ONE SALT SEA by Seanan McGuire

October “Toby” Daye is finally doing all right—and that inevitably means it’s time for things to take a turn for the worse. Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She’ll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.

Toby’s search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves. But someone is determined to stop her—and whoever it is isn’t playing by Oberon’s Laws. As the battle grows more and more personal, one thing is chillingly clear. When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away.


Title : One Salt Sea
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book five)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 368
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : September 6, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

What I find interesting about this installment is that while I was still mostly bored in the lead-up to the climax, I wasn’t annoyed about as many things as I usually am. Either I’m being innoculated to this world or it really wasn’t as frustrating as the books that came before or a bit of a break did a world of good. Also, what I was warned would annoy me.. didn’t. At least not much. Mostly because I was resigned to it but, also, all the spouting off of randomness and foreshadowing.. well, foreshadowed the end.

How’s that for vague?

It’s going to be harder and harder to review these books the further I go into this series, this being five of a current thirteen (twenty, fifty, who knows how many in the end). So, suffice it to say I wasn’t delighted by the romance because it wasn’t what I know to be endgame and therefore wasn’t my preference. However, that said, my choice of pairing is going to have a lot of explaining to do as there’s been some build-up that implies certain things and I have questions. But it seems I’m the only one who does because once again with all this new information and hinting floating around, October makes a token effort to look confused, complain about the vaguery, like one time, then move on. Also, again, I have to wonder at the attitudes of so many of the characters in this world. Pretty much everyone outside of the main circle sucks and even those within sometimes just.. choose poorly? Expect so much? It’s constantly confusing and annoying and exhausting.

All that to say it’s the same stuff I’ve been bitching about the entire time I’ve been reading these books.

I think I’m definitely getting a little fae’d out, this world is very one note, however that did get a bit of a mixup in this installment as we visited a different kind of fae scenery. But still. There’s definitely something to be said for a not-just-one-kind-of-paranormal in an urban fantasy series; particularly one of this length. 

I have a little more enthusiasm going into book six, doubly so as I’ve been told I might get me some feels, though overall I wouldn’t say I’m excited, but I do still have a bit of hope that I’ll come out the other side of all this loving these books. Maybe it’s just one hell of a slow burn. Maybe I’m just a stubborn delusional idiot. Only time will tell.

LATE ECLIPSES by Seanan McGuire

October “Toby” Daye, changeling knight in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, finds the delicate balance of her life shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended. Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile.

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher, for the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda. With everything on the line, Toby will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she never thought she’d have to face again…


Title : Late Eclipses
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 400
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : March 1, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Welp, I’m sort’ve resigning myself to not loving this series at this point. This one failed to entertain, and in fact it just dialed up all my frustrations to eleven, but we also took a bit of turn in direction for some things. So while I am taking a break from this series, for the moment (and maybe to lessen some the strength and immediacy of some of my frustrations), I am at least somewhat curious about the next chapter, as it were.

I mentioned this in my review for book one, and also chatted about it with my buddies (sorrrrry), but the ‘blame October for literally everything’ was once again strong in this one. The strongest it’s ever been. And I just can’t with that. There is nothing worse than a one-note villain that makes no attempt to be sane, or rational, and when you get three or four of them in one book? I want to throw myself into traffic. 

I also have a bad feeling any inroads we were making on the ship of my choice RE the romance may just be about to take a wrong turn because of.. events. I’m not surprised, because we’re dragging this out apparently, but I imagine I’ll be less than happy with that.

So, yes, I don’t know. There are elements of this series that should be great but there’s just so much being kept hidden, and even when a character goes spouting off about new information, even if it’s vague, October just shrugs and lets the subject get changed. And considering the big reveals in this one? I want to smack her upside the head. She’s not made to be a smart heroine and I do not understand why. It makes it hard to root for her.

But I will read on. I just need a vacation from this world. 

AN ARTIFICIAL NIGHT by Seanan McGuire

Changeling knight in the court of the Duke of Shadowed Hills, October “Toby” Daye has survived numerous challenges that would destroy fae and mortal alike. Now Toby must take on a nightmarish new assignment. 

Someone is stealing both fae and mortal children—and all signs point to Blind Michael. When the young son of Toby’s closest friends is snatched from their Northern California home, Toby has no choice but to track the villains down, even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm—home of the legendary Wild Hunt—and no road may be taken more than once. If she cannot escape with all the children before the candle that guides and protects her burns away, Toby herself will fall prey to Blind Michael’s inescapable power.

And it doesn’t bode well for the success of her mission that her own personal Fetch, May Daye—the harbinger of Toby’s own death—has suddenly turned up on her doorstep…


Title : An Artificial Night
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 384
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : September 7, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So, book three was better. Was it the kind of greatness I was promised and expected? No. But that’s okay.

This particular installment weaves in the story of Tam Lin and though I love that story, it didn’t make me love the book. The writing, unlike in book two, was much improved. We had a better flow for both the refresher moments and for slipping us into the story itself after the time that has passed since the previous installment. The pacing, everything, it was fine. I was just.. bored.

October is still not winning me over as an MC/heroine. Which is funny because there’s a very similar character named May who I liked a lot. There’s also a sea witch I adore. So the cast isn’t a total loss. And while we had a few glimmering moments between Toby and the character who make up the ship of my choice, even he wasn’t doing it for me in this book. 

Also, we’re really just leaning in hard to the months-for-names thing, huh? October, January, April, May.. and that’s just after three books.

I really want to love this series. Both because of previously mentioned (in other reviews) buddies who adore it and also because this should be everything I love, too. But I’m still waiting. I’m worried if I pause to read something else I won’t come back to this (like my read through of the bajillion JD Robb novels which.. what, did I stop after only two? whoops. we don’t know her) so I’ll likely be spending my weekend a’binge’ing even more. I hear something great awaits in book six. Let’s see if I can make it that far.

A LOCAL HABITATION by Seanan McGuire

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.

Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.


Title : A Local Habitation
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 390
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : March 2, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

S t r u g g l e b u s.

That’s what this whole read was. It’s a good thing I was warned in advance that this book would not be a favourite and would require some pushing through because oh boy was that accurate. So I’m paying it forward and passing along that warning.

Some of what I expressed as my main issue with book one was definitely present in book two. More romantic entanglements (because why not), more making things complicated with the existing ones (because why not), and combined with a mystery that I felt was just dragged out (because.. you get it), made worse by so much information being kept away from the MC and her investigative buddy (..), and compounded by an element I’m sure was supposed to be a surprise regarding a certain character, but wasn’t because duh it’s obvious and I’ve seen it before, just.. overall? Not a good time.

Don’t even get me started on the appearance of a certain line that is iconic for the Kate Daniels world showing up in this one. Multiple times. Sure, it’s not owned by IA, nor is it an unusual thing to say, but still. Grr arg. I was even trying not to compare anymore and then that happened. Not my fault.

October as an MC failed to impress me, I wasn’t loving the romance (as mentioned above and also because this didn’t further my ship), the mystery was annoying, and this is also the second book where October is being blamed for things that have nothing to do with her? This better not be a trend. One of the characters kidnapped in book one literaly blames October for it, even though she didn’t do the act, and was also disappeated for over a decade because she was trying to help, and in this one? Same thing. Suspicion, blame, distrust, like.. constantly. So annoying.

Also annoying? October tells everyone to pair up, no one should be alone, due to killer on the loose. Right after, everyone spends at least some time on their own; when confronted by the fact that they aren’t following orders, and they explain why, even though all the reasons are dumb, October accepts it. Then October is alone multiple times. Other people are alone. Again. She bitches them out. Then suddenly she’s alone again and only then realizes she’s a hypocrite. Eye twitch. And this was only one example of just some of the dumb ridiculous trudgery. 

Another being.. why was there so much crying? 

I’m no stranger to McGuire’s books, though obviously not this series, and I’m surprised how.. not great the writing is? Was this her first few books? I should look into that.

So, yes, not a favourite, though not surprised due to advance warning (even though, yes, surprised by just how much I disliked it), and holding out hope book three lives up to all the hype it was getting in my group chat. Thanks, again, buddies for the support. I really needed it for this book. If this had been book one, this would’ve been as far as I went. Probably, maybe. It would’ve been a “might pick this up again later..” aka never situation. But we shall push on.

ROSEMARY AND RUE by Seanan McGuire

October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas… 

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer. 


Title : Rosemary and Rue
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 346
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : September 1, 2009

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

A few friends have been waiting very patiently (hah!) for me to start this series and I turned down a reread to start a (as of the writing of this post) thirteen book series, with seventeen listed on GR plus a handful of novellas/shorts, to do so. That’s love right there. Particularly in this panslumpic times. Shoutout to Milana and Flavia for already enduring my commentary in the group chat after only one book.

As for the book itself, well, I liked it! It did fall into some familiar patterns, which is fine, but I did find myself comparing it to the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, which is much beloved by I, and I need to get my head to stop doing that. This was a solid opener into this fae urban mash-up and the way we are introduced to October is, well, kind of heartbreaking. Also very unique. A changeling, and low on the totem pole when it comes to fae hierarchy, she is trapped as a fish for over fourteen years, and emerges into a world she once knew but, even with the long lasting years of the fae, so many have moved on; including her very human child and fiancé. Talk about a hook!

The story evolves into a murder mystery, with betrayal, debts to cash in at a later date, tantalizing hints from potential allies.. and also some little insights into October’s background, insights she might be unaware of. Obviously with so many books already out, and more to come, I imagine not all will be revealed right away. And that’s totally cool.

My one real complaint about this is that it did seem to be leaning into the ‘everyone wants the MC’ shtick and while one avenue has very decidedly closed at the end of this book, thank god, there’s still a few more potentials lurking in the background. Well, one less, but still. Again, I imagine this will be dragged out to get the shippers into a frenzy (I have already committed to one direction and that was after, like, 20% of the first book, oy, I’m probably in for it..) but, sorry to bring this up again, I hope things go the way of the Kate Daniels series in the romantic department.

As I’m going to be deep diving into a binge, I hope to see more groundwork laid out for my (it’s way too early to be calling this, you utter idiot) endgame, and less nonsense with anyone else, but I’m also excited to see more from this world. And I can’t wait to finally get to the installment that turns this from a like into love. No pressure..

HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD by Sarah J. Maas

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.


Title : House of Earth and Blood
Author : Sarah J. Maas
Series : Cresent City #1
Format : library/audio
Page Count : 803
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This wasn’t a flawless book from Maas but my, does she know how to wrap your attention around her little finger. HOEAB was a book that required your attention and commitment to get through the first 25% of info dump and some narrative passages that seemed superfluous. However, from that point on, the characters had embedded themselves on my psyche and I was a willing captive to their stories.

Told from the perspective of half-fae-human Bryce, this was about a journey of death, grief, loss and the fight for justice. It felt like a fantasy-thriller if there is such a genre. Bryce and her foisted upon partner, Hunt Athalar, were the investigators of a two-year-old murder. That murder led them into a complex tale involving species of magical creatures and other worlds.

It was an incredibly twisty tale, some of the twists I saw coming and others I didn’t. I can honestly say that for the final quarter of the book, I was pumping adrenaline, taking little breaks and pulling my hair at the angst. The way the story’s intricacies finally interconnected was very clever and reminded me why Maas is a master storyteller.

The chemistry between the two main characters was a different experience to my knowledge of Maas’ previous writing. This was a slow burn from hate to friendship and then more. The on-page steam was very limited, a surprise to me and maybe others considering this was in adult genre. I would say that genre classification comes from the violence and gore constantly on the page.

Maas has pulled me well and truly into her new world, I enjoyed this suspenseful and thrilling hunt for answers and I cannot wait to read more in this series.

WICKED AS YOU WISH by Rin Chupeco

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends. 

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….


Title : Wicked As You Wish
Author : Rin Chupeco
Series : A Hundred Names for Magic (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA fantasy
Publisher : Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I honestly try not to let other reviews and ratings affect me prior to diving into a book but unfortunately this one was definitely a victim of me doing a whole lot of side-eye as the GR rating went down, down, down in the weeks leading up to release (and, as of writing this review, there’s still three weeks to go..). I stayed away from reviews for the most part but I went into this with concerns not only due to the rating but also after seeing a few DNFs pop up in my feed.

Suffice it to say, I understand why this was a struggle for some readers. The worldbuilding, the mythology, the folklore, the history.. it’s so much. It’s so extra. This is a world where, like, fairytales are on crack. Think of every story, every myth, every legend, everything you’ve ever heard of or read, throw them into a blender, and top it all with a sprinkling of real-world concerns and politics. That’s what this universe is like. There is so much going on just in the every day common knowledge (or not, if you’re the MC, who knows almost nothing, Jon Snow), not to mention this big life-changing, world-altering event, of Avalon, a country where magic first began (or something..?) was frozen over by the Snow Queen, killing Avalon’s rulers, and sending the prince into exile and hiding. Said prince shows up into the armpit of Arizona, where most of this story takes place, and is now being taken in by Tala, our protagonist’s, family, who are all a bunch of famous ex-Avalonian.. militia, or something.

