Her city is under siege.
The zombies are coming back.
And all Nona wants is a birthday party.
In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.
The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.
And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…
Nona the Ninth is tremendous—there’s maximum intrigue right from the start in true Muir fashion; in the form of, we don’t know who Nona is and neither does she, though there’s rubbish meals, cool t-shirts, a dog with six legs and a looming Ressurection Beast. It reeks of … something punk—cyberpunk?—punk something as we’re treated to a hopeful story of a person called Nona, and her minders Palamedes-and-Camilla, and the ten-thousand-year-old Pyrrha. Our favourite necromancers-in-space series stops off for a break in a desolate city, in the desert of a world besieged by blue light.
I’d like to just stop for a second and ask everyone to admire the cover—Tommy Arnold is a genius of art. When I first saw the reveal, obviously I was taken aback because this is no necromancer and where are the swords, and the animated skeletons? But it perfectly fits the tone of the novel. And now, I will try to put into words what I like about this novel, but it really is just a load of rambling about things I liked and trying to unpick a book that is far too complex for me to unpick. Mostly, I’ll tell you I LOVED this.
In true Muir, we find ourselves surrounded by water and drowning in plot and intrigue and we have to clamber through the pages and get deep into the book before there’s any semblance of understanding and order amongst the chaos and this is what makes the Locked Tomb great and what keeps me coming back. I read an interview where Muir said that she thought the readers knew enough about the series now for her to ‘blindfold the POV’ and we certainly do get that with this novel. Upfront, and coming from the last novel, there’s not a lot we’re familiar with. There’s an ’Oh hey … wait … why are you here?’ moment when you meet Palamedes-and-Camilla, and then stranger so when we see Pyrrha, though these questions were asked at the end of Harrow, it does not get any easier at the start of Nona. Though, the one thing I do like about this series—this book in particular—is that it requires the reader to pay attention and do a lot of the heavy lifting and the guessing and the noticing that is usually given to us as readers. For instance, there’s clues throughout the book regarding exactly who and what Nona is, and it seems obvious, then it doesn’t and you question it, but only if you’re paying attention. While this novel is a discovery of self—which is interspersed into a House and Blood of Eden stand-off where the Sixth are … somewhat indisposed and Palamedes cannot find them, and Nona becomes friends with some teens that are also a lot to do with BoE, and we’re wondering all the time why there’s so much of the … enemy? about—and also a question of what family is. Which is great, wholesome and there’s necromancy and guns and … other things that also keep us going. One of my favourites is the relationship between Nona—the Teacher’s Aide—and her group of kids (Hot Sauce et al.)
The very biblical—in the way it’s set amongst the other chapters and what actually happens—story of John Gaius, the Emperor Undying, is something I was so excited about; it’s safe to say, I did not think we were going to get the backstory of The Resurrection ever and certainly not from the POV of the man himself, so Muir delivered in a big way on this one!
The plot was jovial, unlike the setting. It isn’t grimdark, because there’s hope despite the planet being a crock-of-shit. Setting is something that always delights me in the Locked Tomb series, even if it is in the most despairing way. Muir’s imagination, paired with beautiful writing, takes us places, and ever-mixes subgenres into the melting pot. By that I mean in Gideon (book #1) we got locked room mystery in a gothic space mansion; in Harrow (book #2) we are aboard a spaceship hurtling through the stars as a Resurrection Beast follows—so some kind of cosmic horror mixed with an exploration of grief, and in Nona, it’s that perfect blend of hi-tech and low-living (eating mush, buildings are falling down, people dead in the streets, robbed in the streets, a terrorist cell lurking) that gives you cyberpunk on an over-crowded planet. But, it’s all okay, because we’ve been given Nona and she’s a joy to read and she’s so happy everyone is there. And … just read and find out who Nona is because you’ll love her and there’s a HUGE, fantastic, and intriguing mystery to unfold.
Dialogue. Dialogue. Dialogue. I believe it is always the sign of a master, such natural Dialogue where characters don’t always talk about plot points and you can’t tell who is speaking sometimes and it’s broken and great and this is exactly what you get here. I love the broken speech, I love the way Hot Sauce talks to every other one of the kids, and the nuance in the way Palamedes talks vs Camilla Hect. I mean, you’re never going to get me to say a bad word about one of these books because there’s simply not one to be had.
All-in-all, perhaps I did not make a lot of sense there, or very many points, but it has to be said this book is more than worth your time. If, somehow, you haven’t read the Locked Tomb at all … well, I implore you to do so!