Brutal. This book is gloriously, gorgeously brutal – it takes no prisoners, and your breath away.
Name: Gideon the Ninth (Locked Tomb Series: Book 1)
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
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.
I make a big deal on this site about evolving your writing style. About two years ago, I read and reviewed Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir; then with the third book in the Locked Tomb series released at the end of the month, I thought I’d reread it. My mind is like a sieve with fantasy book plots.
Surprisingly, my opinion of the book had changed so much! I found that two years ago, I misread characters, totally missed majors plot points and now emerge with the feeling of reading basically a different book. So, because my writing style has changed a lot from two years ago, because I feel it no longer represents my actual opinion and because it made me physically cringe to read, I’ve rewritten my original review of Gideon the Ninth – with far fewer bone jokes and dancing skeleton gifs.
The first (and only, if carnage is all it takes for you to go hell noooo) thing you need to know about Gideon the Ninth is that it’s gory. Gory in plot, undeniably, but this is heightened by gore in the writing style. Doors crunch, lightbulbs scream, floors crack; everything is broken or breaking, from the characters to the adjectives. It’s unnerving. It feeds subtly into the incredible, incredible world building – until you too feel the claustrophobic paranoia of necromancers on a distant planet as they’re picked off one by one by a vengeful energy form. Pretty sick, right?
It’s difficult for me to explain the Locked Tomb series eloquently, without deteriorating into just pushing the book into your hands and screaming Read it! Read it! (It’s one of those books.) But if you like intricate characters and people being stabbed in the back until their guts fall out? This book is for you. If you like flawless world building and arcane necromancy? This book is for you. And if you like authors that are slightly insane and plot twists that make you lose your mind (but in a good way) and lesbians vying for God’s affection by sword fighting on tables ? Then this book is certainly for you.
It’s the type of book with plot twists that get you so excited you want to share it with your friends, but just explaining why the twist is important would take hours and a colour coded character map and some yarn. And I love it.
“Her adept said: “I’ll keep it off you. Nav, show them what the Ninth House does.”
Gideon lifted her sword. The construct worked itself free of its last confines of masonry and rotten wood and heaved before them, flexing itself like a butterfly.
“We do bones, motherf*cker,” she said.”– GIDEON THE NINTH, TAMSYN MUIR
So, what were the big changes from when I first read Gideon the Ninth? One of the biggest differences was how I totally misread relationships. There are a lot of characters, with an unhelpful majority with very similar names, but consulting the character list every other page helped me greatly. This unlocked a whole new experience where I understood characters and their relationships instead of seeing everyone as an odd Palamedes/Pelleamena/Protesilaus mashup.
The worst relationship I think I misread was Gideon and Harrow’s – instead of being convinced they should be together, now I swear they’re just friends! There’s the ambiguous scene in the training room pool, but I think that was a transition from enemies to something less hostile. Sure, they’re both queer but that doesn’t mean they have to date, tut tut me-from-two-years-ago. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!
The other big change was my reaction to the swearing. Tamsyn Muir uses profanities sparingly, but does love a good sprinkle here and there. While this had kind of irritated me the first time through, I must admit, it felt pretty cool this time around. Not to be overused, but swear words in descriptions can create a very strong sense of person and place.
The last difference I found: that I’m older and arguably better at reading and that I actually understood the plot! I can’t lie, Gideon the Ninth does take effort to follow but it’s worth it. What you put in, you get out, right? So if you let yourself, you can become fully immersed in the splintering, dangerous world of Gideon the Ninth.
Then pick it back up two years later and find it’s even better!