteries in a haunted space palace.” ―Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries
“I can't remember the last time I was so delightedly baffled by a book. An astonishing, genre-defying, hilarious-violent-tragic-horrifying-thrilling wonder of a novel. Muir has become an auto-read author faster than Gideon turns any conversation inappropriate.” ―Kiersten White, NYT Bestselling Author of And I Darken
“Gideon the Ninth remixes magic and technology to create a blisteringly awesome new world―and best of all, it's funny as hell.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous and The Future of Another Timeline
“A glorious book―rich and baroque, tremendously vivid, absolutely glorious.” ―Genevieve Cogman, author of the Invisible Library series
“Gideon the Ninth was a combination of all my absolute favorite things: swords and magic and spaceships and far future tech, plus childhood angst, slow-build romance, and characters banding together to solve mysteries in a haunted space palace.” ―Martha Wells, New York Times Bestselling author of the Murderbot Diaries
“Brilliantly original, messy and weird straight through. With a snorting laugh and two middle fingers, the whole thing burns end-to-end. It is deep when you expect shallow, raucous when you expect dignity and, in the end, absolutely heartbreaking when you least expect it.” ―NPR
"Truly compelling fun. Muir’s impressive first novel offers a heady and macabre mix of science, necromancy, constant danger, and a healthy dollop of Gormenghast-like weirdness like no other."―Locus
“You’ve never read anything like Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel Gideon The Ninth.” ―Forbes
“An incredibly immersive book, with a rich, detailed mythology, gorgeously balanced sentences, and a genuinely meaningful central relationship. I started this book chuckling at the outrageous premise. I finished it crying, because the ending punched me straight in the gut.” ―Vox
“Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! Decadent nobles vie to serve the deathless emperor! Skeletons!” ―Charles Stross, author of The Laundry Files and Empire Games
“Punchy, crunchy, gooey and gore-smeared, Gideon the Ninth is a pulpy science-fantasy romp that will delight and horrify you to the bitter end.” ―Kameron Hurley, author of The Stars Are Legion and the Worldbreaker Saga
“By turns a slasher movie and a sorcerous slugfest, with a snarky protagonist and a deep, complicated relationship at its heart.” ―Django Wexler, author of The Shadow Campaigns
“Necromancers! Dueling! Mayhem! Gideon the Ninth is disturbing and delightful in equal measure―I loved it to pieces.” ―Yoon Ha Lee, author of the Hexarchate series and Dragon Pearl
“Muir effortlessly compiles macabre humor, body horror, secrets, and tenderness into the stitched-together corpse of a dark universe, then brings it to life with a delightfully chaotic, crackling cast of characters and the connective tissue of their relationships.” ―Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“[Gideon the Ninth] blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. Suspenseful and snarky, with surprising emotional depths.” ―Kirkus Starred Review
“At once sarcastic, sincere, heart-wrenching, and honest pulpy enjoyment, filled with dark magic, swordplay, and lesbian necromancers, Muir's debut is a fantastic sf/fantasy blend. Readers will discuss this journey for a long time and be clamoring for the next installment.” ―Library Journal Starred Review
“Muir’s debut fuses science fiction, mystery, horror, fantasy, action, adventure, political intrigue, deadly dark humor, and a dash of romance with a healthy serving of skeletons and secrets and the spirit of queer joy. This extraordinary opening salvo will leave readers dying to know what happens next.” ―Booklist Starred Review
“Gideon the Ninth is worth every second of every spine-chilling page as the book moves seamlessly from science fiction to mystery-thriller and back again.” ―BookPage Starred Review
“Gideon the Ninth is simply one of the best and most original books in recent memory.” ―Shelf Awareness
“Muir weaves seamlessly between mystery, intrigue, and quest, and between science fiction and fantasy, to craft the start of a series that rivets and enthralls like the dark and dangerous magic it depicts.” ―Lambda Literary
