I got this cheeky book from crystalclear for the 2019 CBR Book Exchange. I had seen a few so-so reviews for it already, so I was a little worried going into it, but I enjoyed it so much! I can see why some folks didn’t wholeheartedly embrace it, but the potential pitfalls didn’t bother me at all.
We are dropped into this world with little to no explanation. Gideon Nav, an orphan who was raised on a planet ruled by the Ninth House necromancers, is trying to escape the planet. She is not a necromancer herself, but has been raised and trained to be a mighty swordswoman. She feels unwanted and abused by all those forced to care for her, including the head necromancer and Reverend Daughter of the planet, Harrowhawk (the names are all super emo, but it feels very tongue-in-cheek). Her escape attempt (not her first) fails, and she and Harrowhawk end up assigned to a Quest, going off planet to the First House, to potentially become a Lyctor and First Cavalier, wielding immense power and necromantic magic.
So it’s definitely a whole different world, but Gideon talks like a mallrat a lot of the time. It’s a little jarring at first, like the anachronistic music in A Knight’s Tale. However, I loved Gideon pretty much immediately, so I was willing to go with it until it felt perfectly natural. She says stuff like “He had the eyes of a very beautiful person, trapped in resting bitch face,” and calling people douchebags.
The story reads kind of like a game of Dungeons and Dragons. There are necromancers and cavaliers (their sworn protectors) from the other seven houses, so lots of potential competitors and allies. There are puzzles to solve to get clues to Lyctorhood. There are mysterious deaths to solve. Harrowhawk makes Gideon pretend to have sworn a vow of silence to hide the fact that she’s not a real cavalier (she was forced to fill in as a Plot Device), so it’s delightful to watch her half to hide her snark and indignation about…pretty much everything.
Gideon is great. Harrow is a whiny teenager with an immense amount of power, which is a dangerous combination. But they both grow and learn throughout the book, and it is a treat to watch them tackle each obstacle in their own stubborn, rash, chaotic way.