Book review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Title: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Publisher: Tor.com

Publication date: 10 Sept 2019

Genre: Science fantasy | Adult

Page extent: 448 pages

Goodreads blurb: Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

***

Well that was an utterly bizarre, but captivating, challenging and cinematic read. I don’t quite know where to start with this review! As my most anticipated read this year, I expected a lot from the book marketed as ‘lesbian necromancers in space’. I’m not quite sure I got what I expected – it was so unique I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. It does make for a confusing first half, but very much improves in the second half with an absolutely phenomenal ending. 

Gideon the Ninth starts convolutedly. It throws you in the deep end, and doesn’t wait for you to catch up. The sheer amount of vocabulary used in this book is incredible, the prose is intensely descriptive which I admit took me a while to get on board with. The large cast is difficult to recall and I do wish I’d made much more use of the character guide at the start of the novel. 

But in saying that, what I did like at the start were Gideon and Harrow. I enjoyed Gideon’s sarcastic, snarky, ridiculous humour throughout. I liked that it lessened what was otherwise quite a heavy and dense first half. I also thought Harrow was brilliantly characterised from the moment she stepped on page. I LOVE her. She has such a presence whenever we see her, and whilst Gideon was so unique in her own ways, I thought it was Harrow who really shone. 

The second half of the book is where things get really exciting. With the launch of the murder mystery, the book becomes intensely gripping and I flew through the second half. With the murders, it did also lessen the character load so made for a much less confusing read as well. The emotional hits also begin to pick up, crescendoing to that ending which really truly hurts. Muir’s writing really sings in some of the big fight scenes towards the end of the novel, and I wish so much I could learn to write battles as she does. 

The relationship between Gideon and Harrow was fantastic, and I loved their growth and development across the novel. Harrow particularly has a fantastic character arc and I am so excited to see from her POV in the second book.

Although Gideon the Ninth definitely takes some time to get used to, it improves greatly in the second half, ending exceptionally and with some fantastic twists and hard hitting scenes which make this a bizarrely unique book.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

One thought on “Book review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

  1. […] A book that’s not afraid to actually use the word lesbian on the blurb! Gideon the Ninth was probably one of the most hyped books of 2019, and with good reason – it brought lesbian necromancers into the mainstream. It’s a very very different book, combining very technical and complicated science with the fantasy magic of necromancy. Alongside that is a murder mystery, a complex relationship between a necromancer and her cavalier and a huge number of other characters (tip for reading this: make good use of the character guide at the start, it is hugely helpful). I found it very difficult to get into this book, but I’m glad I pushed through because I really loved the ending! Check out my full review here. […]

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