Book Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir | The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Genre : Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Publisher : TorDotCom

Length : 448 pages

Format : Ebook

Rating : 3 stars ?

Publication Date : September 10th 2019


The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

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

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 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.


Gideon Nav is a member of the Ninth House and because that, she has been condemned to live a boring life on a dead planet. Gideon’s only dream is to leave. She’s sick of her home world, sick of seeing skulls everywhere but mostly, she’s sick of Harrow, the heir to the Ninth and Gideon’s nemesis.

Gideon has attempted to escape her home many times and each time, Harrow managed to stop her. Her last attempt ends the same way: Harrow prevents her from leaving the moment Gideon thinks she’s finally. However, this time, Harrow makes Gideon an offer she’s unable to resist. She will give Gideon her freedom if she accompanies her to a necromancer competition and protect her during the entire event. Harrow is one of the most powerful necromancers of the galaxy and, if she wins the competition, she will be able to save her failing house. Gideon, having no alternative, accepts. However, once the competition starts, both women realize that the competition isn’t going to be easy. The other necromancers are fierce competitors and… an unknown enemy is killing them one by one.

Gideon the Ninth is a confusing book. I loved some parts and very much disliked others. I was also confused 90% of the time and almost stopped reading four or five times. I still wonder how I managed to read the first half of this book, especially because I disliked Gideon from the start. The second half of the story was much stronger, the pacing picked up and once I had figured out who was who (there are a lot of necromancers and swords and they all have various titles and nicknames), I was able to enjoy parts of the story. I’m glad I finished it because I can safely say that I have never read something quite like it. However, I’m not sure if it it’s a good or bad thing?

Let’s start with the Good, this book is a mess but it’s an intentional mess. If Gideon the Ninth was a hairstyle it would be the “I just woke up hairstyle” that actually take you hours to do. If this metaphor doesn’t make any sense then don’t read Gideon because it makes a lot more sense than the whole book.

Let’s go back to the postive elements, the world is extremely original. It’s hard to put Gideon the Ninth in a box because it’s many things at once: fantasy, horror, mystery and science fiction. It’s gloomy in some parts, humorous in others and often quite gory. Even if the world wasn’t really explained, I enjoyed the tidbits of worldbuilding we were given. I like the fact that it combined necromancy and space and that people still fought with swords even when they had access to more advanced technology. Does it make sense? Not really, but as a huge Star Wars fan, I like this blend of science fiction and fantasy. However, the biggest reason I was engaged enough to finish the book is Harrow.

Harrow is mean. Harrow is an asshole to everyone. Harrow prefers skeletons to humans.  But Harrow is one hell of a necromancer and I really liked her “Hermione Granger gone rogue” personality. I do love myself a competent character with a brain and bad attitude and that’s Harrow for sure. She’s also the reason I’m going to read the sequel, Harrow the Ninth, since it follows her after the events of this book.

Ok, now for the Bad.

The writing was not for me. It was confusing on purpose, I had to re-read sentences in order to understand what was going on and even then, sometimes I still couldn’t. The sentences were clunky, the words, not in the right order. I know it worked for a lot of people but I found it insufferable.

Harrow turned to her for the first time since they left the shuttle, eyes glittering like beetles beneath the veil, mouth puckered up like a cat’s asshole.

Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I don’t want to picture a “cat’s asshole” at any time of the day, thank you very much. Can I bleach my brain and forget this sentence forever?

As for the Ugly, it’s easy: Gideon Nav.

Earlier in this review, I wrote that I like “a competent character with a brain and bad attitude”. The key words are competent and brain, both things that Gideon lacks but that are sadly replaced by a terrible sense of humor. I’m sure a lot of people would enjoy it but it wasn’t for me. At all.

I understand that Gideon dislikes Harrow and that she doesn’t want to listen to her naggings all the time but, she should at least listen to her when it’s about necromancy. She’s so focused on hating Harrow that she makes a lot of stupid decisions just to piss her off. Maybe I was supposed to find her pettiness quirky and fun but it just annoyed me. And her humor was… hum, let me give you a few examples:

“Nonagesimus,” she said slowly, “the only job I’d do for you would be if you wanted someone to hold the sword as you fell on it. The only job I’d do for you would be if you wanted your ass kicked so hard, the Locked Tomb opened and a parade came out to sing, ‘Lo! A destructed ass.’ The only job I’d do would be if you wanted me to spot you while you backflipped off the top tier into Drearburh.”


“Harrow,” said Gideon, “if my heart had a dick you would kick it.”


“He was narrow shouldered with long, long arms, and she was beginning to believe that he was not simply a douchebag who used lip balm, but a douchebag who used lip balm and had a very long reach.”


So yeah, I can’t really recommend Gideon the Ninth. I appreciated how unique it was and some elements were interesting but it wasn’t the right book for me. However, if you found the quotes above hilarious and quirky then go ahead and read this book. You will love it.

Three stars? Maybe?

15 thoughts on “Book Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir | The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

  1. Oh my, your comparison with an hair style is soo on point! I had a lot of mixed feelings too toward this book. I have to admit that Gideon and Harrow slowly grew on me, but I disliked them both for a while. And even if this book is quite unique (I think of it like “and then there were none” in space with necromancers) and I enjoyed some part of it, I don’t know if I really liked it or not…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ha, I think you’re on point here – it’s a book that you’ll love or hate, full of whimsy and bad puns and worse decision making. I loved every ridiculous moment of it, but it’s one I hesitate to recommend because I can see all the reasons it is Way Too Much. Harrow, tho. I adored Harrow, and I am very much looking forward to another absurd adventure with her when she comes out in paperback.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really too much but at the same time, even if wasn’t really for me, I can’t help but to admire Tamsyn Muir for writing this. It’s super weird and over the top but I can confidentely say I have never read something quite like it… 😂
      I have read very mixed things about the sequel but I’m curious enough to give a try sometimes next year. I have heard that it is even weirder than Gideon (if that’s possible)!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Those quotes were indeed fun, but from your description I wonder if their style would be enough to keep me engaged, particularly when the book seems to want to be confusing on purpose: I don’t mind having to “work” a little to enjoy a book, but there are limits to confusion, after all! I will have to think about it… Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read quite a lot of reviews for Gideon the Ninth now and I’m honestly not sure it’s gonna be my cup of tea, but I still want to read it just to find out, ya know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand what you’re saying completely! Actually, I think my biggest motivation to read it was to find out if I was part of the “it’s the best book ever” or “omg I hate it” team. And of course, I still don’ know if I fall right in the middle or not… 😂


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