Ninth House: Book Review

Ninth House
By Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is an autobuy author for me these days. If I don’t have the funds to buy her newest release, you can bet your bottom dollar that my name is the first on the holds list for one of her newest books at my library. So when I saw the buzz surrounding Ninth House, and the fact that it was her first dabble into adult fiction, I. Was. There.

I read the Grisha Trilogy way back in the day, and devoured it! Then I went on to Six of Crows and, while I really enjoyed the story and the characters, it didn’t grab my attention as much as the Grishaverse did. I think the difference between these two series, while set in the same world, one focused heavily on fantasy and magic, while the other focused much more on gritty real world scenarios (set in a fantastical world). 

I ran into similar ‘problems’ with Ninth House. Not that there were problems with Ninth House, but I really really really enjoy high fantasy, and this was pretty mild urban fantasy at best. I was a little worried when I first picked up this book by how many words I didn’t know on each page! It has been such a long time since an author has stumped me with their vocabulary left and right. I actually decided halfway through the book that the next time I read this, I’m going to make flashcards with all the words I didn’t know. It was definitely a good introduction to the Yale vibe of this novel, and the intentional mask of the prim and proper setting. 

This novel follows a girl names Alex as she is indoctrinated into a hidden society at Yale. Her main job is to keep everyone honest and to be a physical reminder that they are not above the law. We quickly learn that things are not going as smoothly as one would hope, when a girl is murdered, and one of Alex’s friends goes missing. This novel flashes from the past, the present, and between two distinct characters. I liked that we got to view two unique character voices in this novel, but it did take away from seeing Alex with her roommates. For some reason it felt like a loss or a blow that we didn’t get a lot of interaction between those characters, but that was also because Alex was almost never at her dorm.

I also felt like the true college experience was really lacking in this novel. A subplot throughout is the will-she-won’t-she be able to pass her classes and stay at Yale next year, yet we never really saw her study, or attend class, or do anything to cement her emotional connection to her education. We are told repeatedly how important it is that she stays in school, yet we’re never shown what actions she takes to solidify her spot at Yale. So when the time came for her to either stay in college or be kicked out, I didn’t really care either way. I wasn’t invested in that part of the story, because it was barely there to begin with.

There were one or two times in this novel that really got to me, and this book should come with a few trigger warnings for drug abuse and rape. One scene in particular was so vulgar it has stuck with me vividly since the day I read it. I’m cursing my own imagination, and Leigh’s brilliant writing, for how easy it was for me to conjure it up in my mind. However I don’t think the scene was unnecessarily vulgar. It established a character trait (and fear) that helped you understand the main character a lot more for the duration of the novel. 

I really think this novel was a step up from Six of Crows. Yes, I know I can’t say the stories are the same because they clearly are not, but hear me out. In Six of Crows we are diverting from high fantasy and magic and mixing harsh reality with fantasy. Ninth House takes this to the next level. In Ninth House we are even further removed from fantasy, and we’re really looking at the human experience: the good, the bad, and the really really bad. Of course there are a few ghosts and spells mixed in, but for me this novel was an expose on human nature and psychology. 

The ending leads me to believe that there will be a second book in this series…if so, I’m in! This novel was, at times, hard to get through. For some of the time I thought we could be dealing with an unreliable narrator, and that proved to be sort of true. Our main character wasn’t unreliable, she had just withheld some of the truth until it became imperative that we know too. It was also hard for me to whiz through because I normally deal with strictly fantasy novels. If someone is murdered in a fantasy novel I’m much more removed from the victim or the case because the world doesn’t exist, and could never exist. In this novel, however, this Yale so mirrors our own world that it legitimately scared me at times: not the ghosts or demons, but the human beings doing atrocious things to each other. Maybe that was the point? To add magic to this story, and to still be more scared by regular people? Either way, I applaud Leigh Bardugo for stepping out of her Young Adult niche and boldly entering the Adult Fiction world. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

20 Books I Want to Read in 2020

With the new year quickly approaching, it’s time to make some new reading goals. I’ve had a plethora of books on my desk, shelves, and sitting in my holds list at the library, that are oh so patiently waiting to be picked up and read. Here are just 20 of those books that I’m hoping I can get to in the new year.

Fair warning: these descriptions are based on my poor, and probably inaccurate, memory of what the books may or may not be about. Unless I draw a complete blank and resort to Goodreads, as usual.

Spinning Silver
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

From what I can remember, the premise of this book was sold to me as a gender-bent, Rumpelstiltskin retelling. I’ve heard this is a must read for fantasy lovers, and I knew I’d be picking up a Naomi Novik book soon…it was just a matter of deciding which one I’d read first.

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

I picked up this book from BookOutlet A G E S ago. I pulled it out and put in on my desk in 2019 with the hopes that seeing it every day would entice me to read it. Welp. Still haven’t, but fully plan to come 2020. This one is about kick-butt magic wielders. Fighting with swords AND magic? Hello, sign me up.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

If you’re reading this blog do you even need a description of this one? I’m realizing, hoping, some of my coworkers or friends might have found their way here. If so…hi and welcome! Okay this one is gritty, and about faeries. Some novels easily lose the animalistic nature of a fae beings, but this one, apparently, does not. Think O.G. Cinderella, where the step sister cuts off her toes and shoves her bleeding stump of a foot into the glass slipper. Grit. Tea.

The Priory of the Orange Tree
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Uh. This one has dragons. And I’m here for it. I can’t remember if the dragons are anthropomorphic? Or if they’re against the human race, or working in tandem with them? But they’re there. And I believe they’re at war.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahi

A pristine, beautiful, paperback edition of this book was donated to the library I previously worked at. You best believe I snatched her right up! I’ve heard mixed reviews about this series. Clearly, as the cover depicts, we have a strong female main character, and I believe this takes place in a desert setting. I think they’re trying to covertly take over a corrupt kingdom? But I mean…aren’t they all?

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)
The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Finally! A fresh, new book on vampires. Or at least that’s what we all thought until the reviews started to come in. I’ve heard that this is less in your face vampire, and more observe their characteristics to figure it out. It’s more about a crime spree in New Orleans in like the 1800s? And our main character is sent here to try and solve it while protecting the vampires who are being framed.

The Library Book
The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I believe this one is a non fiction! Or at least a retelling of real life events. There was a fire in a library, and this book sort of deals with the events leading up to the fire, and how it effects everyone after. I think the overarching theme is that libraries are precious, and the people who work in them are precious, and I really want to read about my people.

Godblind (Godblind, #1)
Godblind by Anna Stephens

This book. I found hidden in a discount store and honestly could not look away from the cover. It wasn’t widely reviewed when I picked it up originally, so I just had to go with my gut. It sounded like a really gory, intense fantasy, about the clash between Gods and men. Perhaps that’s too literal of an interpretation, maybe it’s more of a religious war. We’ll find out!

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Boy, oh boy. Does this list include some of the longest books ever. This author is renowned in the epic fantasy genre. I’ve started this book, and LOVED it. But I just couldn’t commit to only reading this massive, 1000+ page beast. The writing, the fight scenes, the brewing war, the political intrigue. I’m ready to tackle book one of this series in 2020.

The Portal (Tangled in Time, #1)
The Portal: Tangled in Time by Kathryn Lasky

This is a brand new middle grade series! It sounds precious and a little ominous? It begins with the death of our main characters mother, and then somehow she begins time traveling to London and enmeshes herself with the Princesses there. I’m excited to see where this falls on the scale of historical fiction or fantastical magical realism?

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #0.5)
The Last Wish: The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

Netflix and read the book first, am I right? So this is the prequel to the now incredibly popular (soon to be released) Netflix series, The Witcher. Our main character is INCREDIBLY HOT, I’d insert an image but I don’t want you to drool on your keyboards, and a magical assassin? He’s tasked with saving the new princess/queen who he somehow knows is being targeted. This book is a mash up of short stories following different characters, but all the plot points are relevant before beginning the first official novel according to my research.

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)
Scythe by Neal Shusterman

This is a young adult novel that deals heavily with death. I’m not super sure how, but I believe the characters are tasked with somehow evading death, or maybe they are death themselves? I honestly don’t want to know too much going in.

Between Shades of Gray
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This is a historical fiction novel that I believe is set during WWII. All I know for sure is that I will cry when I read this, and that’s why I’ve been putting it off for so long. But I read just about one WWII novel every year, and this is my pick for 2020.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

This sounds like the sweetest adventure. This is an elementary/middle grade series about a girl and her dragon who go on traveling adventures together. The art on the cover and chapter headings is gorgeous. I don’t know why I keep pushing this aside.

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)
House of Earth and Blood: Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas

Screams into the air. For those of you who don’t know me yet, SJM wrote my second favorite series of all time, A Court of Thorns and Roses (the top place will always belong to Harry Potter). This new novel is an adult fantasy version of the same world SJM has transported us to in the past, with both ACOTAR and TOG. We have fae being fae, and getting up to no magical good. I think this will focus more heavily on the fae religions and more world building. My heart is pounding just writing this and looking at the cover. Let’s. Freaking. Go.

Space Boy Volume 1 (Space Boy, #1)
Space Boy Vol. 1 by Stephen McCranie

This is a graphic novel that looks beautiful, and I love a handful of Sci-Fi novels per year. This, I believe, is a Young Adult graphic novel about a girl who gets transported to Earth and doesn’t love it. Shrugs in understanding.

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe
Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado

This is a Christian Fiction novel. I don’t know if I made that genre up just now…but as the title indicates, it’s about a blessed little cafe. We learn about the lives of the patrons of the cafe, and the baristas. As with life they struggle through peaks and valleys, and it just sounds like the most lovely-uplifting read.

In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character
In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin

This is a non fiction Christian book. This book caught my eye one day at work while I was reshelving. I loved the layout of the chapters, and how the book seems to get it’s message across. As I was flipping through many of my favorite verses were used as examples or context, which makes me excited to dive in to this devotional.

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)
Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

I have heard that this one is d a r k. I can’t remember anything else. And I’m okay with that. Certain books, I just go in as blind as possible. This is one of them.

An Enchantment of Ravens
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

THIS COVER ART, OKAY?! It’s so gorgeous, and then I read the description and was even more excited. This is a standalone novel about a faerie painter who falls in love with a faerie prince?! I’m sure something must go wrong at some point. Couldn’t tell you what though…

Well there you have it! Those are the 20 books I want to read in 2020. Did you guys see a pattern? Fae. Fantasy. Dragons. Magic. These are just some of my favorite things. There were so many more great books I thought of while making this list.

I’m sure my eye doctor is quaking at how many books I’m planning on devouring. You fail one part of the eye exam one time from over reading and they never let you forget it. That and the fact that my glasses now cost almost twice as much.

Anyways! What are you planning on reading in 2020? Are you going to try anything from my list?? Let me know in the comments below.