Like most of us, all I knew about Gideon the Ninth going into it was “lesbian necromancers in space” and yeah, that’s not a bad four-word description. It’s accurate but it still doesn’t fully capture the book. Gideon manages complex characters, way too many names, and an anachronistic voice that works where it really shouldn’t. I’ve already put myself in line for the sequel and it isn’t even released until next June.
A lot of world building went into this one. Effectively there are nine houses representing nine magical strengths and all those strengths are part of the house’s specific form of necromancy. The Undying Emperor summons the representatives from each house – each’s necromancer – and that representative is accompanied by their cavalier, kind of their bodyguard/champion. When the summons comes, Gideon is the only suitable person in a weakening Ninth House to set forward as cavalier, never mind that she hates the ever-living (dying?) guts of the house’s necromancer, Harrowhark. They’ve known each other and fought since they were children but they are their house’s only option, and serving as cavalier is Gideon’s only option off the planet (right, each house is on its own planet, there’s the space part). Also, Gideon is a gay lady, hence the lesbians stuff.
I did like that Gideon arrived on the page a fully formed lady gay, this is not a book about her discovering her sexuality. She’s a big fan of boobs from chapter one. Muir also made the unique choice to give her a very contemporary voice (there’s a lot of modern slang and swearing) and, at least for me, it works. I enjoyed it! I’ve complained here about other books that don’t pull it off, but Gideon had enough swagger that I was like, okay, I can roll with this.
The relationship between Gideon and Harrowhark is frankly gorgeous. Watching them develop, first separately and then together, is extraordinary and they really were so well written. I am deeply excited to watch this series unfold, especially given the cliffhanger we’re left with.