F*ck When you're so emotionally wrecked by the first book and yet are totally ready for the second one to kill you even further OMG!! NUFF SAID!! Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to the sensational, USA Today bestselling novel Gideon the Ninth, turns a galaxy inside out as one necromancer struggles to survive the wreckage of herself aboard the Emperor's haunted space station“Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! Decadent nobles vie to serve the deathless emperor! Skeletons!” —Charles Stross on Gideon the Ninth“Unlike anything I've ever read” —VE Schwab on Gideon the Ninth “Deft, tense and atmospheric, compellingly immersive and wildly original” —The New York Times on Gideon the NinthShe answered the Emperor's callShe arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friendIn victory, her world has turned to ashAfter rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mindtwisting 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 shouldersHarrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war Sidebyside 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?THE LOCKED TOMB TRILOGYBOOK : Gideon the NinthBOOK : Harrow the NinthBOOK : Alecto the Ninth To sum up: it’s a lovely migraine of a book “I was not following all of this, because necromantic theory is a lot of hot bullshit even when I'm not busy having Complex Emotions.” If you thought Gideon the Ninth was a bit bonkers, do I have a surprise for you Enter Harrow the Ninth that makes “Gideon” seem like the easiest and most straightforward story there ever was “Harrow” is so deliberately confusing, frustrating and overthetop that I had to reach into my brain and forcibly shut off the part of it that’s responsible for logically trying to figure out what’s going on, instead just going along with a weird slightly insane ride where, like in a haunted funhouse madhouse nothing is what is seems and what it should be I usually hate books that force me to do that But with Harrow the Ninth it was ultimately worth it “I could protect you, if you’d only ask me to,” said Ianthe the First A tepid trickle of sweat ran down your ribs “I would rather have my tendons peeled from my body, one by one, and flossed to shreds over my broken bones,” you said “I would rather be flayed alive and wrapped in salt I would rather have my own digestive acid dripped into my eyes.” “So what I’m hearing is … maybe,” said Ianthe Our weirdo fanatical necromancer Harrowhark Nonagesimus (strange and creepy even by the murky standards of spacefaring necromancer society built on skeleton labor and bone magic and swordplay) has supposedly ascended to the coveted Lyctorhood at the terrible cost of a sacrifice of the only (living) person she ever cared for, becoming the superpowered magical knight to the Necrolord Prime, the Undying Emperor for the last 10,000 years Or so it should have been In fact, everything seems terribly and confusingly wrong The powers are not what they are supposed to be, the memories are not what we know happened, the madness and insane confusion rule, and God seems to go by the name of John Oh, also there’s a dead body ghost haunting you and a corpse that refuses to stay dead And half of it is in secondperson narration And it refuses to make sense for two thirds of the story Oh, and the time jumps, lets not forget that And what I can only call reality jumps as well, in addition to time jumps Everything is just so *wrong* And Harrowhark Nonagesimus seems to really be losing it “But Harrowhark—Harrow, who was two hundred dead children; Harrow, who loved something that had not been alive for ten thousand years—Harrowhark Nonagesimus had always so badly wanted to live She had cost too much to die.” Tamsyn Muir could have stuck with the snappy juvenileish snark that was both the best and the worst bit of Gideon the Ninth, the one that made me both entertained and a bit tired from all the eyerolling It would have been fun and familiar But instead she throws us into the confused jumble of Harrow’s possibly insane and very much haunted mind without a lifeboat It’s sink or swim narration, so grab the nearest piece of flotsam and stay adrift “In the real world, I have been fatally stabbed The place that holds my body is about to be overrun by thanergetic monsters created by a galactic revenant I am, put bluntly, on the verge of death My soul is under siege, and I overwrote my real memories with a ghostfilled pocket dimension, which has now apparently been coopted by some kind of poltergeist From what I can tell I am stuck in here I cannot get out And I am about to die—I may even be dead already—which will render this all somewhat moot.” Under all the craziness this is a book about loss and grief It may be hidden and masked and avoided, but it’s constantly there, just underneath the surface, sharp and relentless Harrow is grieving, even if she refuses to understand it And she feels tremendous guilt And let’s not forget the haunted bit either She’s struggling to survive — all while around her the entire world is in danger, and dead planet revenants are threatening the fabric of existence, and the spaceship/boneyard can only protect them for so long, and while the whole Lyctorship has gone terribly wrong, and each chapter counts down to the Emperor’s murder.And necromancers still have to make soup That’s not a joke.The clues to what is going on are scattered everywhere You know those are all clues but putting them together is hard, and for the two thirds of the story you’d do better if you just collect them in your mind and let them sit there and wait until Muir comes to the part where answers start It’s frustrating but also fun Some of them are easy, some seem to come out of the left field, but they are all rewarding There’s a cringeworthy immortal heretical threesome that made me (and Harrow) flee in terrified embarrassment There are planetary homicides There are poignant ruminations on very messed up childhoods full of cruelty and neglect There are objectively terrible popculture jokes — and I am certain that Muir makes them glaringly obviously bad on purpose, as a selfaware mockery in this case There are loving and horrifying descriptions of bones and viscera that would fascinate anatomists and graverobbers alike Those who are dead make appearances (since when has death stopped anyone in a society of necromancers???) and some of those make me squeal with happiness, and you really should brush up on Gideon the Ninth plot prior to starting this book because otherwise it won’t be nearly as much fun Do not fucking ask me for information I could not belost right now Tamsyn Muir has created characters that are both immensely unlikable ((view spoiler)[except Gideon, (but not Gideon “Prime“) Gideon is awesome and I love her dearly, the ball of redhaired juvenile snark she is (hide spoiler)] “Why did you ascend to be a Lyctor?”“Ultimate power And posters of my face.” Most writers try to chase trends They rely on formulaic plots, popular tropes, and safe narrative choices, hoping to give the public exactly what they want.Tamsyn Muir is not one of those writers.It’s difficult to explain what makes Harrow the Ninth so extraordinary If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I’d say that this book made me reconsider how stories work It challenged me to a point where I seriously questioned my own sanity If Gideon the Ninth was, as I often hear it described, a crazy book, its sequel dials the craziness up to a hundred; and what is most infuriating about it is that, somehow, it works It shouldn’t! It should fail spectacularly, going down like a shuttle falling into deep space (ahem) And yet, reading this book was akin to looking at a cubist painting for the first time: utterly confusing, in equal parts puzzling and fascinating The most notable difference being that while a portrait by Picasso may certainly impress you, but will hardly make you laugh, Harrow the Ninth is also genuinely funny and moving Muir’s writing is simultaneously full of heart and incredibly selfaware, as if the author was poking fun at her own characters and terrible puns.This book has all the wrong ships done right, and all the right tropes done wrong; it’s raw, unflinching, and insanely creative It takes everything you thought you knew after reading Gideon and turns it upside down, leaving you scratching you head and scrambling for clues.It’s a Christopher Nolan movie – possibly Memento, or maybe Inception tossed into a pool of lame Millennial humor and sprinkled with rainbow confetti; a love letter to fanfiction, 2000s pop culture, and romance novels, written with the lyricism of a biblical psalm.It's also a book that is very frank about mental health, and the many ways trauma affects the way we perceive the world I applaud how Muir portrayed Harrow's mental illness (which is based on the author's own condition), making it an integral part of the plot and delving deep into the consequences of grief and child abuse.Harrow the Ninth is a science fantasy masterpiece, and my favorite book of 2020.Now all I have to do is lay down in the Locked Tomb and hibernate until Alecto is released. So glad one of the greatest writers of our time is a memelord. The mindbending adventures of the necromancers continue! Full review, first posted on www.FantasyLiterature.com (along with 3 others from my coreviewers there!):Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to the Nebula and Hugo Awardnominated fantasy Gideon the Ninth, is incredibly ambitious, decidedly wordy, and highly confusing for about threequarters of the book, at which point Tamsyn Muir (finally!) begins to gradually pull back the curtains.Harrowhark, the heir of the declining Ninth House, a talented necromancer, and Gideon’s frenemy, has left the planet of Canaan House in the company of the Emperor (aka “God”) and his few remaining elite necromancer warriors called Lyctors, including Ianthe from Gideon the Ninth As they travel toward an impossibletowin war with a Resurrection Beast and its hordes of giant insectoid soldiers called Heralds, Harrow navigates a complex web of conspiracies and not knowing for certain who is on her side and who wants her dead.On top of that, Harrow is struggling with a slowerthanusual process of attaining her full powers as a Lyctor, along with a mental illness that seems to be warping her view of reality The first clue that all is not as it seems: As Harrow recalls the events at Canaan House, she remembers her cavalier as being not Gideon, but her original Ninth House cavalier Ortus … who reportedly had died in a spaceship bombing many months ago In what may not be entirely a coincidence, one of the Lyctors who makes a regular play at assassinating Harrow — though it’s possible he’s just trying to put her out of her misery — is also named Ortus.Most of Harrow the Ninth alternates chapters between Harrow’s travels and interactions with the GodEmperor and other Lyctors, which are told in second person POV (for what is actually a very good reason, made clear much later in the book), and a peculiar retelling, told in third person, of Harrow’s experiences at Canaan House, … peculiar because these past events play out so differently in this retelling What is reality? (And, just to make mattersinteresting, there are several chapters told in first person POV at the end.)It’s been about five months since I read Gideon the Ninth, and if I had known when I started Harrow what I know now, I would’ve stolen Gideon back from one of my kids and at least reread the last 50 or so pages and refamiliarized myself with the characters, including the ones I thought were dead and gone (see above re: altered retelling of events at Canaan House).Harrow the Ninth is both fascinating and frustrating, and it often made my brain hurt Most of it was a difficult and opaque read because Muir is deliberately hiding the ball on so much from the reader for so long, and I’m a reader who thrives on understanding the overall context and scheme of a novel Some mystery is good, but I felt that the confusing section (which is about the first 350 pages) should have been trimmed down by about a hundred pages.On the positive side, Muir is unquestionably a talented author with a gift for words, and her prose was often a joy to read even when it wasn’t at all clear what was going on.Then everything changed, forever Harrowhark fell in love.