Hello, I’m Sherry, and in this review of Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, it is the first time I’ve ever given any book by this author anything less than five stars. In reality, I’d give it 3 3/4 stars, but since I believe in rounding up and down, I will round it up to four.
The thing is, four stars is still really good and so was this book. In all honesty, the only reason I knocked it from five to four stars is because of how incredibly slow it was to really get into the story. Leigh is a master storyteller and I am certainly not turned off by dark tales, but the slow burn was almost too much at first. I would have finished this book much sooner if I hadn’t kept putting it down in lieu of doing other things. Under normal circumstances, her novels are one of the few things in life that can make me forget to stop and eat. You know, except for the times her books make me want to go cook food straight from the pages, like Six of Crows with its Hutspot.
Slow start aside (prologue not included, that was a fast-paced jolt that made me want more), after the first 100 or so pages I was finding myself more invested. I reached my tipping point by the middle of the book and then all I wanted was the answers to the three main mysteries of the dark magic story (spoiler-free):
1. Who really killed a town girl from New Haven on the Yale campus?
2. Where is Darlington?
3. What happened to the Bridegroom?
The answers were more than satisfying.
Ninth House revolves around a fictional secret society of Yale, created to monitor the use of magic by the Eight Houses. Lethe watches over the society rituals as they create magic portals, bind contracts, and learn the future during gruesome prognostications. Alex Stern is not Lethe material. She’s not even Yale material. But she’s deemed worthy of the position because Alex has always been a part of the darkness – she’s tried to hide from it but now she finds herself smack dab in the middle of it.
One of the things I loved about the story is that the eight houses are real. In reality, of course, they are not dealing in dark magic. As far as we know. But they do exist, not-so-secret societies that have actually spit out people in power that you know of today. And I enjoyed the magic that Leigh created in those societies. In particular, Manuscript was fascinating, if somewhat disconcerting. And remind me to stay clear of Skull and Bones.
I’ll be straight with you. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo will not be for everyone. It is dark. Leigh said it herself: It is clearly an adult story and not a YA Fantasy like her usual books – and she’s not kidding about that. There is sexual assault, rape, heavy drug use, overdosing, death, and violence. And a particularly vile, gross scene that was at once repulsive and also highly satisfying. I’m glad I didn’t eat often while reading this time around.
But if you aren’t opposed to the dark, if you can embrace a story about the terrible things humanity can do to itself in the name of magic and power, I highly recommend it. Just keep pushing past the points where you want to put the book down and walk away because it does get better, I promise.
As far as characters go – Alex is a fascinating person, one that I neither like nor dislike for much of the book, but root for anyway. I feel like she will continue to grow on me in the coming sequels. Darlington is incredible and I could read an entire book dedicated just to him. And when it all comes down to it, I would always want a Dawes by my side – weird and disgusting drink concoctions aside. Find a Dawes in your life and hold her close.
I am so excited for book two because there are several unanswered questions. And I need those answers.
(This review of Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo was originally posted in a slightly altered version on my Goodreads account, this one has been edited for some clarity.)