“A whirlwind of dark fantasy and dark humor, all wrapped up in sarcastic, delightfully sapphic Gideon Nav. The narrative oozes with voice and every sentence rattles with Gideon’s disaffected attitude and the creepiness of skeleton bones.” ―New York Journal of Books
“Gideon the Ninth is a unique and bloody bananapants book, and I do think it’s worth a reader’s curiosity. Gideon is an unforgettable protagonist. The world is creepy, sometimes bleak, and yet…still fun, almost like The Addam’s Family. And yes, there are lesbian necromancers in space.” ―Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
“Readers, I’m dead. This book slayed me. You should get slayed, too. We should all be dead over Gideon the Ninth.” ―Geekly, Inc
“A brilliant and original mash-up of genres, the story is brimming with memorable characters, acerbic dark humor, a unique magic system, space travel, decaying technology and layers upon layers of mystery. It is the Gothic space adventure I didn't know I needed.” ―Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Trail of Lightning
“Gideon the Ninth knocked me out. If you like snotty swordswomen, reanimated skeletons, porn zines, crumbling interplanetary empires, and angry lady necromancers, then shut up and get reading.” ―Richard Kadrey, author of the Sandman Slim series
“Tasmyn Muir's prose is delicious enough to eat. Add in a sarcastic heroine with a knack for trouble, necromancy, cut-throat politics, and a hell of a lot of murders, and this is a novel every fantasy lover will savor.” ―Rin Chupeco, author of The Bone Witch
“Festooned with skeletons, aglitter with technonecromantic delights, both middle fingers raised to the galaxy, Gideon the Ninth is a gothy Tank Girl-Meets-Utena-Meets-Gormenghast dueling wildcard mashup that has me positively giddy for the future of the genre.” ―Max Gladstone, author of The Empress of Forever
“Muir has always, always had a sorcerously powerful way with voice, and I am positively giddy to announce that Gideon the Ninth is the ultimate culmination of her preternatural talents, a necromantic, calcium-rich delight that says "get in, nerd" on page 1, hits the gas with a disconcerting cackle, and doesn't let you out no matter how hard you howl. Gideon the Ninth is a bone-afied classic of the genre.” ―Brooke Bolander, author of The Only Harmless Great Thing
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That is, until one day the Emperor has invited all eight necromancer heirs, from all eight loyal Houses, to compete in unknown trails to possibly ascend into something that will make them immortal, but the costs of losing can very well be their lives. No necromancer can compete without a skilled cavalier by their side, and Harrowhark has no choice but to get Gideon to help her and save the future of the Ninth House.
But once Gideon and Harrowhark arrive on the Emperor’s planet, they soon realize that the tasks are going to be much more mysterious and much more difficult than anyone could have predicted. Especially when cavaliers and necromancers from the other houses start getting murdered. Gideon is not only tasked to help Harrowhark, she also has to ensure that she keeps breathing herself, while also trying to figure out who is doing the unspeakable things to other competitors.
Tamsyn then leads us on this beautiful adventure, where twist after twist occurs so seamlessly that you can’t help but feel completely enthralled. The writing is so beautiful, so intelligent, and so very impressive. And the way the entire story is told is so very transportive! I mean, this book has one of the scariest settings I’ve read all year, but I felt like I was right there battling for my life, with a goofy smile on my face. And the atmosphere and constant chill while reading? It’s unparalleled and truly an experience like no other.
I love this book for many reasons, but I also love it because it’s over the top, and has so many one-liners, and it’s painfully romantic, and the girl gets the girl at the end. And it’s what’s I’ve been waiting my whole reading life for. This is a better, and way more unique, and 100% more impressive version of what straight, white dudes have been publishing in SFF forever. I keep seeing people say that they feel this book is too confusing, the characters too over the top, and the world too complex, but I just don’t feel that way at all. This is the story my sapphic loving heart has been searching for in epic fantasy my whole life. Gideon the Ninth is my f/f loving, literary loving heart’s anthem, and I plan to play it on repeat forever.
