Tag Archives: the locked tomb

ARC REVIEW: NONA THE NINTH BY TAMSYN MUIR

  • STAR RATING:  Four and a half stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 496 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 13th 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Tor.com
    WHAT SERIES? The Locked Tomb
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Gideon the Ninth
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Gore, body horror, death, child death
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The only thing that’s maybe sort of kind of similar, if you squint, would be The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, for the tone of the writing, but for more necromancy, check out The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Thank you to Netgalley and Tordotcom for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

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…

Woof.

I’d wax poetic some more about how hard The Locked Tomb series is to review, but I fear that you’re probably tired of hearing that. (Once you pick these books up, you’ll see what I mean. I PROMISE.) So, we continue onwards. I had the profound luck to be granted access to an e-ARC of Nona the Ninth — Thank you, Tor.com. I love you forever. I had absolutely no idea what or where we were headed in this book. Way back when, Muir had announced (between Harrow and Nona) that The Locked Tomb was moving from a trilogy to a four book series. No one knew why, but I figured she had her reasons and I trusted her (and still do) to do what she needed to do to make this series as phenomenal as possible.

In terms of the series as a whole, Nona the Ninth is a bit of a side-quest, if you will. The main plot is present in this book, but it’s told in backflashes, dreams, and hinted at in whispers and behind closed doors by side characters. I have to be so careful about what I say as I do not and absolutely refuse to spoil what happens in this book. Muir once again knocks it out of the park with Nona the Ninth. You’ll be confused, but you’ll like it. And you will love Nona herself. She is an enormous cinnamon roll of a sweetheart wrapped up in innocence itself. As for characters from past books — they’re still present here, but a lot of them are presented in new ways. That’s all I can say there.

Nona the Ninth is a lot easier to follow than Harrow, but it’s not simple. Nothing about The Locked Tomb is simple, and I hope it never will be. This is a series you dive into and swim around in for awhile. This is a series that you’ll look up theories for online, and hope that maybe you’ve figured it out. This is a series that you’ll maybe need notes for, or a wiki up on another tab. It’s complicated, delicious, and so satisfying. Yes, you’ll have even more questions at the end of Nona, but oh what questions they’ll be. And, don’t worry, you’ll get answers. So, so many answers for the questions asked in Harrow and Gideon.

The ending of Nona is like if there was a train carrying fireworks going super super fast, and then it crashed in this huge spectacular crash, and absolutely none of the fireworks went off. (You’ll be standing there, watching the burning wreck, wondering shouldn’t they go off? Should I intervene, maybe? Should I call someone?) The ending of Nona will leave you questioning everything. Muir is a genius. A master at her craft. An author that will probably forever be an auto-buy author for me.

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BOOK REVIEW: HARROW THE NINTH BY TAMSYN MUIR

  • STAR RATING:  Four and a half stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 510 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 4th 2020
  • PUBLISHER: Tor
    WHAT SERIES? The Locked Tomb
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Gideon the Ninth
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Gore, body horror, death, child death
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The only thing that’s maybe sort of kind of similar, if you squint, would be The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, for the tone of the writing, but for more necromancy, check out The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

SYNOPSIS

Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to Gideon the Ninth, turns a galaxy inside out as one necromancer struggles to survive the wreckage of herself aboard the Emperor’s haunted space station.

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

Whatever trouble I had in reviewing Gideon the Ninth actually sort of doubles now that I’m trying to review the sequel, Harrow the Ninth. Whatever simplicity the first book can claim goes completely out the window in this book. There is nothing simple about Harrow. Not a gosh darn thing.

This is, obviously, a review of my second time reading through this book. The first time I read Harrow the Ninth, I was so disappointed. I didn’t understand anything that was going on. Not a single iota. And then, I finished the book, and everything made sense. Every little thing was done for a reason, and Muir pulled off what seemed like the impossible. The second time you read Harrow the Ninth is so much more enjoyable. Muir drops little breadcrumbs along the way of the book for you to pick up and wonder at. You miss them (or at least I did) the first go around. The second time, though, your eyes are wide open.

So what is Harrow about?

The synopsis above does a pretty good job of a general description, but I’ll lay it out a tiny bit simpler for you. After the events at the end of Gideon the Ninth, Harrow has gone more than a little insane. She is also now the narrator of the book. If you are beginning to think that this might be why the book makes no sense — you would be right. But the reasons why, and the reasons how are so, so fascinating.