Anyway, eventually they are discovered, the Snow Queen invades a place they once believed she never could, and Tala, the prince, and a ragtag group of teens, find themselves returning to Avalon to break the curse. One of the many curses because, like, everyone has a curse or a doom or a geas and like.. I’m already tired trying to explain this. Because, again, it’s a lot. There’s a huge cast of characters. Prophecies and secrets abound and there’s a lot we, as a reader, are left in the dark about, while other characters seem to prefer to just spout weird prophetic statements without any care to shed light on things, and we bounce from one battle or confrontation to another, all while watching this group form rather predictable connections, despite themselves, and while the Prince acts like an ass.. for no discernible reason.

So, yeah, I have no idea what to do with this. This book was a big floppy trade paperback of an ARC, with tiny tiny writing, and I spent two days slogging through what was, admittedly, a clever and interesting world that I should’ve really loved reading about, but somehow never quite did, and dealing with a pile of characters who should’ve been interesting and fun and only ever sometimes managed a little of that.

The upsides? Beyond the creativity and the astounding amount of work it must’ve taken to put this together and keep it all consistent (seriously, my brain, it hurts), this is heavily steeped in the author’s own culture and there is a lot of representation. Also, I might even pick up book two. But that last point is probably less to do with the book and more to do with my stubbornness and curiousity, so. I don’t know. I can’t recommend. But nor do I think I want to not recommend. There are definitely going to be people who love this but I see just as many, like me, who won’t know what to do with it.. or can’t even get far enough to bother.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

WILDFIRE by Ilona Andrews

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke. 


Title : Wildfire
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Hidden Legacy #3
Format : ebook
Page Count : 400
Genre : Urban fantasy
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : July 25, 2017

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I love that this Hidden Legacy series is paced a little faster than the Kate Daniels series, what I mean is that the longer storylines are happening over less books. Its not that I don’t appreciate all ten books and novellas of the KD series, but I was ready for a little less commitment. WILDFIRE moved Nevada into a new position in this book, secure in her relationship and becoming the leader of her family in a more formal way. Both these elements made me love this book.

First and foremost for me in this series, is the Nevgan (awful ‘ship’ name alert). These two continued to dig through who they were together and where their boundaries sat. What I love about Connor (Rogan) is how he was selfless and both selfish in his love, that said, he had the balance just right as situations presented. These two got to have a date in this book and I lived for that experience. I think I am possibly too hung up on these two…

“I’m starving. I haven’t had anything to eat since I stole a bear claw from your kitchen this morning.”
“You didn’t steal it. All my bear claws are yours.”

The whole storyline about the becoming of a House was fascinating and the reveals about the youngest Baylor sister and Leon were pretty wow. The baddies were fierce and I definitely saw parallels between Grandma Tremaine and Kate Daniels father – the strong, evil patriach/matriach but with a dose of they might care a bit.

I am hugely excited for where the next book goes. I need more of this family but more importantly more of ‘Nevgan’ (sorry). They’re not quite Kate and Curran but probably only because I don’t know them quite as well. Ilona Andrews know how to create a story, a couple to last and cheer for.

BURN FOR ME by Ilona Andrews


#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire…

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.

Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.


Title : Burn for Me
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Hidden Legacy #1
Format : library ebook
Page Count : 406
Genre : Urban Fantasy
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : October 28, 2014

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

So the quality of the Kate Daniels series wasn’t a fluke, huh? Here I am (I’d apologise but I’m not sorry) yet again spouting about these authors. They basically hooked me in with book one of this new to me series that I already feel addicted to.

The world is different in the Hidden Legacy series, still urban fantasy but a different city and a world more like ours. The parallels between them and us felt closer but the magic in this world was not. Surprise, surprise…not!

Nevada Baylor is not a carbon copy of Kate Daniels and that’s good news because I’m ready for a fresh set of characters. She’s kind of ordinary, full of backbone, guts and determination to keep the family busines and her family themselves safe.

It took some time to work out who the main male character was going to be in this tale. Adam Pierce? Mad Rogan? Augustine? This was no love triangle though, so don’t panic. I have to say please, please let book two do away with the Mad in Mad Rogan, it got a little irritating, call him Rogan or Connor.

There’s less nasty monsters so far in this series and I didn’t the familiar skin crawl I often got reading the Kate Daniels books. However, the humans with magical powers had their freaking scary moments. The pacing and action was superb, the romance was a delicious slow burn of which I need more.

I am a fan immediately of this book and will now start the familiar battle to not devour the series but rather slowly digest.

NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo

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?
Actually, yes.”
Too bad.

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. **