This book has the best enemies to lovers romance I’ve ever read in all of my years. Yeah, you read that right. In my whole freaking life, this is my favorite. I’m talking OTP for the rest of my days. I didn’t exist before this ship sailed in this first book. And this book also has such a central theme of trust, and what it means to put your trust in another. Also, what it means to be trustful, and the privilege of having someone put their trust in you, unconditionally. And this book also has an amazing discussion on power dynamics and imbalances, and how important it is to be aware of these things while putting your trust in yourself and in someone else, simultaneously.
Overall, this really just felt like the book I’ve been waiting my own personal eternity for. This felt like the book of my dreams and my hopes. All I want is ownvoices lgbtqiap+ books, with f/f relationships, with cutthroat girls putting themselves first, but allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to maybe let someone else get to see a softer side of them. Almost like I’ve been reviewing books for five years now, preparing myself to read and review Gideon the Ninth, even though I know no word combination or sentence structure I could ever come up with could do it justice for this story. Basically, I know this book isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you feel like you have similar reading taste to me, then I implore you to give this one a try. I mean, if the tagline “Lesbian Necromancers in Space” isn’t going to sell you, hopefully my emotional, bleeding heart self can. This book means everything to me, and I hope you enjoy if you pick it up.
This book isn't a bad book, but it's not a great one either. The great failing of it is in its character Harrowhawk. I get that she's not exactly supposed to be likable- but she's damn well insufferable. And not in a fun, anti-hero way. Just obnoxious in an out and out obnoxious way. Also, a fascist, slaver way.
The weird skirting around enslavement and slavery also put me way, way off. Like, I would have expected Gideon to be a hell of a lot more pissed off about it- and every chance she could've had for the revenge she obsesses about is passed on due to 'sentiment'- or not capitalized on in the least. It's an unfortunate dynamic to have sentiments for a slaver. Especially now, with where we are in the real world, there's not much redemption to be allowed for fascists. This book goes to great lengths to allow it. There's a lot of work put into trying to work all that out, and it doesn't pan out for the author. Granted, I'm only 3/4's through the book, but the cavalier way it's been treated so far has annoyed me so much I had to put the book down.
It's clear where the plot is going- and it doesn't sit right with me that one half of the relationship was literally abused and tortured by the other half. There's enemies to lovers and then there's slaves to slavemasters lovers. Uncomfortable is putting it mildly. I also know how it ends, and it's just bad. Real bad. The sacrifice is infuriating.
Basically, I expected it to be much, much better- and it could've been, except for Harrowhawk. Seeing that the sequel is all hers just about did it for me. I don't think I'll be revisiting.
And yes, “myriad” is the right word here, used frequently in the book in its archaic meaning of “a unit of ten thousand.” My inner word-geek squealed in delight at this.
And our heroine spends most of the book running around wearing an almost-kinda black trench coat, totally ‘80s mirrored shades, and a rapier. And she spurts ‘80s quips like a gay action-hero.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Grade A Brian bait.
You knew there had to be a “but,” right? Brian only giving three stars to a story that looks like it was based on notes by Clark Ashton Smith but strained through ‘80s action and anime tropes? That blurs the line between sci-fi and fantasy? What gives?
What gives is the plot. It’s a mess. Our heroine is enslaved by a sadistic necromancer princess. Their relationship is… plot-convenient? It’s not so much that I didn’t buy it, but rather that I picked up the wrong signals. Our introduction to their relationship felt less like the opening to a romance/buddy cop thing and more like setting the stage of a nasty revenge. Rather than helping us to like both of these characters and straining at the antagonism that separates them, I started off hating the princess and never really warmed to her.
These two are summoned by the Emperor to a conclave of the scions of the Nine Houses (each accompanied by a body-guard/champion and no one else) to a decaying palace on a distant world. Once they get there and we’ve met the other scions and their attendant cavaliers, things devolve quickly into Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians.
