Genre: fantasy, sci-fi, queer characters
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?
Rating out of five: two stars
This might be the first book in a series where I missed a bit of repetition about the world-building and where the first book left off. Because it’s a complete shift in writing style and vibe of the plot. To the point where I was both googling and reaching out to friends about whether this book was worth continuing to read. And while they thought so, because «it would be explained eventually», I would rather have stopped when I look back. What interested me most about this book was why I didn’t like it, despite trying my best.
It has a second person POV for large parts of it. I started reading it on a kindle, switched to audiobook on advice from friends, but could not stand the character voices the voice actor made. (I’m sure they’re great, it’s just a personal preference.) So I finally read most of the book in physical format and at the end the narrative choices made sense. But that doesn’t mean it was worth it. Short format, either within a novel or on its own, you can experiment a lot with narrative styles. But because of the supposedly expansive sci-fi/fantasy world, with planets and gods, the plot gets kind of muddled with the narration. It’s both an unreliable narrator, a lot of characters, multiple plans the protagonist knows little about and basically an amnesia storyline (even if magically induced). When someone dies, it’s hard to care, in what is supposed to feel like a whole big mystery. It has such good ratings, but if a younger me read this book I would just go «I’m sure it’s great and I just don’t quite get it», when in reality this is a book with a great idea of how to tell a story, but a mostly bad execution.
Some parts here and there the writing really work, but then it loses focus again in the (un)balance of getting the reader information about both the expansive storyline and the character storyline so that they could be tied together. It’s the type of book that could need more than 500 pages to explain the world, but where 500 pages is way too long already for the exhaustive narrative styles. Mainly, I think it could’ve been fixed by having Harrow not be such a big protagonist as she was.
I’m kind of tempted trying the third book, Nona the Ninth, just because of the big switch from the first to second book and the small chance the next is something else again. But I definitely lost a lot of faith in the series.