Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Alex Stern #1
Genre/s: Adult, Murder Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Thriller
The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I adore Leigh Bardugo with all my heart. So when she announced Ninth House her debut adult novel, I was beyond excited! I loved her YA works and I was excited and curious to just what she could bring to the table for her adult debut.
Following Ninth House‘s release, I’ve heard a lot of great things, some that are not-so-great (mostly about the slow pace), and some content warnings from others. I was excited and nervous at the same time. But now that I’ve read it, here’s what I can say:
Ninth House is a deliciously dark read—one that can make you feel weary one moment, then grab hold of your emotions and ensnare you the next.
Content warnings: Gore, blood, drug abuse, child rape, sex (or acts and things relating to sex), sexual assault/non-consensual acts of sex, murder (graphic descriptions of dead bodies and actual acts of murder). These are not to be taken lightly.
Excellent writing style
Loved Bardugo’s writing style here in Ninth House. The story is told in alternating timelines; one from the past (last fall) and the other from the present (winter to early spring). I absolutely loved how every chapter is entwined with the next one even if they’re told from different timelines. It’s haunting, it’s raw, it’s dark, but also a bit gloomy.
I also loved how the author was able to show people, as in real people and their real struggles. People trying to get by and survive every single day, people trying to forget about their horrific past, people doing something they shouldn’t because of enough motive or reward, mean people and the mean things they do to others, women trying to survive in a world dominated by men, and more.
The author treated her characters with such regard and she built them bit by bit with every backstory, every detail, every word and language they spoke, every thought, every logic and reasoning. The result was captivating characters you couldn’t just get enough of.
Alex, oh my dear namesake, is full of sorrow and fear and snark and such tenacity that can only be blamed on the years she spent trying to survive. I loved how I kept finding new details about her all throughout the book, like there’s always something that will surprise you just when you thought you already knew her.
Darlington is a pleasant character that had me yearning for more. In the book, he’s described as the “gentleman of Lethe” and that’s exactly what he is. He’s intelligent, talented, charming, full of passion, and I could even say righteous (because he is, I swear!). I’m excited to see what the next book has in store for his character.
Minor characters also made the story so intriguing including Dawes, Detective Turner, Dean Sandow, Professor Belbalm, and of course, the Bridegroom.
In a way, this book feels like a darker, bolder episode of Supernatural (you know, the one about two brothers fighting ghosts, ghouls, monsters, and witches, the show I’m particularly fond of, the show that’s already on its last season, but anyway, no one needs to know about my other woes). It’s a murder mystery entangled with the occult and all paranormal things.
It’s definitely slow-paced, and one might think it’s going nowhere or nothing’s happening, but as for me, I really like how the plot took some time to brew. I felt like there are so many details, so much stories to absorb. There are certain parts of the book when I thought “these don’t matter/these don’t seem like a big deal”, but I read on and they do. Whether it is something to add to the plot later or something to build the character.
The world-building in Ninth House is just so exquisite. The dark magic, the secret societies, the supernatural—all of it is just so alluring and atmospheric and I can’t help but fall in love with it.
Most of the chapters have these “excerpts” in the beginning, taken from diaries and manuals regarding the societies, their history, and their magic. I loved it so much and it definitely helped me as a reader paint a picture of these secret societies.
Of course, there’s also mythology and magic embedded in the story, and I’m excited for more in the next book!
Quotes from the book
“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”
“All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down.”
“I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.”
“Not every flower belongs in every garden.”
“And maybe he wanted her to be the kind of girl who dressed as Queen Mab, who loved words and had stars in her blood.”
Overall, definitely a great read for me! An excellent book to end my year and the decade! How about you guys, have you read Ninth House already? What did you think?