Things are made worse by the antagonisms of the various scions. Instead of working together (something that should be the obvious move once you understand the rules of the game, since it’s nearly impossible for anyone to succeed without cooperation), they assume (for no good reason I could discern) that only a few can rise to Lictor in spite of being told outright that it’s the Empreror’s dearest hope that they all achieve that status.
But you can’t really blame the scions, because the Emperor himself set this up in an incredibly stupid way. Shuttles we are told are “valuable” are tossed into the ocean and sunk instead of merely being flown away. The rules are poorly explained and even more poorly enforced. Once the secret of attaining Lictorhood is understood, the most devout house of Emperor-worshippers declares that such a thing is blasphemy and does its best to prevent anyone from becoming a Lictor, to the point of actually attempting to murder the other scions.
It’s a neat premise described with excellent word-smithing that falls utterly apart if you poke at it at all.
Still, it’s a fun read for all that. Just understand that this is a romance/mystery/thriller sort of thing, much more Ten Little Indians meets Jane Eyre in space with skeletons than Dune. Also, it’s of the more prudish sort of romances, where things never get to the point where fade-to-black is necessary. Don’t let the frequent references to dirty magazines and the course language of our protagonist fool you on that point, either. This romance is headed towards a union that is purely symbolic and spiritual, so if you’re looking for torrid lesbian shenanigans, this ain’t your book. If you’re cool with all that, and turning off your brain to avoid “fridge logic,” there’s a fun little romp here for you.
Top international reviews
In a Empire literally powered by death 9000 years ago the Emperor undying discovered the power of necromancy and gifted it to the Necro Saints or lyctors who founded the nine houses that rule the empire numbers down and the emperor losing his eternal war a call has gone out to the houses of the empire for the best necromancer and Cavalier ( the houses Champion and best swordsman/woman) to travel to the site of the first house and to face a series of challenges for the prize of becoming the new generation of Necro Saints.
Unfortunately for the Ninth house there Cavalier is a a overgrown mummies boy who can’t wield a sword in steps Gideon, Orphan , swords-woman and smart ass and teenage nemesis to Harrow, necromancer and head of the ninth to survive they will have to put aside there enmity and find a way to work together.
This is science fantasy or what would have been once known as Space Opera which is to say there are big ideas but little explaination on how everything works, hand to hand combat is still the go to solution and in a universe of space ships swords are still a thing. So this is closer to the Star Wars end of sci fi rather then Star Trek let alone the Expanse.
There’s a good bit of humor in the story mainly through Gideon POV she is snarky and sassy and quick with the one liners one of my favorite protagonist in recent memory. However I wouldn’t call it a comedy maybe a dramedy? It’s dark and there’s a murder mystery at the heart of it and more then a few horror elements it is about necromancers after all but between the humor and the fact that there is a far more decent human beings in the story then the book cover would suggest, and while it is loud and brash it’s also quiet and contemplative at times or as much as a story that moves at breakneck speed can be its not dark and depressing indeed it subverts a lot of the horror tropes as it goes along and has a lot to say about fidelity, honesty and love.
It’s obviously only the start of the story we don’t have more then a glimpse of the world building here, how necromancy works are who are the enemies the emperor has been fighting for 9000 years. I will say it buy it try it for yourself don’t be put off by the Grim Dark vibes it’s not that and while it does have pulpy elements the tag line Lesbian Space Nuns doesn’t really do it justice either while queerness is a strong element in the novel especially Gideons and is made pretty obvious from the start with a few straight up dirty jokes the romance aspect of the novel is subtle beautiful and really well done and while a very important part of the story doesn’t overwhelm the only other sci fi/ fantasy novel that handles this as well would be Sol Majestic another quirky brilliant sci fi novel though very different in tone and direction and plot another book and author I can’t recommend enough. TrueLy this has been a banner couple of years for sci-fi and fantasy debuts and Gideon the ninth proudly continues and elevates that trend magnificent.
The protagonist Gideon is (reluctant) cavalier for the Ninth house who is forced to work with the ninth house necromancer Harrowhawk (and who mutually hate each other after a very atagonistic childhood together)....
Anyway that's enough of an overview! The story is great fun; some of the dialog (Gideon's especially) suggests a comedy, but it's actually very dark and violent (which is a little disconcerting). It has great characters and an interesting (if a little predictable) plot. And skeletons. Lots of skeletons.
It’s got everything – lesbian necromancers, a giant labyrinthine crumbling (possibly haunted, definitely deadly) house by the sea, swordfights, murder, blood, skeletons, locked rooms (which should *definitely* stay locked), mysterious mystics, battling Houses, daring cavaliers and a cluedo-esque whodunnit running throughout.
I *loved* the dynamic between Harrow and Gideon. Exchanging barbs and one-liners like they’re going out of fashion, the two Ninth House heroines have to battle against the other great Houses for the ultimate prize of Harrowhark becoming Lyctor to the Emperor. Except that she really needs Gideon’s help. And Gideon isn’t sure she can really be arsed.
The worldbuilding is glorious, though we only see a fragment of it on display here. The inter-House rivalries hint at larger things which we’ll hopefully see more of in the later books. The locked-room mysteries that the pair have to solve are delightfully cunning, and Harrow and Gideon make such a wonderful pairing. The Houses themselves are fascinating, as are the necromancers and cavaliers from each – for a book with 18 characters, they’re all well-realised and splendidly different.
Hugely recommended. I can’t wait to see where the story takes us in Harrow the Ninth, which is out next year.
As far as I can tell (some of the world-building is deliberately opaque), it’s set in our solar system thousands of years into the future, where each planet is ruled by different groups of necromancers, ably supported by swordspeople known as Cavaliers. The story focusses on Gideon Nav, who arrived on the Ninth House (the term “house” seems to be used to refer to both planets and their ruling families) in mysterious circumstances as a baby and has grown up as an indentured servant, with constantly thwarted dreams of escaping and joining the intergalactic military. She despises the Ninth House, which is basically a gloomy death cult, and in particular, its heir, the immensely powerful necromancer, Harrow.
The Emperor, head of the First House and most powerful necromancer of all, who’s been half absolute ruler, half god for thousands of years, summons together the heirs of all eight other houses, along with their head cavaliers. For all those thousands of years, the emperor had eight supremely powerful necromantic lyctors (one from each house) fighting on his behalf. Now he wants to give the current heirs the opportunity to ascend to Lyctor-hood, but they need to prove their worth. When the hereditary Ninth House Cavalier Primary refuses to attend the gathering and flees, Harrow forces Gideon to serve as her new Cavalier, despite their hatred of each other.
All of this set-up and plot takes place over the first few hundred pages of an extremely long and complex narrative. I won’t go into detail about what happens next but it’s a busy mix of quests and challenges, a murder mystery, a horror-style plot, and lots of rivalry, friendship, plotting, and romance between the various lyctors and cavaliers. There are all sorts of twists, revelations and mysteries. The combination of these various elements and the way that aspects of several other genres are mixed in with the basic sci-fi setting made it a really interesting and refreshingly different read. It also does a good job of interweaving some very dark elements with some very funny ones and lots of action with some more cerebral scenes.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s quite a complex read, for three reasons. Firstly, beyond Gideon and Harrow, there are about 15 people who could be seen as main characters, or at least very important secondary characters, and they can be tricky to keep track of. Secondly, there are lots of necromantic terms and concepts to get your head around. And thirdly, as touched on above, there’s a lot of world-building, but very little info-dumping. You’re basically expected to work out what Houses and Cavaliers and the Locked Tomb and everything else means. Most of this becomes clear as you read, but the first few hundred pages require a lot of guess work and reading between the lines, and even by the end, there were some concepts I wasn’t clear on (like, what’s “the river” that the emperor is over?). I much prefer this end of the confusion spectrum to having everything spelt out and working it all out was half the fun. That said, just a little bit more explanation of concepts and reminders of characters might have been helpful at times.
