Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Publisher’s description

“To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics.  Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics.  Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake.  If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.  As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim. “


I attemped to read Yoon Ha Lee’s collection of short story Conservation of Shadows earlier this year and I did not finish it because, eventhough I really enjoyed her prose, her stories were a bit too complex for me and most of the time I was completely confused by them. However, I don’t like to « give up » on authors, especially when I like their ideas so, when I saw Ninefox Gambit on Netgalley I decided to give it a try.

And I am so glad I did.

Ninefox Gambit is military space opera/hard SF novel and I never read something quite like it. This book is about 380 pages but it as epic as a 800 pages tome, it’s full of extremely unique and fascinating concepts. True, at first, it’s completely overwhelming and even if I won’t call this book hard to read, at first, it is pretty challenging.

For example, a lot of concepts are introduced right at the beginning like « calendar » or « formation instincts » and it takes a while to understand exactly what they are referring to.

A calendar is basically a mathematical reality that needs people to think a certain way to alter laws of physics. Basically if peopple believe something hard enough, it is going to be true. A calendrical rot is a phenomenon caused by people (here herectics) that don’t have the same beliefs as you and can affect your reality because in their mind, the world works a different ways.

Formation instincts is a way for soldiers to recognize their leader thanks to bodylanguage but to have this « instinct » you are brainwashed which mean that, phisically, it’s impossible for you to disobey. And this made so scenes completely heartbreacking.


“War is all about taking the future away from people.”


This book is full of those things and at first, it’s hard to understand but after a while, when you get a grasp of the world, it’s fascinating !

Also, I really liked that everything is based on math, Cheris, our main character is a math genius and I found her incredible. Because, this book not only has an incredibly rich and complex world, the interactions between the characters really did it for me. They seemed so real and relatable. I was fascinated the way they interacted with each other, I especially loved every moments between Jedao and Cheris because even though Jedea is a mass murderer, I couldn’t stop to root for him. The character depths and development were just superb.

« She knew many things, and she knew nothing. She could feel the inadequacy of her neatly ordered facts confronted by the cacophony of living cultures. »

Highly, highly recommended. I already ordered a copy of this book and I can’t wait for the sequel !!


I received an e-ARC thanks to Netgalley. All opinions are my own.



16 thoughts on “Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

    1. That’s a good point. If you find it it hard to suspend your disbelief, I don’t think that you’ll enjoy this that much. At the beginning, I was really trying to understand everything and it affected my enjoyment of the story. I really started to get into the story when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to really understand the technology.


  1. I’ve seen mixed reviews for this book, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. It definitely sounds like something you really need to immerse yourself in, in order to enjoy it.


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