The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Title : Ninth House
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : Ninth House Series/Alex Stern (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : adult fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
Like so many people, NINTH HOUSE was one of my top top anticipated titles of 2019 (in fact, I had added it to my GR tbr back in 2016.. yikes, fangirl, calm down). Opening the envelope that contained a copy of this ARC was just.. my brain was instant-white noise. And then I sat on it for, like, three weeks because I was terrified of jumping in. What if it didn’t live up? What it is was too dark? What if I only liked Bardugo as a YA writer?
“Look, you seem like a nice girl–“
“No, I don’t.“
Well, I don’t know what to tell you or how to reassure you. Because my experience with this one was strange.
Darlington liked to say that dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway : do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.
I (admittedly, stupidly) started reading this book mid-week when I knew I didn’t have time. I chipped away at sixty pages a day here, twenty the next day, and then found no real drive to push through or pick it up during my week-day exhaustion. The size of the book, the complexity of these secret society houses, the hop-skipping timeline, it was all setting me up to fail. But then the weekend came and I c r u s h e d 80% of this book in one sitting. So if nothing else.. there’s that.
“I thought salt kept [ghosts] out.“
“Did you see that on television?“
“Would it make you happier if I say I learned it from an ancient book?“
Did I love this book? As a whole, I couldn’t say. Am I desperate for book two? Yes. Where I am, and how I feel, about Alex Stern and this world at the end vs the beginning is/are vastly different. Maybe I went in expecting one thing, maybe the set-up even has us set up to have certain expectations, but the way things unravel..? Not remotely what or where I would’ve thought. I also can’t say if there’s a pacing issue at the beginning or if it was because I was stuck there for a few days due to life. So I’m not quite willing to punish the experience, or the book, by rounding down.
That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible.
This is dark, it’s occasionally violent, there are moments where Bardugo pushes the envelope.. but maybe that’s coming at things from the “I loved The Grisha Trilogy!” side of things. Had this been a debut, from an unknown author, there’d be no comparison to make, no preconceived notions to have. Nonetheless this is complex and rich and bizarre and fascinating and I didn’t predict anything. Or at least not correctly.
You couldn’t keep sidling up to death and dipping your toe in. Eventually it grabbed your ankle and tried to pull you under.
NINTH HOUSE is a tough book to review because I want to reveal, well, nothing. I want you to have an open mind. I do want you to be mindful, as I’m sure you are, that there is subject matter you may want to research trigger warnings for if you have any triggers you’re worried might go off.
We all have spaces we keep blank.
I think what makes this tough to pin down, too, is it might be a book that requires multiple readings. Not only because of how this read started for me but because of how this story is told. The complexities, the bits that went over my head or were too much to process in the early unfoldings of the chapters.. it might flow differently a second time around. Or maybe not. But I’ll be able to tell you before book two comes out because you know I’m going to break out a reread for that honour! Also I’m writing this review in July, this book isn’t out until October, so, y’know. It’s going to be a while..
“I’m pretty sure when my mother was talking about the devil, she had you in mind.”
“I’m a delight.”
Would I recommend? Cautiously. I think if you’re interested to begin with, you should go for it. For the rest who are put off by the occult and the explicitly-warned-of darker themes, wait for more reviews to roll out. Find your trusted buddies and pick their brains. Then grab an excerpt and dive in to test the waters. The book opens with a bang and it’s only (hah) getting started. And I think book two will be even bigger, badder, and better (stronger).
“I class profanity with declarations of love. Best used sparingly and only when wholeheartedly meant.“
Also, just want to say, having not really read much of the blurb — or if I did, it was a long long time ago — I might actually suggest not refreshing your memory before going in (or making sure to do so, depending on your reading preference). The summary gives a structure to the plot that you sorta have to earn the further you read (infact, I found myself kind of comforted by reading it after finishing the book because it’s like.. oh, it was all right there, at my fingertips, if I was only that sort of reader). But if you find yourself liable to DNF because of plot and timelines that jump around, it might ground you. So. Something to consider.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **