Gideon is an orphan who knows little of her past. She is a foul-mouthed, brash, impudent, sword-wielding servant of the Ninth House who dreams of a life outside of her small world. When the Emperor summons Gideon and Ninth House necromancer Harrowhark Nonagesimus to enter a contest that will determine who the next Lyctor will be, Harrow accepts and forces Gideon to come with as her Cavalier and protector.
To be Lyctor is to be immortal and powerful, and every one of the Nine Houses sends a representative, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and agendas. As the contest proceeds, each team’s physical, mental, and emotional skill is tested; but, when the stakes get higher, alliances form and secrets (and blood) get spilled, leaving some to question whether or not a Lyctorship is worth the trouble.
Despite their differences, Gideon and Harrowhark must work together to survive (and possibly win) the contest.
Gideon the Ninth has so many “wow” factors, that I almost do not know where to start. From the writing style to the setting, the characters, and the Necromancy and history… everything about this book was unique and special. This was a fun book and on my list of best reads this year.
One of my favorite aspects of Gideon the Ninth was the writing. Tamsyn Muir created this incredibly unique world, set in space, and completely unlike our own; yet, the author resisted the temptation to info dump, choosing instead to work the details into the dialogue and plot and letting it unfold at its own pace. As a reader, I find this enjoyable because I am not taken out of the story by having too much information thrown at me at one time.
The main conflict of the story (a contest to become a powerful and immortal Lyctor) is a great medium for plot devices. Putting the characters in a high-stress environment allows them to show off their powers and discover themselves and their partner, as well as their enemies’ strengths and weaknesses. Enemies become friends, friends become enemies, bonds are formed and torn apart, history is explained and secrets exposed (SO MANY SECRETS), the plot twists a few times, and there is even a slow-burning romance (though, I think this is overplayed in some descriptions I have read). The writing is so good, the author uses the plot (and plot devices) to keep every bit of the story interesting.
In my opinion, this book is extremely character-driven. There are easily 20+ characters to keep track of: at least 2 characters represent each of 8 planets, some send more, plus there are priests and administers of the contest. In most other books I would say this is too many for the reader to remember, but it works in Gideon the Ninth. Each character is so unique, plus the Necromancers have a numerical naming system that makes the Necromancers easier to track and their Cavaliers are always with them so that connection is easy for the reader to maintain. The growth (or regression) of each of these characters is what really put the story over the top for me.
I am going to be honest and say that through the first 25 pages of the book I was afraid I would dislike Gideon’s character by the end. She is kind of typical teenager: annoying, rebellious, always has a sarcastic retort. But, instead of wearing out her welcome, Gideon grows (and grows on you) throughout the story without compromising herself in the end. I found Gideon to be one of the most well-written characters of any book I read this year.
Oh, and did I mention skeletons?