Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: October 2019
Publisher: Flat Iron Books, New York, NY
From the Publisher: The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite.
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.
Holy Dante’s Inferno! Give me more Galaxy Stern! Leigh Bardugo weaved the perfect occult tapestry full of history, imaginary, and magic that I have only experienced in the best and rarest books… raw magic, that we mere mortals only dream of spring to life in Ninth House, and those monsters of the dark that are seen only by those gifted, or cursed. Or for those who continue to seek ways to see the “lost places, maybe even lost people who might come to life…” If only one can find the right magic words. The true challenge is telling who is evil, who the real monsters are.
I’ve never been one for a long drawn out book review, I don’t believe in spoilers, or in ruining the ending… so I will keep this brief, that is my way.
Before starting this book, I was familiar with Leigh Bardugo, having listened to her at a panel on world building during Book Con 2018. I have no connection to Leigh the YA author outside of this one panel. However, Leigh the adult author… I can’t get enough of! Normally I read a few reviews before I purchase a book and based on some reviews of Ninth House I was expecting a mature Potteresque story, but magic (and nowhere near the same magic) and ghosts are where all similarities between the two end. If you are expecting an adult telling of Harry Potter, don’t be, I wouldn’t even compare the two, and I would still recommend that you read this book.
Ninth House is chock full of the occult, magic, secret societies, and set in New England made it more than appropriate when it was released in October 2019. The one month of the year when the world is full of magic and superstition. From the moment I started reading, I couldn’t put this book down. They instantly drew me into the hidden world that they have pulled Galaxy Stern into, staying up well past 2 AM the first night reading until my eyes started to strain, but the changing seasons left twists, turns, and surprises that I never saw coming. Something compelled me to continue, to understand it all.
Right from the start, Galaxy, known as Alex, is a mystery. She has an arduous past, cursed to live life seeing ghosts (grays) and even experiences abuse by one as a child. As we follow Alex we discover her past and how she ended up at Yale, and part of one of the secret societies, that Leigh will make you believe are real. This troubled girl truly becomes her own heroin with the help of a few friends, but in a way that feels relatable. Like many of her age, Alex isn’t sure what she wants, but she figures it out along the way. Learning to accept her scars and her history, a powerful message in today’s world. She is one of the most flawed, but relatable characters that I have enjoyed reading about it quite some time.
The New Haven that Ms. Bardugo created for us in Ninth House is one I can not wait to return to, I will follow Galaxy Stern into the inferno and pray that she will emerge on the other side, with her Virgil, and stronger than before.
“Magic could create competent painters, proficient musicians, but not genius”
Ninth House is, if nothing else, a work of genius.
Interested in buying Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, you can click here to shop IndieBound, and support a local indie bookstore near you! I receive a small commission if you use the link! 🖤 – Candace