Ninth House was a solid 3.5 star read.
I’ll skip the blurb because everybody and their mother is talking about it these days and if you haven’t heard of Alex Stern’s guts already… Well, she’s a girl and she has guts. My favorite quote from her,
They tried to kill me, Hellie. That means I get to try to kill them.
She’s very pragmatic that way. I liked her.
So let’s talk about what else I liked:
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book over 400 pages this quickly without an exam dangling over my head. I enjoyed the pace, the easy flow of the writing, the dialogue stood out for each character and the characters themselves stood out distinctly. It was refreshing to meet people in a book rather than cardboard cutouts. They all had unique voices and I didn’t have to keep checking to see who was talking or whose POV it might be and all that shebang. It felt like the real world- you know, the one where you don’t need a checklist to keep track of the people you’ve met.
Speaking of people, I liked Alex and Darlington, but, my favorite is Dawes. There’s something about unfriendly girls in oversized pullovers that really draws me in. Aside from that, Bardugo really managed to bring a rawness to their characters and backstories which translated really well into the way they interacted with each other. Her character-building arcs had me spellbound and bawling and considering a 5-star rating.
Sometimes it took Alex and Hellie hours, sometimes days, but they always came back. There was too much world. There were too many choices, and those only seemed to lead to more choices. That was the business of living, and neither of them had ever acquired the skill.pg 288
And as always, she did a great job with the world building. There was a lot of depth in her descriptions, almost to the point of tipping the cauldron at times. I enjoyed the little snippets of history thrown in as journal entries and of course, New Haven and Yale were as much characters in the story as any of the other articulate bipeds.
Now for the other side of the story!
Why was it so long? I know I said it was a quick read; but, by page 400, it was quick because I wanted it to be done. After one certain point (which seemed to barge in out of nowhere, if you know who I mean) the pace was all over the place. Along with the plot. I was very much reminded of the way I cook- a little bit of salt to taste, a dash of lemon to even out the salt, a little salt to balance the sour, a squeeze of lemon to even the salt and a lashing of garam masala… because why not!
And because I mentioned cooking, let me also introduce the concept of “The Dangling Carrot”:
It’s when you start the book off with an event that you describe with just enough lack of details to leave your readers salivating for the good stuff.
Now, it’s a fun device to use- in moderation. You can’t use it in two chapters in succession. Because, if you do so, I’ll want to prise your eyes out with the dullest of my butter knives. See, I’m also capable of turning your stomach. But, it’s not a pleasant sensation, is it? So, don’t do it to me either.
Now that I’ve got the technical gripes out of the way, I want to address some things in the story I didn’t really comprehend.
- 8 societies. All super powerful. Super loaded. Super populated. And overseen by 2 college students? Really? Why even? Just… Why?
- What’s the criteria for selection into these societies? Talent? Looks? Power? Old money?
- And this is somewhat personal, Dawes says none of the societies specialize in healing magic because healing magic is messy, it’s practiced by laypeople, strong prohibitions against immortality… I call bull. I mean it’s okay to do necromancy and twist free will and read stocks in unconsenting guts, but, immortality is where we draw the line? snort!
This book was basically a set up for what was to come next. In that order, a lot of information was thrown our way throughout the narrative, not even excluding the final Christie-esque reveal chapter. I usually don’t mind that sort of a evil-villian-tells-all ending (having been raised on Harry Potter and Agatha Christie), but it felt hammy. Because the murder wasn’t integral to the book. But, conflict had been introduced and conflict had to be resolved- so, it was rushed through in a couple of pages before returning to the actual story.
(Yes! That’s why it felt disconnected! I figured it out! Genius! Me!)
BOTTOMLINE: Despite all my griping, the moment I finished the book, I was already turning pages hoping for a glimpse into the next one in the series. Of course I’ll pick it up!
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape, Sexual assault (involving a minor/ on video/ using date rape drugs), Drug abuse