Readers who have been impatiently waiting for a sequel to the phenomenal Gideon the Ninth will be thrilled to know that Tamsyn Muir’s Harrow the Ninth lives up to the promise of that first novel and more. Considering how good Gideon was and how Harrow raises the stakes, the last book in the trilogy will probably be so good that my head will explode. One quick note: if you haven’t read Gideon the Ninth, you will be very lost if you try to start the story with Harrow.
Harrow is a broken woman after the events of Gideon the Ninth, but isn’t quite sure why. She knows that something went wrong with the process of becoming a necromantic dynamo known as a Lyctor, but she believes that she can out-stubborn, outsmart, and out-magic anything that the universe throws at her. She’s not so confident about the state of her mind or about the rest of the Lyctors’ odds against ravening beasts that have been trying to destroy all living things since the beginning of time—beasts that she has only just learned about after waking up as a newly minted, albeit incomplete Lyctor. Oh, and someone is trying to kill her. It’s a lot for a woman with a messed up brain to deal with.
Even though I’ve read Gideon the Ninth and remember quite a lot of it (how could I forget a book about lesbian necromancers in space!?!), I thought I had missed something in the first chapters of Harrow the Ninth. The narrator—unnamed for most of the book—tells the story to “you” (Harrow), but the story didn’t match what I remembered. Harrow’s version of events, I slowly realized, was a mental fiction created out of her grief and guilt over the loss of Gideon at the end of the first book in the trilogy. While we deal with our unreliable narrator and main character, details about all kinds of plots start to emerge. This book demands a lot of attention to detail as there are no red herrings; every dropped comment or strange discovery is a clue to what’s really going on.
Just like when I finished reading Gideon the Ninth, I am now very annoyed and saddened that I have to wait until the last volume in the series is released to find out how all of this tangled plot turns out. I even took breaks during the last hundred pages of Harrow the Ninth to make it last a little bit longer. It was a very hard thing because those last chapters were an incredible ride with multiple layers of reality, inchoate monsters from the depths of gibbering space, betrayals, conspiracies, amazing sword fights, ghosts, and big questions about sacrifice and the greater good.
Muir’s novels are so imaginative that they leave me in awe at their creativity and psychological depth. Run, do not walk, to read this series.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.