Gideon the Ninth is one of the most chaotic books I’ve ever read. It’s completely non-stop, jumping from action scene to action scene until you’re left spinning around in confusion yet still too enthralled to look away. I read this in one sitting, occasionally stopping to grin at one of Gideon’s wittier lines. If you love fun, action packed fantasy you should love this – and if, like me, you’re usually more of a fan of character-driven beautifully written fantasy, it’s so cleverly constructed you should appreciate it equally as much.
Gideon Nav has had enough – of her life, her planet, and especially her boss, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, necromancer supreme and heiress apparent of the Ninth House. All she has to look forward to is an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She’s all set to stage a daring escape – successful, this time, after more than eighty attempts – when her plot is foiled by Harrowhark’s summons to take part in an inter-House competition. Win, and Gideon finally gets her freedom – lose, and she’s dead.
Gideon is a brilliant character. She has an impeccable sense of humour, always ready with a witty comeback – and truly, the comebacks and insults in this are so creative I want to use them everyday. Muir has an incredible imagination. Gideon is also dedicated, fierce, and such a firecracker that her personality shines through every page. A book about a character like her can’t be anything other than chaotic – but it’s the brilliant sort of chaos it’s fun to be part of. Gideon’s evolving relationship with Harrow is a spectacular highlight and it’s delightful reading about it.
Harrow makes the perfect counterpart. She’s controlled, disciplined, and always tries to stay three steps ahead of the game. Her and Gideon clash at every opportunity, and watching them have to pretend to be civil and try to trust each other is both hilarious and amazing. Harrow is also a necromancer, and the intricacies of necromancy are fascinating – it says something about how good a character Gideon is to overshadow it. Harrow provides an element of calm in the chaos – ironic considering how she’s further developed in the sequel, Harrow the Ninth.
The other characters are equally brilliant. Two of my favourites are definitely Palamedes and Camilla of the Sixth House. Palamedes is the consummate nerd, making a careful study of every aspect of the competition and letting others handle the heavy lifting. Camilla, on the other hand, is just as much of a badass as Gideon, but quieter about it. Where Gideon is brash and cocky, Camilla is introverted, lulling everyone into a false sense of security before she pounces. Dulcinea, of the Seventh House, is also intriguing – I don’t want to give too much away about her, but the relationship between her, Gideon, Palamedes, and Harrow is spectacularly written, if exceptionally frustrating.
The plot is non-stop, with action scene after action scene and constant quips and humour. The pace suits Gideon, who isn’t a character you can imagine ever sitting still. The necromancy element is brilliantly constructed, with exceptional worldbuilding. The premise of a game sounds unoriginal, but in practice this is unlike any other book I’ve ever written – the game is ever-present, but it’s the characters and their dynamics that steal the show.
Overall, this is a fabulous book that I’d highly recommend. Will you find it confusing? Yes. Is it still a great book? Double yes – and it’s so much fun. Try not to think about it too much, just go with the flow and let Gideon entertain you.
My review of the sequel, Harrow the Ninth, can be found here.
Published by Tor.com
Hardback: September 10th 2019
Paperback: July 14th 2020