“Falling” was not the right term, precisely It was a long process Shecorrectly climbed down into love, picked its locks, opened its gates, and breached its inner chamber.I also still love the interplay between fantasy and SF in these books, where necromantic magic takes places in a rather decrepit science fictional setting The last 150 pages were excellent and truly enjoyable: they’re actionpacked and,importantly, some of the key questions raised in this series are finally answered (though, fair warning, Muir replaces those with several new questions) And clearly both of these first two LOCKED TOMB books would benefit from a reread Time permitting, I’ll do that before I tackle the upcoming third book, Alecto the Ninth.If you loved Gideon the Ninth I’d definitely recommend Harrow the Ninth, despite its challenges; if you weren’t a big fan of the first book, I’d probably give this one a pass Thanks so much to Tor for the ARC! I'm pleased to say that this sequel to Gideon the Ninth not only answers a few questions, but breaks the mold established by the first and plows through the fields of the dead to create (or destroy) all of creation.I mean, what else can you expect when you're dealing not only with necromantic gods in a supremely hitech posthumanity universe? Them to make soup?Oh, wait yeah.Honestly, I was slightly bemused and slightly weirded out by the kind of pacing and style in the first part of the novel, and it didn't have anything to do with the 2nd person storytelling It even felt like a mystery novel, or rather, a gothic mansion mystery including ghosts,than a fullout preparation for a battle against hungry resurrection monsters and surviving a river of mad souls.And even in my strange feelings, Muir pulls through and turns the tale into something ELSE entirely.And I'm happy to say she also goes ahead and fulfills all my other expectations Big payoffs I'm quite happy :)Of course, now WHERE THE HELL IS MY NEXT BOOK? (Pretty please?) No one does it quite like Muir.I could protect you, if you'd only ask me to.I would rather have my tendons peeled from my body, one by one, and flossed to shreds over my broken bones I would rather be flayed alive and wrapped in salt I would rather have my own digestive acid dripped into my eyes.So what I'm hearing is. maybe.And by that I mean no one confuses me so utterly, for so long, in such devastating ways, only to give me exactly what I want, and then completely messes with my mind, all over again, by the final pages of the book.What the fuck is going on? – what a moodLike, what, even is that? Huh? Seriously? How dare.You're certain that [spoiler] tried to kill Harrow?Yeah.But that doesn't– why would she–?Do not fucking ask me for information I could not belost right now.In a scarily similar recreation of my reading experience with GIDEON THE NINTH, this book took me forever to get through because of slumps, work, life, the world, etc Also because this book is over five hundred pages of who even fucking knows Truly, I had no idea what was happening because while I understood the words I was reading, and there were familiar characters and faces, even some familiarish events. nothing made sense I was confounded, confused, and having a crazy good time anyway This author has skills, I tell you No one else could put me through this nonsense and have me asking for .Stay here.Get fucked I absolutely did not become the eighth saint to serve the King Undying so [spoiler] could play hero for me.Why did you ascend to be Lyctor?Ultimate power — and posters of my face.All I can say is : don't go in expecting to understand anything Possibly ever Because what little I thought I had eventually grasped by the end of book one, was just, poof, gone, by the start of this And then what I thought I had pieced back together just before this concluded? Obliterated Elle oh elle.She wants the D [..] The D stands for dead.But speaking of that, I laughed, oh how I laughed Some parts were so outrageous I couldn't believe it It was weird, it was whacky, it was wonderful I wantBecause here we are again where I have been devastated with how this second book has concluded and I. what. but. I..I was not following all of this, because necromantic theory is a lot of hot bullshit even when I'm not busy having Complex Emotions.Yeah, I need book three, like, yesterday.4.5 stars** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review **This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.WHO DO I HAVE TO BONE TO GET THIS(is it bad that I laughed at my own bone joke wait don't answer this question) After the wonderful GIDEON THE NINTH, Muir could have stayed with what worked a snarky protagonist with a contemporary sensibility that while incredibly emotionally moving was also just a lot of fun but she did not play it safe In fact, she took safe and punted it out of the stadium and instead gave us this daring and challenging beauty of a book instead HARROW THE NINTH is not always an easy read The first half or so is in second person and is confusing and nonlinear and I often felt a bit confused and nonlinear myself but I trusted Muir to see me through, to have a method to her madness and to bring me home, and wow did she ever The patient reader will be rewarded tenfold with brilliant original characters and magic, heartbreaking intimacy, laugh out loud humor and the best damn soup in all the Nine Houses Muir is just so very good I wait with baited breath and sword in hand for the next book in this series and pretty much anything else this author writes.