Curse whoever told me to read that book, though to be honest it’s probably everyone and no-one in particular. Listen, I’ve been hearing about this one for years! And it looks pretty cool too! And I’m well aware I’m late to the party (though happy that I can jump onto the next book now instead of waiting) but I’m… I… well, let me just write a proper review to put my thoughts in order!
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
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 genuinely did not know whether to give this a 4 or a 5 so I split it in half.
Look, I’ve gotta come clean, I was daunted by this book. It looked so good! Everyone was so happy with it! I was just afraid to be disappointed, I think. I wasn’t, though!
I picked up the audiobook and let me just say, the narrator, Moira Quirk, is amazing. I mean, I laughed out loud quite a few times, and that’s mostly due to the deadpan tone she gave Gideon. I think it went a long way to make the humour land, and really carry across Gideon’s character. The one drawback of the audiobook is that it’s harder to flip back through to make sure you didn’t miss an important detail, and there’s a very big cast so I felt like a paper copy would have come in handy.
Because this book looks at first glance like a lot of brooding from Gideon and not much happening (I mean a lot happens but she does not seem to do much) but then when Feces Hits the Fan as one of the characters says, then there is a lot to keep track of, and I feel like I’ll need to go back through it with a fine tooth comb for those tiny details I missed the first time round. Because I Did Not See It Coming, alright. The plot is intricate work, and it’s really like reading a huis-clos, but in space, with necromancers and a main character who’s way, way too sassy for her own good.
It is, above all, pretty dark, and very funny. I couldn’t believe my ears when I recognised some semi obscure meme or other! And it’s also touching, in a lot of weird ways, especially as Gideon and Harrow start to tentatively get closer, or at least not hate each other so much. And as the reasons for their resentment become clearer. I genuinely did not think I could come to even like Harrow, but I did, probably about as much against my will as it was against Gideon’s too.
There’s loads to be said about the side characters, too, but there are so many of them… I’ll just say this: I really enjoyed reading about Palamedes and Camilla, and I hope we see more of that (well, of Camilla) in the future.
I feel like I oughta take points off for the ending, because I’m pissed at it and I’m not ok but at the same time it’s also just a sign of a writer’s job well done, isn’t it?
Get the book