Review: Ninth House

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. By age twenty, in fact, 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 elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Y’all… have I just lost the ability to purely enjoy a book? I don’t think so, I think I just have too high of hopes (muffled sobs).

So. To be completely honest: if my queen and goddess Leigh Bardugo had not written this book, I wouldn’t have made it past the 150-page mark. Just being totally blatant: my blind trust and admiration for her and her writing pushed me to the finish line, and I’m glad for it.

Ninth House is NOT a young adult book and contains some pretty dark themes and materials, which I knew getting into it. But, to be honest, it was so much less…Leigh than I was expecting. It was very heavy in narrative (most of which, to be honest, I glossed over, and still got the whole of the plot and world-building…), and very little dialogue (which is a favorite part of her writing).

The magic and the world was already established and understood by the characters, yet 60% of the book was spent explaining small parts of the system that, in the grand scheme of the book and plot just… didn’t matter. Yet, small important details were shoved in these massive Charles Dickens style paragraphs, and if you missed it, it was a scavenger hunt to go back and find.

My favorite character was Darlington who wasn’t even in the book, yet somehow he seemed to…carry the whole plot… IDK y’all. Alex I quite liked, however, the narrative style jumped between different points in her life so abruptly, that I never felt like I really got to know her. I saw many terrible, scarring moments in her, but I never got to learn how she pushed through, how she became the kick-butt awesome chick she is today. It was like she was there, and we were told why we should feel sorry for her…but not why we should care about what was happening to her then… If that makes sense.

This was a good book. But by Leigh Bardugo standards? Nah man. It felt like so much of her writing style and strength in storytelling was wasted for the long narrative that really, didn’t matter… or, if it did, I as a reader didn’t know why. If this book had been about 300 pages shorter, you still would’ve had the same impact on the actual plot.

The plot itself and the magic and world she was conveying was incredible, and everything I would expect from her. However, it was weighed down by so much telling (instead of showing) and so much character dialogue and development were cut out, that it really felt half baked from her.

To be totally frank, it was boring. Did it matter that this specific house at Yale had this very particular and detailed ritual that they did every twelve years that is very convoluted and has no relevance to the plot? No. Did I care? Not particularly. Was it described in fifteen ways? Yeah. Kinda sorta. It was that kind of unnecessary detail that really weighed down the plot at the core.

As I said, I am glad that I finished it because Leigh is incredible and I ADORED the story at the core of this novel. However, it really felt like (maybe because the editor wanted it to feel more “Adult” to really differentiate it for the rest of her audience…?) for whatever reason, the core of the novel and Leigh’s magic was lost by all the showing.

Is this worth a read? If you’re a fan of Leigh’s, maybe. It does have some very graphic materials concerning substance abuse, rape, and death, and it is not YA, so don’t expect this to be like her other stuff. However, it does (at its core) have a fascinating story to tell and a world to show us, so I will look forward to the next installment, and how that Leigh gets to shine a bit more brightly in it.

3 out of 5.


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