As the “lesbian necromancers in space” line might suggest, the main character is into girls and there are some nice romantic elements. But it was quite refreshing how this wasn’t a big deal. No element of the plot is about her coming out, struggling with or hiding her sexuality, or facing homophobia. Neither is the fact she’s female any impediment either to her joining the army or serving as a Cavalier, or even worth commenting on in that context by any of the other characters. She’s a talented swordsperson on a mysterious mission who just happens to be female and a lesbian. Indeed, in an otherwise grim universe, there seemed to be little issue with people’s sexuality or gender roles across the board.
This is such an unusual and weird book that it’s hard to pin down exactly what made it so interesting and enjoyable, but I’d thoroughly recommend it and can’t wait for the sequel — particularly after a really quite shocking ending.
Gideon the Ninth is the debut novel by Tamsyn Muir and the first novel in the Locked Tomb trilogy. It has attracted widespread critical acclaim, including being nominated for both the 2020 Hugo and Nebula Awards and coming third in the Goodreads Choice SF Awards in 2019. The novel defies easy categorisation, incorporating as it does elements from science fiction, fantasy and horror, with a tone that could perhaps be summed up as "Mervyn Peake writes Warhammer 40,000."
The book is a technogothic thriller, where the mismatched Harrowhark and Gideon reluctantly work together with (and against) representatives of the other eight houses to investigate the mysteries of the First House to see who is worthy of becoming the new Lyctor, the right hand of the Emperor. The setting, an empire of nine planets circling a central star, is painted in vague strokes because our only POV character, Gideon, has only ever lived on the gloomy, depressing and death-obsessed Ninth and has no idea what the other worlds are like. Worldbuilding is drip-fed slowly into the narrative, painting a very intriguing picture of an empire which has endured for ten thousand years against remote, external threats thanks to the undying vigilance of the mysterious god-emperor, whose real history, motivation and even name remain a mystery.
Gideon, our main protagonist, is self-reliant, independent and resentful of authority, but is also fascinated by mysteries and yearns for freedom but isn't entirely sure what to do if she was to achieve it. She is in a dubious, co-dependent relationship with the officious Harrowhark, who strives to be an enigma and be respected (qualities that do not always combine well) but finds this difficult to achieve due to her and Gideon's mutual hatred. Their relationship is at the core of the novel and it's probably not a huge spoiler to say they eventually find an accommodation and a way of working together against mutual, greater enemies, although I must admit I found the swing from outright enemies to banterish frenemies to be a bit abrupt. Gideon is a strong (if archetypical) protagonist whose more relaxed, informal and pomposity-puncturing form of speech can be a bit of a relief when things threaten to go Turned-to-Eleven Gormenghast in terms of oppressive atmosphere and baroque chicanery.
The book incorporates a small secondary cast of characters from the other houses, such as warriors like Marta Dyas, Naberius Tern and Jeannemary Chatur, and house heirs like Dulcinea Septimus and Palamedes Sextus. Muir has a superb way with names and paints the secondary cast with skill and wit, from Chatur's youthful exuberance to Tern's lethal confidence to Septimus's wounded bird charm.
The story unfolds at a measured pace, perhaps a bit too measured: the first half of the novel is on the slow side of things and, given the rather limited number of characters and locations, it does feel like it takes a bit too long to get going. Once it does, though, it doesn't stop. The second half of the book is a near-dizzying eruption of plot revelations, deaths and unexpected twists that is quite compelling.
