Fantasy · Horror · Uncategorized

Harrow The Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

4 Stars

The sequel to one of my favorite books of 2019, Gideon the Ninth, is Harrow The Ninth and it is weird. I had a really hard time rating this one, and it will be hard to discuss without spoilers, but here goes.

The cover of Harrow the Ninth featuring a an image of a woman with a skull's face painted on, skeleton armor and skeletons behind her.
Cover from Tor.com

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

Harrow the Ninth has all of the mystery and intrigue and spooky skeletons and macabre imagery as Gideon the Ninth, but lacks the same heart and humor. This is somewhat to be expected, because the narrator is of course, the extremely serious Harrowhark, rather than the done-with-this-shit, wisecracking Gideon. Harrow is an unreliable narrator to an extreme degree. She admits on the page that she is mad, and has actively made herself unreliable.That change in tone and loss of humor was something I viscerally felt, and couldn’t help feel, the way one tongues at the gap in their smile when a tooth goes missing. You can’t help but poke and prod and compare to what was there before. It’s a loss that is painful and curious all at the same time.

That weirdness and loss aside, Harrow is a book to read slowly, savoring each page. There is a lot going on, and it is going to be a confusing ride. I spent probably the first 50% of the book very confused and somewhat lost. Something was wrong and I just couldn’t figure out why. But as confused as I was, Harrow is a book full of answers. (And a whole lot more questions of course.) Harrow answers so many of the questions raised in Gideon. The story is told in alternating sections of past and present. We learn why and how Harrow came to be (literally). We find out why she and Gideon hated each other and so much more. It is so satisfying to find answers to many of the burning questions I had after reading Gideon.

Of course in answering so many questions, Harrow raises many, many more and ends on such a bombastic note that I am immediately clamoring for the third and final book in the trilogy, Alecto the Ninth.

Harrow the Ninth hits shelves August 4, 2020 and it’d be a mistake to pass it by.

I was provided an eARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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