This book is insane. Insanely good and also just plain insane. Here’s why…
Name: Nona The Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
You need to be mentally strong to get through this book.
Nona the Ninth is insane. Insanely good and also just plain insane. But you just accept it because this is the third book in an equally mad series. Remind yourself of the Locked Tomb in my reviews of Gideon the Ninth here and Harrow the Ninth here. Those two books sieved out who wouldn’t like this stuff, so if you’re reading Nona the Ninth, you’re invested in these characters.
And Muir is going to make you pay for that.
“We were children – playing in the reflections of stars in a pool of water. Thinking it was space.”– NONA THE NINTH
The premise of this book is that our two main characters have completely disappeared, leaving Nona – a brand new MC – who has an ambiguous connection to our previous characters. She’s being looked after by two and a half side characters from book 1, presumed dead. And they’re working with the Blood of Eden, the previous sworn enemy of Harrow and the Lyctors.
Oh, and the world is ending.
Tamsyn Muir is so good at ripping up the foundations of the story… then rebuilding something incredible from the debris. Nona the Ninth feels more like blowing up incredible world building for no reason.
Nona The Ninth is the Rogue One of the Locked Tomb Series. It’s like in Star Wars: this is an extra side mission that means we get from A to B. I can imagine Cam saying in an off hand comment wow wasn’t the Troad mission hard and then five years after the end of the series, Nona comes out. The Locked Tomb was meant to be a three book series – skipping straight to Alecto the Ninth – and sometimes it was hard to see why Muir added Nona. We get from A to B plot wise, but it could have been explained in the first chapters of Alecto.
“Life is too short and love is too long.”– NONA THE NINTH
Pyrrha says “I’ll keep loving you—my problem is I don’t know how to stop.” Honestly, that sums up my relationship with this series. The Locked Tomb is insane and horribly good, and doesn’t give back as much as it takes from you. But I love it.
There is so much in Nona about found family and love. In a game with no rules and a world that is ending, all they have left is love. The life Nona’s carved out with Camilla and Palamades and Pyrrha is heart warming, as is Nona’s childlike and sunny nature.
The writing style is simpler and more childlike to reflect Nona as the MC which I thought was interesting. There’s certainly a tonal shift in this book away from the big-stakes games of Lyctors and Necromancers… to actual games Nona and her (exceptionally named) friends play in the playground. I agree with other reviews I’ve read that it gives a much more human quality that we haven’t seen before.
“You’ve got two scientists and an engineer and a nun and a lawyer and a banker and a cop and an artist. That’s not a defence force, that’s a cop and six different kinds of nerd.”– NONA THE NINTH
The absolute redeeming factor of the book: God’s villain origin story. We learn in segments that John’s apotheosis was because of capitalism and climate change. It’s glorious. It’s eco sci-fi, anti capitalist scripture (almost literal scripture, cheekily titled like Bible chapters). It’s insanely good – I could read a three book series just on John’s story. INSANE. I was holding my breath when reading, waiting John; they collide our modern 21st century world with that of the necromancers in ways I’d never considered. Utterly flawless.
I also liked that Nona is very casually gender queer – but when we’ve got soul swapping and the universe is ending, no one really minds what your pronouns are. It’s subtle but there is some playing around with gender. Beautiful Ruby is a guy and the women are princes. It’s almost unnoticeable but adds to the futuristic setting – is this how it should be?
“Nona had kept giggling, and that got her told off because Harrowhark Nonagesimus didn’t giggle.”– NONA THE NINTH
Blood of Eden: it’s also very interesting to see the opposition to the Lyctors on their home turf. The apocalypse is well written and oddly human – we get descriptions of people picking up litter and stopping at traffic lights when the universe is ending. It furthers this idea of this book being the nitty gritty, quotidian one.
But while I enjoyed the suspense at the start, the not-knowing became tedious. We’re kept in the dark about SO MUCH; I was confused about everything. And that meant the story became quite disjointed. This may only be me, but I was left with so many questions – Is the next book going to be written in Medieval style? Is Noodle okay? What genuinely happened in the last 150 pages?
“You told me, Sleep, I’ll wake you in the morning.
I asked, What is morning? and you said,
When everyone who fucked with me is dead.”– NONA THE NINTH
To sum up, yes this book wasn’t was I was expecting. But yes, I will be continuing with the series without a second thought. The apocalypse is perfectly written as is everything about John’s story, but my confusion often ruined my motivation to actually read the book.
Muir is an incredible writer who draws you into her insane worlds and doesn’t let you leave. However, for me, it will take at least another reread to understand what just happened…
5 thoughts on “Lovable Insanity: ‘Nona The Ninth’ Book Review”
I disagree that Nona is any part of either Harrow or Gideon. She’s associated with Alecto and the earth.
I liked this novel as an addition–your comparison of it to Rogue One in the Star Wars universe is apt–because it seemed to me to add a human dimension to the squabbles of the gods and necromancer. It gives the series more heart.
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Ah okay thank you for clarifying about Nona. And I agree with what you say about adding a more human side! It was definitely a tonal shift from the previous books.
I disagree that Nona is part of either Harrow or Gideon. She’s associated with Alecto, and the earth.
Your comparison of this novel to Rogue One in the Star Wars universe is apt. I think it gives a human dimension to the squabbles of the gods and necromancer. It gives the series more heart.