The other major weakness that comes to mind is the book's tonal dissonance between the ritual-obsessed, formal world and Gideon's near-non sequitur pop culture references. Gideon's informality and ability to take the mickey out of every situation is often entertaining, but on a few occasions (such as direct dialogue quotes from both the US version of The Office and The Simpsons) it lifts the reader right out of the world and story. These times are relatively rare, but feel a bit jarring.
Overall, though, Gideon the Ninth (****½) is a strong debut novel, a dark and bleakly humorous journey through a world of necromancers and grotesques. The novel is available now in the UK and USA. The sequel, Harrow the Ninth, will be published in August 2020.
The only thing going in her favor is the fact that she’s an accomplished swordswoman. Not that anybody cares. So, she risks everything by launching the latest in a string of daring escape attempts with the aim of running away and joining the military.
Of course, things don’t go as planned, and she is foiled at the last second by her greatest rival, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, and bone witch extraordinaire, who demands Gideon stay and do the Ninth House one last service – a service that will guarantee Gideon the freedom to pursue her dreams.
The catch? (Because you know, there’s just gotta be one)
A call has been issued by none other than the Emperor – Necrolord Prime and King of the Nine Renewals – for new postulants willing to submit themselves for the position of Lyctor, (all-powerful immortal servants of the everlasting resurrection), to help him fight against the empire’s greatest foes.
Okay . . . but what’s the actual catch?
Well, no necromancer can ascend to lyctorhood without their cavalier – a sword-wielding champion – by their side. For the trials require them to act as one, brain and brawn together, to stand a chance of succeeding. And the Ninth’s cavalier is not only unwilling to accept the challenge, he’s next to useless anyway. Thus Harrowhark’s ultimatum. If Gideon is willing to serve as her sword-hand throughout the trials, she’ll be released from servitude forevermore, with full honors.
You KNOW there’s still a catch, don’t you?
And it’s rather delicious . . . (Don’t worry – NO SPOILERS).
Gideon and Harrowhark end up on a decaying world in a mazelike facility run by ancient wardens. Once there, they are required to complete a baffling series of complex, mind-bending, life-threatening tests, while fending off the murderous shenanigans of the representatives of the other houses. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Gideon also has to contend with her hate/hate relationship with Harrowhark, one based on manipulation and betrayal which has come to blows in the past.
Oh the joy of skeletons in the closet making things more complicated.
And they do – because those skeletons I mentioned are everywhere, and neither woman can hope to survive unless they trust one another enough to cooperate fully.
You’ll find out, it what I can honestly say is one of the most subtly appealing stories I’ve read in a long time. That it’s moody, macabre and gothic goes without saying. You only have to get a look at the cover to receive a hint of what’s coming. But it’s what’s inside those dark uncomfortable pages that will haunt you. For it whispers in your ear, enticing you; it spellbinds you to accept the unbalanced and the bizarre as normal; it keeps you on a knife-edge and at a distance, so that when the hooks do eventually sink in, you’ll willingly let yourself be drawn to the other side and immersed in a miscreation of woe.
It’s a grim world the author, Tamsyn Muir has painted. As psychologically draining as it is harsh; as unforgiving as it is hostile. But gritty humor and incisor-sharp dialogue help the narrative along at a bone-jarring pace. And therein lies its balance and appeal.
And the weird thing is, it’s not until the end – during the emotionally charged, action packed, blood & guts climax – that the full power of this story truly hits you.
Wow! I loved it. A movie in the making if ever there was one.
Muir builds a world that feels entirely alien but fascinating. Timeless, ancient and futuristic. And to bring it rapidly to a reliable level, she fills it with Gideon, Harrow and the rest of the necromancers and their cavaliers.
I had no idea what the bone deep hell was happening for most of the book. I'm still not sure I do, but I don't care, I just want the next book to come out.
It's funny, dark and has a gem of a hidden love story that's almost sweet against the backdrop of the horror. The fact that its a lesbian one is being overplayed in the publicity IMO. Its just lovely.
People who like their SciFi hard should probably look elsewhere but others will find it a delight.
In tone it's similar to Simon R Greens Deathstalker Series but with more grounded, better drawn characters and a darker universe.
Muir has a very strong and distinct voice as a writer. Her world feels visceral and the descriptions original. Gideon and Harrow are great characters. The book is a fast paced and exciting adventure with a plot that pays off.
I did hum and haw a bit between giving 4 or 5 stars. In the end I decided to take one off because it did give me a fairly decent bump as I read the story. ………...Spoilers...………………
I don't understand how the Gideon of the first couple of chapters became Gideon the Loyal Cav? I love both aspects of the character, I am quite happy about her character arc from a plot point of view. It is just that she went from zero trust in Harrow to allowing her to enter her brain and then later siphon after very little readjustment within their relationship. I just felt that from a characterisation point of view there needed to be something that built that trust more, the transition was too abrupt.
It wasn’t the kind of book I could read whilst also being talked to, drinking a cup of tea and listening to music. Oh no. It required my full and undivided attention so that I didn’t miss a single. Damn. Thing.
Because blink, and you’d miss some key piece of information.
But I loved every minute of the ride, once I got over the first couple of chapters of not understanding what the hell was going on.
It’s going to be one of those books that I’ll re-read and suddenly things will fall into place.
Not for the faint of heart. Full of skeletons and death. Lots of death. The ending broke me. Enough said really!
One of the signs of a great book is just how much it ruins your sleeping pattern, this one definitely put a dent in mine. The author has an incredibly good sense of pacing and writes in such a way that it just flows incredibly, rather than spending page after page doing world building you're given the shape of a thing and allowed to fill it in with your own imagination and then refine that with more detail as it's meted out. She doesn't treat the reader as an idiot, which frankly seems to be in short supply now and it really helps the cadence of the book.
The story is incredibly enjoyable, the protagonist is a fantastic character and the support cast are genuinely fleshed out. I honestly cannot wait for the next book in the series, and I'm already looking forward to rereading this in the near future.
You get people who are 'authors' and then you get people who are story tellers. Not sure if she will take it as a compliment, but I'd put Ms Muir in the latter (and it is totally meant as a compliment). At first, hearing something described in terms we would understand (but the character's wouldn't) threw me off. e.g. when she arranges stuff on her pillow "like a chocolate in a fancy hotel" - the character that does this has never, and probably will never, see a chocolate on a pillow in a fancy hotel. But after wee while it felt like I was being told a story by a mate - rather than reading something written by a stranger. And this is a Good Thing (TM).
Oh and there is a bunch of names and terms heaped on you with little explanation at first. Get through that and keep the dramatis personae handy and you will be fine.
In short: It's funny, it's sad, it's snarky, it's pacy and the writing voice is fantastic. Get it already.
The characters are each wonderfully written. Gideon is the most badass loveable idiot to ever root for, and Muir's voice while telling her story is phenomenal, slipping into you from the first line and reeling you along for Gideon's bizarre adventure. Others do not fall short - an impressive feat considering the rather large cast. This book makes you care for each character (or at least be amused by them) and will have you screaming and teetering at the edge of your seat as the mysterious plot unfurls into horror and mayhem where nobody is safe, and nobody can be trusted.
Perfect for fans of sword-swinging fantasy (in space!) with chilling horror, mystery, enemies-to-lovers, dark worldbuilding, and vicious bites of humour. (And skeletons. Many, many skeletons.)
The only thing I did not get was the advertising which made it sound like some sort of saucy carry on in space trashy paperback. It kept coming up on my recommended list and I ignored it because of the description - which is probably the least accurate book blurb ever. It massively under sells what is a really well throughout, well written, intriguing page turner. Thank goodness I read some of the reviews which lead me to take a chance and buy the book.
Please buy this book you will not regret it I have already ordered the second book and cannot wait to read it.