Author: Leigh Bardugo
(Before we start the review, here are some of the trigger warnings)
TW: occult, child rape, gore, victim blaming, eating human waste, bullying, sexual assault, blackmail via video of social act, religious beings.
This book is probably one of my favorite of the 2019, yet it is not one I would recommend to people (if that even makes sense). This book is an adult, dark academia book following Alex Stern as she tries to survive Yale and its eight major societies also known as the “Ancient Eight”.
This is a very complex plot where different stories are all happening at once. You have the major plot and then side-plots that all affect a small part of the story, building it up to the big climax at the end. I found the mystery aspect to be the most predictable of this entire book. It was fairly easy to know who was the guilty, but I really enjoyed how it build up to it. The magical aspect of this is definitely my favorite. I think that what this book lacked in world-building, it built in atmosphere. So, the magic was a lot more atmospheric than it was an actual world-building aspect.
My favorite part of this is that there are no black-and-white characters. All of them are grey and all of them are terrible. There is a lack of “good guys vs. bad guys” in Ninth House that I heavily appreciate. Because these characters are grey, it creates that conversation of someone being terrible with or without magic. Which I loved! I think that it didn’t create that superiority of magic where all who yield it are terrible and all who don’t aren’t. But instead, it created that duality where magic and mortality are both terrible. One doesn’t overpower the other.
As for one the rape scene can be easily avoided and not have any effect on someone’s knowledge of the book. This book has great conversation on various topics. I really love how it is blunt and honest, and how it doesn’t shy away from the brutality that make of these topics (rape, victim blaming, etc.) so difficult to read.
There is a lack of rules and explanation, the magic is really brought to the reader in pieces. When there is a need to understand the a plot point, the magic is explained. This really left me wanting to know more about the societies and how they all connect.
As for the romance… there isn’t one. Darlington’s storyline is not very prominent and you really only need to know about it due to it building up to the sequel. However, the lack of romance made the story more engaging because there was a lot more dedication to the plot.
In the end, I love Leigh Bardugo’s masterful writing style and I think she can easily made a used-up trope fun to read.
“People didn’t need magic to be terrible to each other.”