Feb 25, 2020FrankieDay419 rated this title 5 out of 5 stars
Let’s deal with this first: This book slams in every conceivable way. Like in a Wrestlemania Attitude Era The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin sort of way. It climbs to the top of the steel cage, and drops doubters onto the announcing table below. This book shreds. 5 out of 5 stars every day of the week.
Now that I’ve gotten my glowing platitudes out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Gideon is a (queer?) himbo with a heart of gold, and a bad attitude, who gets roped into an adventure with the person that she both has spent most of her time with since childhood AND hates the most in the universe. It’s awesome. She’s a highly trained, talented swordswoman, with a quick tongue (that loves salty language), and a soft spot for the good guys. Not that there are that many in this book. There are people who will cast aside their differences for the greater good, but at the end of the day, they have their own plans and machinations, and oftentimes Gideon finds herself in the middle. Her perfect foil is her patron, Harrowhark, who is the goth Wednesday Addams of my dreams; all badass, all gigantic nerd, in some ways surprising. She and Gideon get on like oil and water, but they are the representatives of their house (the Ninth House, if anyone’s counting), and by god that means something.
As for the positives, I can’t say enough about it. I love the characters, I love the action, I love the inventive world building that the author does. I just love all of it. From the very first moment when we hear Gideon’s voice inside her head, I was struck. She’s such a unique and interesting character with a cadence and a vocabulary all her own, and it makes me just yearn to hear every inane thing that comes out of her mouth. Even though she can be kind of a dummy, she more than makes up for it with her skill in combat, and her actual decency. I don’t mind listening to her because she’s a good person doing what a good person should. And I respect that. She’s also kind of an asshole which I thoroughly enjoy. As for the rest of the characters, they are all very clearly drawn and distinct, and I really enjoyed getting to know them, eventually (more on that later).
The world building is top notch, and even though this is a goth story, it’s nothing like I’ve never read before. There’s a terrific blend of scifi and fantasy, that gives us a rich world that still has some connection to our own. And it’s all very familiar and normal to the characters, no slack jawed awe here. They’re all seasoned pros at it, and that’s a nice change of pace. The Houses as they are defined in the book, seem to have different areas of expertise, and different backgrounds which makes them all seem distinct and unique, which I also appreciate. Also, the author has a way with description that really made the areas that they were in come alive.
I have to say a word about the action, because it was really stupendous. Every fight scene was well described, and seemed to align well with the weapons that were used in them. There is a mix of swordplay and “magic” and this never felt out of place, or clunky, which is saying something. There was a real tension to them that made them enjoyable, and feel like the stakes were very real.
The only negative that I can think of in the book were that there were a lot of characters, and it took me a while to get used to all of them and remember who they were, and what they were known for/what they wanted. There are nine house, and two representatives each, so that made for 18 people to remember. By the end though, I was able to figure out who was who (though the list of people had dwindled dramatically).
All in all, really, really good book! I would but it down as the top of my list so far, and I’ve only read one other book that could really compare. I would say that if you’re into scifi with a fantasy bent, and you love books with strong, complex female characters, you’ve come to the right place.