What else is fascinating is learning so much more about The Emperor and his lyctors and how they came to be. A lot of it is left vague in this particular book, but I can say the next book in the series does give us a lot more information about their beginnings. (I had the great privilege to receive an ARC of Nona the Ninth.) The Emperor himself borders on someone the characters can joke around with to straight up eldritch horror. He drops jokes all the time, but is so terrifyingly vast in power that it’s impossible to comprehend. (To make it even better for you — Muir has said that Taika Waititi is the Emperor in her head.) The three lyctors that we are audience to are also equally fascinating, but I do wish we had learned more about them. They are on page a lot, but not enough, in my opinion.

Despite being confusing as all get out, Harrow the Ninth is ultimately a weirdly funny book. Muir drops even more memes in this one, and sometimes you’ll read, pass one, and then go back and laugh out loud because YES, SHE DID REFERENCE THAT.

The world Muir has built in The Locked Tomb series is so vast and overwhelming in scope that I am endlessly fascinated. I want to know everything about everyone and every little thing inside it. I can only hope that the next and final book delivers on everything that she’s set up. I have high hopes — Muir has not let me down so far.

Add to your Goodreads, or order at at the following links:

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BOOK REVIEW: GIDEON THE NINTH BY TAMSYN MUIR

the book cover for Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
  • STAR RATING:  Five enormous stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 448 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 10th 2019
  • PUBLISHER: Tor
    WHAT SERIES? The Locked Tomb
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Gideon the Ninth
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, gore, suicide, child death, cancer
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The only thing that’s maybe sort of kind of similar, if you squint, would be The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, for the tone of the writing, but for more necromancy, check out The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

SYNOPSIS

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

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.

How do I review Gideon the Ninth without spoiling what Gideon the Ninth is? I’m sure almost all people involved in the world of books have heard of this one by now, but I’ve found that not a lot of people have any idea what the book is actually about. And it is…God, this is really hard to do, isn’t it? Well, Gideon the Ninth is an experience. Yes, it’s a book. A book about lesbian necromancers in space. (That always makes me giggle. It’s an over-simplification, but it’s a fantastic description.) Gideon the Ninth is — no, no, The Locked Tomb series, at it’s core, a phenomenal feat of plot. Of the two books that are currently published and available for reading, Gideon the Ninth is the more simple and easy to understand.

We’ll get to that in my review of Harrow the Ninth. I’m scaring you, I can sense it.

So what’s Gideon the Ninth about? Well, in this world there are Nine Houses ruled over by the Emperor. The Emperor has a problem — all his special soldiers — his lyctors — are dying. He needs to re-up his numbers, so he’s asked the Nine Houses to send their best to the mostly-made-of-ruins-and-abandoned First House for a competition to see who is worthy to join his ranks. (This plot is vaguely Hunger Games-y. There’s a competition between houses but there aren’t really any rules.) Each House is supposed to send one necromancer, and one cavalier.

But the Ninth House has a problem — they have a necromancer, Harrowhark, but no worthy cavalier. Instead, they have to settle for Gideon. Gideon is a foul-mouthed, trash goblin of a person and I love her with my whole entire heart. She spends the entire novel spewing sarcasm and memes and taking almost no situation seriously. Despite being 99% sarcasm, Gideon is fantastic with a sword and she knows it. The biggest problem though, is that Gideon and Harrowhark hate each other. It is so much fun watching them circle each other like sharks, and eventually figuring out one another.

There is a huge big question mark in the middle of this book — a huge something that the entire plot revolves around. The mystery is left until the very end and when you finally, finally get answers it’s like getting hit by a high-speed train. Muir writes the reveal phenomenally well, and you won’t be left feeling like you’re missing something.

This is a review of Gideon the Ninth after me reading it for the second time, and I can honestly say it’s still a five star read for me. But I will say that with this caveat — this is not a book for everyone. Gideon is a little obnoxious. There are actual literal internet memes referenced in the text. If you aren’t into these things, you’ll probably not like Gideon the Ninth, and that’s okay. But if you’re at all interested, give Gideon the Ninth a shot!

Add to your Goodreads, or order at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE