“Read Gideon the Ninth!” they said. “You’ll love it!” they said. Well, fuck you, I did! I did love it! And I’m so mad and so sad also! It’s been a long time since I let a book get to me like this, and frankly, I blame everyone. I blame the author for creating such a lovable main character (and lovable side characters). I blame the author for what she did with the plot and the character progression; she knows what she did and so do all the rest of you! I blame every single fucking person who told me to read this g.d. book. As Gideon would say, “if my heart had a dick you would kick it.”
Look, nobody warned me that I was signing up for emotional wrenching here. And I read a lot of reviews of this book before I actually read the book itself! Y’all would not shut your mouths about it! So, I’m just doing everyone who hasn’t already read it a public service here: If you decide to read this book you will be having such a great time with it; you will experience true joy, and then after that you will have your heart ripped up and out through your esophagus, and you will bleed out your feelings all over the floor. That is what you are signing up for. Yes, there will also be vulgar hilarity and quippage, and lovingly crafted, profane verbiage uttered by lovable garbage humans. And that is how the book tricks you.
Also, I heard so much about how you had to give the book time, and the worldbuilding was confusing, wah wah etc. But I had zero problems. And in fact, I was in after two pages, and in love after four, when a minor character complains about Gideon offering him “sick pornographies” in exchange for letting her escape (she did offer him a “stupendous work of a titty nature,” her words). I think if you’re worrying about the worldbuilding here, you’re never gonna gel with this book. This book is like a hodge-podge of everything the author loves in stories, up to and including queerness, gothicness, necromancy, skeletons, mysteries, magic, mysterious death, space, friendships, romance, attractive people being badass in sword fights, swearing, murder, galactic empires, red herrings, siblings, loyalty, puzzles, sunglasses, the color black. Should I go on? Honestly, the central through lines in this book have almost nothing to do with the world, but with the characters and their relationships, and with the mystery of what’s going on in the haunted mansion in space. As long as you are grasping the basics of the worldbuilding, you’re fine. The rest unfolds itself in time, and I’m sure will continue to do so throughout the remaining two books.
Which I will not be reading any time soon because I’m still not over this one. I haven’t fallen in love with a character this much in a very, very long time. There’s just something so lovable and vulnerable about Gideon, who at the same time she is bitingly clever and talented and intimidatingly badass, is also so loyal and open to being vulnerable with people, and is so capable of love. Meanwhile she’s off swearing and being pleased when people are complimenting the size of her biceps, and feeling gooey over married people, and feeling affection for terrible teenagers. She is a golden retriever person dressed up like a ninja with an affinity for skulls. I love her so much. SPOILERS SERIOUSLY What happened at the end of this book broke me. I’m so sad about it I don’t want to pick up the next book. I couldn’t concentrate on any other book for a week or more after finishing. I can’t decide if I love or hate what happened. Probably both. And neither. That Gideon sacrificed herself like that tops off her character arc beautifully. But now we have to live in a world where she doesn’t exist. And honestly, fuck that END SPOILERS.
For this review, I also decided to do a tiny experiment. Part of what I loved so much about Gideon the Ninth was the narrative style, which was incredibly unique and very much to my level. The way Tamsyn Muir has with words just tickles me. So I opened the book five times at random (in chronological order) and read until I found a quote that popped out. My theory was that I could do this for pretty much any page and find something that stood out. This turned out to be true five out of five times. I would advise not reading this section if you would like to be surprised over anything in this book, including its tone and verbiage.
“So, here’s the thing, your Lady would set the Locked Tomb on fire if it meant I’d never see another sky,” Gideon said, looking up. “Your Lady would stone cold eat a baby if it meant she got to lock me up infinitely. Your Lady would slather burning turds on the great-aunts if she thought it would ruin my day.”
I remember laughing out loud delightedly when I read Gideon’s first insults about Harrow.
There were four pairs of hungry eyes watching that fight, but they all blurred into the background of a dream: the lines one’s brain filled in to abbreviate a place, a time, a memory. 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.
Gideon is a little vain about her appearance, and isn’t the smartest person in the room, but she knows what she’s good at, and I love that about her.
“Don’t have an aneurysm, Nav. I cannot and will not read your thoughts, control your body, or look at your most intimate memories. I don’t have the ability and I certainly don’t have the desire.”
“It’s for your protection, not mine,” said Gideon. “I imagined Crux’s butt once when I was twelve.”
For if you have a twelve year old’s sense of humor.
Minor spoilers in this one, sort of:
“Gideon? . . . Gideon!”
When she opened her eyes again there was a dazzling moment of clarity and sharpness. Harrow Nonagesimus was kneeling by her side, naked as the day she was spawned. Her hair was shorn a full inch shorter, the tips of her eyelashes were gone, and–most horrifyingly–she was absolutely nude of face paint. It was as though someone had taken a hot washcloth to her. Without paint she was a point-chinned, narrow-jawed, ferrety person, with high hard cheekbones and a tall forehead. There was a little divot in her top lip at the philtrum, which gave a bowlike aspect to her otherwise hard and fearless mouth. The world rocked, but it was mainly because Harrow was shaking her shoulders.
“Ha-ha,” said Gideon, “first time you didn’t call me Griddle,” and died.
There is SO MUCH GOING ON HERE. It’s funny and scary and sad and tragic and tense all at the same time!
“Have you ever seen a necromancer hold a sword before?” she asked gaily.
“No,” said Gideon, “I thought their arms would all flop around!”
Gideon, facedown on the dusty ground, moaned, “I want to die.”
She was nudged with a foot, not unkindly, “Get up, Griddle.”
“Why was I born so attractive?”
“Because everyone would have throttled you within the first five minutes otherwise,” said her necromancer.
The best part about this exchange is that it makes you remember she’s only still a young person, embarrassed about liking someone, and stepping on a friend’s toes about it. The histrionics here are devastatingly accurate, in my experience.
In summation, I loved this book and I’m sad I read it and I’m happy I read it but also I can’t go on. If you too would like to experience a confluence of emotions and genre, read this book!