[My first Cannonball Read review ever. I’m very excited to be here and to join in this shared reading experience with you all!]
Galaxy Stern is not a standard Yale student and the magic established in Ninth House is not the standard system. Ninth House finds Galaxy (“Alex”) at Yale and a part of the ninth house of Yale’s magical secret societies despite the fact that she is a high school drop out from LA. Her role at the Ninth House of the Veil, Lethe, is that of watchdog-in-training under the mentorship of Darlington, a New Haven native who is beloved by all. Darlington and Alex oversee the other Houses of the Veil who all use various forms of magic to establish influence, power, and security at Yale and abroad. Doing what should have been a straight-forward job of keeping entitled and privileged magicians inline, Alex must investigate what turns out to be a deeply sinister and horrifying plot with implications for the Houses of the Veil, Yale, and all the citizens of New Haven. Oh, and she can see ghosts.
What stands out the most to me is the system of magic that Leigh Bardugo has written in Ninth House. I have never read any of her other books, so I’m not sure how similar this system is to the YA fantasy that she’s written, but to me it was wholly fresh. This is not the magic of Harry Potter with simple incantations that do or do not work. Nor is this the magic of The Name of the Wind with a simple structure with interesting results. The magic of Ninth House is well-structured and specific to the Houses that use such magic. We get some peaks to many of the Houses specific magic types through rituals and magical objects, but never get so much that the mystery of the magic is eliminated. And rightfully so as we are not members of that House. How could we know all the magical prowess of the Houses without being a member?
The book is written with a non-linear plot structure which mostly works in favor of the story. We were introduced to various parts of Alex’s life both at Yale before she was on her own and back on the west coast in various time jumps. The jumps back to Alex’s life in LA were the most interesting and revelatory to Alex’s character. There was enough information that was spaced throughout the main timeline that felt that the breaks in narrative were warranted. The jumps to Darlington’s POV were fine at first especially his take on Alex and how she fits into The Houses of the Veil and Yale. However, the shifts to his POV became less frequent to the point that any shift was jarring and felt unnecessary.
Final note, I listened to this book as an audiobook. I very much enjoyed the voice acting especially that of Lauren Fortgang. She was delightful
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Any fan of urban fantasy will also enjoy this book. 4.5/5 stars.