Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
There’s been a lot of rave for this book, but I am not sure I will fully rave about it. I enjoyed it a lot and it kept me hooked and reading it, but the way it had been pitched and talked about meant I was expecting something else.
If you’re looking for lesbian necromancer in space, you won’t really find that here. This is NOT a space opera, there’s very little “space” part in it, which was what made me unhappy the most. I was expecting some crazy space opera with necromancers and most of the space talk is them moving from their planet to another, which takes a few pages and that is it. There aren’t really any more space themed things going on beyond the fact that tehy are on a planet (I mean, in most stories you read, the characters are in a planet or something of the kind).
We get most of the story from Gideon’s point of view, so if you don’t like much her prickly/snarky want to be a hero and not super focused but rather emotional way of being, you won’t like the way this is narrated (which seems to be one of the main issues I see others found not great). I liked the snark and sarcasm and prickliness of her and her interactions and shenanigans made me like her a bit or at least be fond of her antics.
The story is mostly about them trying to solve a big puzzle in an abandoned building to become the best necromancer for the emperor. But it isn’t easy and it comes at a cost, plus being a necromancer doesn’t mean you are immune to death (one wishes, right?). I enjoyed the way necromancy is divided by houses and abilities, where each house has a focus on how they use necromancy and what they use it for. I also liked the whole mystery how are we going to solve this, do we try to work on our own or team up? thing.
There’s a lot of competition and lots of backstabbing (figurative and literal) and a lot of fighting and crazy stints and I enjoyed this a lot. One of the downsides is that there are a lot of characters and at times I couldn’t really remember which house they belong to, who they had come in with and what abilities they had. Nor could I fully remember they had or hadn’t achieved to a certain point in the story because we get a lot fo the story from Gideon’s point so we miss a lot or only what she cares about (which is fine, but can make the story confusing and I only really cared for a few characters rather than the whole set).
All in all, it was a crazy fun necromancy read. Just don’t expect the whole crazy space part because it wasn’t that.