Title: Gideon the Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Genre: Science Fiction + Fantasy + Murder Mystery
Publication date: September 10 2019
Hardcover: 448 pages
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.
Stand alone or series: First in a duology
How did I get this book: Review copy from publisher
Format (e- or p-): Print
I think I died a million tiny deaths reading this book.
I died right at the beginning when I realised that the narrator’s voice – Gideon’s voice – was funny. I don’t know what I was expecting from Gideon the Ninth but given its cover, the fact that its main character opens the story describing how she has been trying to escape a planet where she has been kept against her will all her life and abused by its princess as well as an initial setting that is rather literally deep inside an order of dark, nefarious, serious, necromantic nuns who have to guard a Special Tomb of Doom, funny was definitely not it. With a mix of awkward jokes (there are quite a few silly What She Said jokes here) and sarcasm up the wazoo, Gideon’s voice is a lighting beacon in a pool of darkness. Rather on purpose I guess. It somehow fits.
I perished when I realised that Gideon the Ninth is a cool book that mixes Fantasy and Science Fiction REALLY FREAKING WELL – it opens in catacombs and it throws magic necromancers at you, then all of a sudden there are space shuttles that take the leaders of Eight Houses who serve the emperor along with their Cavaliers (their champions) to engage in a competition to become immortal. Gideon is trapped into being the Cavalier for the Ninth House, to travel alongside Harrowhark, the heir to the Ninth House and Gideon’s sworn enemy. THERE ARE NO RULES to this competition – and each pair need to find the answers and become as close as possible in their partnership Before it is Too Late. Too late for what you ask? Noone really knows and this is when people start dying, and then that’s when…
I truly and completely croaked. Because on top of everything this book is a murder mystery that takes place on a gigantic manor house slash super-developed yet decaying research facility on a planet far, far away. There is also the fact that Gideon is an orphan and you know that when you have an orphan with a mysterious past stuck in a mysterious order that keeps secrets for an immortal emperor, that SHENANIGANS WILL INEVITABLY ENSUE.
I expired when the book presented me with unexpected heroes, who unexpectedly rose to do unexpectedly heroic things. Gideon among them but not the only one. There is a lot of heroic sacrifice in these pages and it took me by surprise how much I ended up caring for so many characters. There is an unassuming depth to this story that hides behind its COOL/FUN high-concept (Lesbian Necromancers in Space!) that simply crawls its way from the darkness and then all of a sudden THERE ARE TEARS and DID THAT JUST HAPPEN x 10 multiplied by one thousand when the ending comes.
There was some sort of la petite mort too when oh my god, a romance bloomed, a romance that was deep seated in trauma, in unspoken secrets and in the slow melting of icicles inside the hearts and souls of two individuals and their impossible wants.
I died at the end not because of how it ends (OH MY GOD) but also because it ended. This is the type of book I would happily, comfortably, hungrily keep on reading and reading and reading and …
Waiting. Oh, gods, I will be waiting patiently for the sequel.
Rating: 10 BLOODY OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR