Summary (from the publisher):
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. By age twenty, in fact, 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 elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House has been on my TBR since March 2017. At that point in my reading life, I had recently finished reading and fallen in love with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. Add those feels with the premise of Leigh Bardugo’s first adult debut set at Yale University and you had me hooked. Having read Ninth House in July 2019, I can tell you that this book was completely worth the wait because it is one of my favorite books of 2019.
When I picked up Ninth House this summer, I had read 73 books so far in the year, already having proclaimed my favorite book of the year. As expected, I devoured Ninth House over two days. While that might not seem too long to be reading a book, I definitely spent more time reading Ninth House than normally. I tend to take longer while reading literary/adult fiction, and I pay more attention to details in fantasy books (which again means more time).
Despite this book practically never leaving my side over these two days, it wasn’t until I read the very last line that I realized this book was my favorite of the year. As you can tell and likely already know, I read and love a lot of books. Yet, it has been such a long time that I had ‘this feeling’ of loving a book so much immediately after finishing.
In short, Ninth House follows Yale University freshmen Alex Stern as she joins the Ninth House, a group that protects the universities’ magical secret societies and often dangerous rituals. Alex is the survivor of an unsolved multiple homicide and while working for the Lethe House, she finds herself trying to solve another unsolved murder in New Haven. Led by an upperclassmen, Darlington, Alex gets involved in the societies’ sinister happenings and in doing so, must confront her own dark past.
Leigh Bardugo doesn’t exactly lay out the plot and details from the get-go, as the book jumps between Alex’s present at Yale, her past, and some flashbacks from her mentor, Darlington. In a way, not having everything detail or element explained helped make the world more expansive and really left me not knowing what to expect. I knew Ninth House had some sort of fantasy element, but in reality, Leigh Bardugo explores all sorts of magic and spirits within each society. The best way I could describe this book is in terms of another fantasy queen’s books, V.E./Victoria Schwab. Ninth House had City of Ghosts vibes, set in an adult fantasy world like Vicious, but of course with Leigh Bardugo’s magic, ghosts and other twists.
I don’t want to discuss Darlington too much for the sake of spoilers, but I fell in love with his character and what he brought to the stakes of the story. While all of the characters are complex, t most of all is of course our main protagonist, Alex. She is intelligent and quick-witted with plenty of one-liners prepared, but she is also tough and guarded. In short, there were a lot of twists and reveals in the various mysteries set in this book, but I was most surprised by the reveals surrounding Alex’s past.
Ninth House is a beyond fantastic literary debut from Queen Bardugo. I really cannot wait to discuss this gem with everyone because there are just so many plot elements and details (predictions for book 2 anyone??) that I don’t really want to hint at here for the sake of spoilers.
Ninth House is definitely different than Leigh Barudgo’s young adult books for a few reasons. The major differences include increased violence, the discussion and feature of rape and drugs, its somewhat contemporary/’real life’ setting, and the more literary fiction-esque writing style.
However, there is no doubt that both Ninth House and Bardugo are powerhouses. The latter is an absolute master at storytelling. While I love Ninth House‘s last line for making me realize how much I love this book, it also made me realize how excited I am for (and how sad I will be until) book two in this new series.
This review is based on an advance reading copy. Receiving this ARC did not affect my thoughts or opinions.
Is Ninth House on your TBR? What Leigh Bardugo books do you love? Share in the comments!