“Anyone can learn to fight. Hardly anyone learns to think.” – Tamsyn Muir
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Published by Tor.com
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Indiana and Pete
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 arcane revenants. 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 be 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.Synopsis from Tor.com
Of course, some things are better left dead.
Indiana: This book was unlike anything I’ve read. From the setting to the characters, Muir did a fantastic job of creating a new-feeling fantasy world.
Pete: It was absolutely bizarre and macabre the whole way through. I remember seeing the cover and thinking it looked a little ridiculous, but 30 pages in, I was convinced that Gideon was the skeleton-hacking, Aviators-wearing cavalier on the cover.
Indiana: Absolutely. It’s pretty easy to imagine this adapted to film, whether that means a series or a movie. Beyond the intense setting and characters, it had an interesting story arc as well. It starts out and you think it’s going to be an action-packed political fantasy but then it turns into more of a classic mystery in the middle.
Pete: Yes, I think my only major complaint is the setup. It’s pretty unclear what the story is going to be, and it shifts from political intrigue to Hunger-Games-type competition to murder mystery. I found it slightly jarring, but once the mystery gets going, I had a ton of fun. While I loved the colorful (read: clothed entirely in black) cast of characters, Gideon and Harrow’s relationship was my favorite aspect. They’re such good foils for one another.
Indiana: They’re great. Their development really surprised me (though looking back I’m not sure why). My only issue was that I didn’t feel like I had a good understanding of the way the “magic” worked. So when they were making new discoveries I didn’t necessarily feel as excited as the characters did.
Pete: I agree—it’s the sort of book where you have to accept that “magic is magic” sometimes, rather than understanding the possibilities and consequences. This made the mystery pretty hard to parse at times, but I enjoyed the setting and characters enough that it didn’t matter for me.
Indiana: Right. Once I got past that and just went with it, I really enjoyed the story and plan to read the sequel (and probably the following book in the series!).