Rereading Gideon the Ninth was an interesting experience. The first time around, I was completely lost for the first half of the book, which caused me to become progressively more frustrated. Then I hit the middle and it was like a rollercoaster ride to the finish. The second half was such a marvel, I completely forgave the author for not explaining much in the first half.
This time, since I wasn’t feeling confused and vaguely annoyed, I enjoyed the first half a great deal more. I also picked up on more character details and foreshadowing. Some characters that annoyed me the first time around didn’t upon reread because I knew their arcs and could sympathize with them. Others still sucked. The second half is still a rollercoaster ride. All in all, Gideon the Ninth is a book made to be read several times.
But I still have some criticisms and critiques. It’s not a fast read, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s just a lot of story to cover. I found myself rereading passages because I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what happened and why. But I really didn’t like the author’s vocabulary; it seemed like she just finished her SATs and wanted to show off all the $2 words she knows. My issue isn’t that it makes me feel stupid, because it doesn’t. My issue is that it might discourage readers who don’t have my inflated self-esteem. A few uncommon big words would be fine, but one every 5-10 pages throws up unnecessary barriers.
As much as I love Gideon the Ninth and look forward to Harrow the Ninth, I still believe the lack of world-building in the first half is a huge mistake. I almost gave up the first time I read it and I’ve known others who have. The cast of characters at the beginning of the book is slightly helpful, but not enough. This version I just read had a Cohort report at the end of the novel, which provided short biographies on all of the necromancers and cavaliers. To me, it didn’t contain any spoilers, just helpful context. But I could see how someone might think it gives away too much. If I had to reread it for the first time all over again, I would have liked the contents of the Cohort report somewhere in the first third of the book to help me find my feet.