Y’all picked a fantastic book this month. I immediately dove in. If you enjoy mystery and magic, I highly recommend you move Ninth House to the top of your TBR pile.
Series: Alex Stern #1
Published by Flatiron Books on 2019-10-08
Length: 459 pages
Reviewing Hardcover from My Book Shelf
The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in her debut adult series. I love Bardugo’s other works so I had high expectations going in. I was not disappointed 😉 Ninth House delves deep into the world of Yale’s secret societies, creating a mystical world where magic is real and death is sometimes a consequence.
The book opens with Galaxy “Alex” Stern, a freshman at Yale and the Dante of Lethe house, a fictional society that acts as a protector and regulator for the other societies’ magic and rituals. As Dante, Alex is still learning the ropes, finding out that magic is real, the Grays (ghosts/spirits) are real, and learning how to manage it all. She had a rough past, one she hopes to leave behind her. Yet the past has a way of creeping up on you.
I like Alex. She’s an easy character to root for. You want to see her succeed. Alex is the average person who has been given an inside view of Yale and its secrets. Her street smarts serve her well in determining when things don’t add up. She’s quick to suss out the truth. When her Virgil (mentor at Lethe house and Yale senior) goes missing right in front of her, Alex will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of it.
Daniel Tabor Arlington III or Darlington, Alex’s Virgil, is known on campus as the Gentleman of Lethe. Despite being the same age as Alex, Darlington’s mannerisms and how he presents himself belongs to another generation. This is due to being raised mostly by his ailing grandfather. I really like Darlington, even when he is being pretentious. He acts as Alex’s conscience. She constantly questions herself and her role as the Lethe delegate by asking what would Darlington do.
The story plays out and is told in two different time periods, Alex’s present which is winter and Darlington’s present which is Late Fall. You know from the opening prologue that something terrible has happened to Darlington, but you don’t know what and you don’t know what role Alex played. This creates some fine irony my friends and builds suspense as more is revealed. I liked getting Darlington’s perspective of Alex when she first arrives at Yale, how he trains her and how he sees her because it is in opposition to how she sees herself. Alex’s point of view takes place after Darlington’s. We get a lot of “in hindsight” thinking from Alex as she relives what happened to him and what is currently happening on campus and within the societies. While Darlinton is missing, Alex is dealing with a murder on campus, a potential breach in the societies’ ethics. This mystery intertwines with Darlington’s disappearance, driving the plot and keeping me on the edge of my seat.
Overall, I really enjoyed Ninth House. It is well executed, if a bit longer than Bardugo’s YA works, which is to be expected since this is geared towards adults. I personally cannot wait for more books in this series. Starting Alex as a freshman means the potential for more books is endless which excites me 😉 I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys mystery, magic and fantasy.