Title: Harrow the Ninth
Series: The Locked Tomb #2
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: August 4th, 2020 (Tor.com)
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?
Thank you to the publisher, Tor.com, and Edelweiss for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“You’re not waiting for her resurrection;
you’ve made yourself her mausoleum.”
After the chaos that was the end of Gideon the Ninth, Harrow is now a Lyctor in the service of the God Emperor, fighting what seems to be a war on multiple fronts. On one hand, there are a group of rebels who are anti-necromancy, determined to take down the Emperor and on the other, a set of dangerous creatures known as Resurrection Beasts that are actually the ghosts of dead planets seeking revenge against the Emperor and his Lyctors for stealing their thanergy. Under the guidance of the other three Lyctors, she and Ianthe train in the Mithraeum, the Emperor’s space station, in order to prepare for the battle against one of these beasts that has found their location. But settling into Lyctorhood is not easy for Harrow – her ascension has gone hugely wrong, she can’t even trust her own mind, oh and one of her new teachers is actively trying to kill her for some reason.
I know this review is really late in the day compared to my normal posting time, but I finished this book yesterday night and really needed the time to process it – honestly I’m still not sure I’ve completely understood everything that happened, so bear with me here.
The first few chapters of Harrow the Ninth seem to completely erase the events of the previous book and boy is it confusing. There are two timelines of a sort – one where Harrow is poorly adjusting to Lyctorhood, and the other follows the events back at Canaan House during the trials. Only for some reason, Harrow’s recollection of the events that occurred at Canaan House are very different from what we know from Gideon. Needless to say, she’s a rather unreliable narrator throughout. But I did love Harrow’s character arc, and learning about her past, not to mention finding out what exactly the fuss about that Tomb is. It’s only towards the end that it somewhat started to come together that this entire rigmarole was contrived to explain Gideon’s backstory. The world building is a huge step up from the previous book, and the background and history of the world make much more sense.
Unfortunately, that about all that makes sense. I know generally speaking, the ratings for this are very good so far, and while I did enjoy the last quarter of the book when things started to finally fall into place, the rest of it is what brings my rating down as I was more than a little irritated by it and I’m not sure that the confusion was entirely worth the reveals at the end. By the way, Harrow the Ninth has to be the first book that actually managed to put me to sleep just out of sheer frustration that nothing seemed to be happening, much less making sense for the majority of the book. The only reason I even kept going with this book was because I saw a similar pattern in Gideon the Ninth, though not as bad of one, and knew that the story was bound to pick up eventually. Turns out, eventually is pretty late into the book. I’ve been sitting on this ARC for nearly six months now to see what the first impressions were since I had my reservations after Gideon, and the earlier reviews I saw were right. The last 25% of the book is when things get interesting – the trouble for me was struggling through the first 75%. The second person chapters were very disconcerting and hard to follow, and things were already confusing enough, so I really hope this doesn’t continue in Alecto. The pacing doesn’t really help either, nor does the non-linear narration.
As for the ending, well, that was certainly not what I was expecting, but I’ve come to expect that this series is bound to surprise with a twist – or several, very convoluted, twists – at the last minute. All I can say is, the best way to go into this book is with no expectation of comprehending anything – just let yourself be surprised as this complex, layered plot unfolds. Personally, I am seriously reconsidering whether to read the finale Alecto the Ninth next year at all, but I probably will end up skimming it at the very least if only to know what is in store for these characters. Overall, Harrow the Ninth was not one of my better reads so far this year, but it was nice to return to this complicated world (which now makes a little more sense than it previously did) and follow these characters once again.
“One flesh, one end.”
Harrow the Ninth releases on August 4th, 2020.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series:
Book 1: Gideon the Ninth