Book Review: Ninth House

A year ago, after reading Ninth House for the first time, I met Leigh Bardugo and asked her about the British weather. Today, I finish my re-read after a week of slow reading. Reading this book slowly, taking it all in, I enjoyed it even more than the first time. The magic is unique, elements are horrifying, and the characters draw you into this wild story completely. I recommend you read it slowly, absorb the detail, the atmosphere. This is a masterpiece. It should be noted that it is adult horror, and you should absolutely check out the long list of trigger warnings.

Star rating: 5 stars

Ninth House is and adult fantasy – horror that follows Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern and Daniel ‘Darlington’ Arlington in a story that mixes present day and flashbacks. Alex is the central protagonist – she had a rough life growing up, partly due to the fact she can see Grays – also known as ghosts. When Lethe House of Yale University gets wind of this, she’s recruited to be Darlington’s successor. They have one year to train Alex, but things at Yale are not what they seem.

What makes this book is that the reader discovers the world-building just as Alex does. There are no info dumps, the reader is thrown in to pick up the details along the way. Alex is a protagonist you can really get on side with – she’s gritty, street smart and the way she still has hope, that she makes the reader hope for her, after all that she been through is just heart-breaking.

Darlington is the opposite of Alex – he grew up in a mansion, had access to the best education, and was always destined for success. But his back story reveals more, and he becomes another character I empathised with greatly. The flashback chapters with Alex and Darlington together are excellent.

At the centre of the plot is Alex unravelling a series of mysteries – a murder, several Yale societies involved, nobody she can trust. She does this with the help of Detective Turner who is one of my favourite side characters. Alex’s roommates Mercy and Lauren are also great – I really liked that despite Alex’s crazy life there are flashes of normality as she develops friendships with ordinary girls (I love how Alex defends them).

Overall this is one of my favourite books, Leigh Bardugo has grown so much as a writer since Shadow and Bone. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.

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