I’ve started this post over and over but you know what? Here we are!!! Today I’m going to be talking about the book that completely caught me off guard: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.
Settle in with something cozy, folks
I remember hearing about this in passing sometime last year, thinking it was intriguing, and adding it to my goodreads tbr. All I’d really retained was that it was adult/new adult and that it was dark, and to be honest, that’s about all I needed. The only other LB book I’ve read is Six of Crows, and I know she’s quite a beloved author. I thought, why not?
Then BEA and BookCon rolled around, and everyone was rushing to get an ARC. I believe it was over the summer when the reviews and discourse rolled around — and boy were opinions mixed. Some people were saying it was incredible, some people were saying it was way too dark. There were discussions about the dark content present in the novel and backlash ensued over it, saying that it was done for shock value or asking why anybody would ever write a book that contained child abuse. In my opinion, it was blown way out of proportion. Leigh Bardugo handled these situations with care; it most definitely did not feel like it was written just for the sake of being written at all to me. There’s a lot to be said about the merits of dark content, but for now, I’ll just say that if you’d like to read this book, seek out a list of trigger warnings and proceed at your own risk.
Ninth House is about Galaxy Stern (Alex) who gets accepted to Yale on the condition that she join Lethe House, a group in charge of keeping Yale’s secret societies in check. Because these aren’t just any secret societies… they’re doing some powerful magic, and Alex may be in over her head.
While this is for fantasy lovers, it’s also for the broken and mended. Most of the dark content surrounds Alex and her past. She truly goes through some horrific things. What struck me the most was how Leigh not only allowed her to survive through it all, she let her thrive through it, too. Alex is angry and wants to watch the world burn, and Leigh helps by giving her a fucking flamethrower. It’s like that. While reading, I found myself literally cheering out loud for her, hoping for the best and waiting with bated breath at every turn.
The characters were super interesting. I wanted to learn more about all of them and peel back their layers to find out what makes them the way they are. I wanted to find out what pushed Alex’s boundaries, and I wanted to squish Darlington and make him uncomfortable with my unrefined personality (affectionately, of course!) He reminded me of a slightly older Gansey!
But maybe we should talk about where I disagree with other reviews. There were numerous complaints that the beginning was confusing and boring, and that it was overall hard to understand and get through. I’m not sure if it’s because I majored in English or because Leigh’s readers (myself included!) are used to YA’s writing style, but I didn’t feel that way at all. Sure, there were moments at the start where I thought “Wait, what’s happening?” But you know where else I felt that? Six of Crows. It wasn’t until maybe 150 pages or so that I got the hang of things, and I think the same can be said for Ninth House, probably even sooner. She throws you right in the middle of the world, and I think the best way to experience it is to just keep going. Stopping and re-reading, or reading too quickly and not taking anything in, or just continuously questioning small sections will almost positively ensure you’re left behind. This is how I was taught to read denser texts in school — don’t stop, just keep pushing!
I can’t say much as to whether it was boring or not at first; I personally didn’t think it was. Even though we were just getting to know the world, it was so much fun piecing things together and I was so intrigued to see where the story was going next.
Another reason reading this book was so great was because it was a buddy read! I read it with a group of people too numerous to name right now, so I’ll just call us by our group name, the Erection Party, or:
It was so much fun being able to discuss scenes with them. We shared theories and experiences, had heartfelt talks about what it meant to be a survivor and see it play out on the page, and made a lot of jokes. I’ve never buddy read anything “officially” before, and I think it really enhanced the reading experience for me!
Since I’m not really into fantasy, and Six of Crows took me so long to get into, I was expecting to feel pretty in-the-middle about this book. But to my surprise, it contains everything I love, like ghosts and darkness and things I can’t really say here because they’re spoiler-y. All I’ll say is: that ending? This is going in a direction that is so incredibly up my alley, I can’t even believe I have to wait until 2021 for it. I unexpectedly adored this book!!
If you’re looking for a dark read that’s perfect for autumn/wintertime, I’d say give this book a shot! It could surprise you the way it surprised me~
Have you read Ninth House? If you have, was it what you expected?
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