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Book Review: Gideon the Ninth

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“The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

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

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, first in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

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 be 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.”

Title: Gideon the Ninth

Series: The Locked Tomb #1

Author: Tamsyn Muir

Page Count: 496

Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Date Read: July 18th, 2023

The Locked Tomb has been on my radar for a couple of years now. I picked up a physical copy of Gideon the Ninth and it’s been sitting on my shelf since then. I added it to my TBR shelf earlier this year and it’s been staring at me to pick it up. It wasn’t until last month when a friend from one of the Discord servers I hang out in, mentioned wanting to read it that I decided to finally pencil this one in. We decided to buddy read it here in July.
 
I will admit that I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews and feelings on this book leading up to this read. I’d even venture to say I’ve heard more from the communities I frequent leaning toward the dislike of this book. Now perhaps that helped as it really set the bar low on the expectations going in. But I honestly enjoyed this one. I wouldn’t categorize it as a favorite, but I found it entertaining enough. I’ll touch on why here shortly.
 
I felt the pacing was done well. I never really felt like the story was dragging as the characters and plot were being introduced. There are quite a few characters to keep track of so I did make sure I had a list of characters handy for the first half or so. I also really enjoyed the humor in Gideon the Ninth which fit perfectly for another Moira Quirk narration.
 
The world building was unique. I did honestly think this was going to have a bit more of a space theme than it did from what others had mentioned. With that being said, the time we spend exploring the different areas for the trial was interesting to me. The magic and pairing of a caster (necromancer) and a warrior or soldier, thought not new, was cool with their capabilities. I’m not sure where the series goes from here if we get to explore more of the universe but there is certainly some potential there.
 
There character development was probably the strongest aspect in my opinion. We certainly see growth with several characters along the way, but I loved so many of the relationships and interactions in Gideon the Ninth. Whether those were good or bad relationships they were still very interesting.
 
This story had quite a few twists and turns in it. We have basically a murder mystery style story wrapped in a dark magical adventure. Even though I liked the ending overall it left me a few questions. I guess I’ll have to move onto book two eventually and see if some of these questions are answered.
 
I’d recommend this book to readers of dark fantasy probably more than science fiction. Yes those aspects are sprinkled in but it just felt more dark fantasy to me. As I mentioned above I also thought the dark humor helped me enjoy this one along with the audio narration from Moira Quirk. A friend or two recommended keeping the character list handy and I think that’s an excellent idea until you settle in to the story and it’s characters.

World Building 4/5
Pacing 4/5
Character Development 4.5/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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