This book has received so much hype and lived up to every bit of praise it has received! Thank you, Cannonballers for putting this on my radar and keeping it there. I’m almost at a loss to review Gideon the Ninth since so many of y’all have done so already. Here is a list of things that I enjoyed immensely, in no particular order:
1 – Muir’s word choices. It’s delightful to be confronted with an unfamiliar word and Muir did it more in this book than the entirety of the books read in 2020. In fact the first word that I didn’t know was because Muir created it (which contains its own special glee for me!), uncanorous, which feels like a real word but when I searched for a definition it kept pointing me back at Gideon. As used in the sentence it is gloriously descriptive and deserves to be a proper word, “The First Bell clanged its uncanorous, complaining call for beginning prayers, sounding as always like it was getting kicked down some stairs; a sort of BLA-BLANG…BLA-BLANG…BLA-BLANG”.
This sentence was a two-fer, “With a little sizzle of evil-smelling steam, it shrouded the wound and the bottom of the leg in a lahar of hot bone gunge.” Lahar – a destructive mudflow on the slopes of a volcano. Gunge – a sticky, viscous, and unpleasantly messy material. Other words I learned, missish, lipochrome, senescence (which I’ve come across before but had forgotten), and deliquesce.
2 – Muir’s turn of phrase, the title of this review is an excellent example. That sentence exemplifies the book as a whole, as so much of what the reader is presented is through the lens of Gideon’s sepulcher upbringing and necromantic nature of the empire as a whole. “Her smile was sparkling pleased with her own gall; her eyes were a deep, liquid violet, and she spoke with the casual effrontery of someone who expected her command of Jump! to be followed by a rave”, this sentence particularly tickled my fancy due to having attended raves in my younger days and the image it evokes. I love how this next sentence encapsulates how Gideon feels about herself and her strengths, “Gideon Nav knew in the first half second that Magnus was going to lose: after that she stopped thinking with her brain and started thinking with her arms, which were frankly where the best of her cerebral matter lay.”
3 – Muir’s world building. The idea of an entire empire being ruled by necromancers is intriguing and novel, to me. This is an ancient empire with a hinted at past and teaser about all not being well in the present. It is a rich world that tantalizes us with just enough information to show the depth of it’s history without revealing more than is needed at the time. Along this line, Muir did an excellent job with spinning out the various mysteries that are woven throughout Gideon the Ninth. I particularly liked how the dichotomy of the past overlapped with futuristic. Much of the time it felt as though I was reading a classic fantasy novel but then things like sonic showers, anti-bac gel, air circulation systems, electric lights and space colonies are mentioned to remind me that this is a far distant future.
4 – Gideon herself. Twenty years ago Gideon would have most likely been a male character and the Lyctor trial would have been overrun with men. Instead Muir gave us a refreshing take on a muscle bound hero (though Gideon would probably object to that label), complete with the hots for the attractive women all around. Gideon is simple in both wants and motivations but there are deeper currents within, and even though her loyalty to Harrow is strained, she staunchly stands with the Ninth House.
Gideon the Ninth is an excellent example of working within a common genre (sci-fantasy) but twisting it into something new and unique. I was enthralled while reading it, constantly curious and eager to find out what happens next. The ending didn’t surprise me (I started to suspect about 3/4 of the way through) but it did sadden me and has left me intrigued as to where Muir takes the story next.