Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (The Locked Tomb, #1)

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

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

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 arcane revenants. 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 be 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.

TITLE: Gideon the Ninth
AUTHOR: Tamsyn Muir
YEAR: 2019
LENGTH: 448 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Science Fiction

Gideon the Ninth is a dizzying blend of deaths, betrayals, reversals, and epiphanies; A necromantic locked-palace murder mystery come struggle for survival. There's a strong aesthetic sense, complicated relationships, and horrifying levels of gore.

This book felt good to read; the blend of occasional older syntax and modern vocabulary made "necromancers in space", er, "necromancers on a desolate planet" feel complete. I love this depiction of magic co-existing with technology in a decidedly-futuristic space. I don't mean to play up the tech too much, it factors in about as much as the existence of elevators does... they're relevant whenever you need to use one. But their presence is a periodic whisper of "we're in the future and there's magic too..." The language has a visceral "crunch to it", which is a style I like.

Because the POV character isn't always up to speed on what's happening, there's a blend of heavy detail and suddenly important knowledge gaps which meant that for a large part of the book I was having trouble tracking what events were important and how everything connected. This is something I have difficulty with normally, so it's not necessarily a fault of the book, but if (like me) you struggle with that, this book might feel confusing for long stretches. However, the last quarter of the book pulled everything together in a satisfying way with enough explanation that as things were resolved I understood why and how they had resolved, even though I'd been having trouble tracking the details earlier. It meant that the ending felt complete, like a real resolution, despite my previous confusion. To me this is a strength of the book, since even if someone read this over a longer period of time than I did, the ending should still feel strong.

Most of the characters have several combinations of names, titles, and nicknames, but they are often used in ways that reinforce their connection back to each person and that made it easier for me to keep track. It made the level of formality in each interaction apparent immediately, even when no body language was described, and that did a lot to set up the tone of each scene in a succinct way.

CW for cursing, ableism (brief), grief, toxic friendship/relationship, vomit, blood (graphic), violence (graphic), gore (graphic), body horror (graphic), cannibalism, medical content, degenerative illness, emotional abuse, physical abuse (backstory), child abuse (backstory), suicide (backstory), child death (graphic), murder (graphic), self harm, parental death (backstory), major character death (graphic), death (graphic).

*Edit to add that if you enjoyed this book but would like to be less confused by the story, you'll probably love The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai as they share a lot of strengths. 


Popular Posts