I feel like a ‘real’ cannonballer, now that I’ve finally tackled Gideon the Ninth. I feel like I see this book all over Cannonball Read, and that it comes highly acclaimed. The quote on the front cover sums it up fairly well:
Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! Decadent nobles vie to service the deathless emperor! Skeletons!
This is a fantasy novel, focussing on Gideon – a plucky upstart who wields her sharp sword and tongue with aplomb. She’s scathing, she’s edgy, she’s mysterious. Had Gideon not been there, I would not have stuck it out through this novel. She grounded the story – and me – and made it just accessible enough to keep me turning pages.
I’m not much of a fantasy buff (Lord of the Rings being the obvious exception). I don’t like it when I cannot pronounce a character’s name in my head. This novel did it’s best to win me over anyway. It even included a helpful (and phonetic) guide to the sizable cast of characters in the back of the novel. Unfortunately, I was reading this on my kindle and didn’t stumble upon it until the story was already told. I wish I knew it was there, I would have been referencing it constantly throughout.
I suppose I should give a brief synopsis. Gideon is attempting to escape her hellscape home, ‘The Ninth’ [Planet??] in the opening pages, but she is outsmarted by Harrow. Harrow is in charge of The Ninth by virtue of birth, and the sworn enemy of Gideon. There is a lot of intrigue behind the two characters. Why are they the only young people on the planet? What secrets are they each keeping? The Ninth is a planet of necromancers and nuns who worship ‘The Locked Tomb’. I understood this to be a particular religious sect, slightly distinct from the rest of the eight planets of necromancers. Yes, that’s right – this is about a universe full of necromancy. I assume the religious aspects and scope of the world is unpacked more in the sequels.
Gideon and Harrow wind up being shipped out to The First planet together, after each of the nine civilisations are called upon to send a delegation of two (a ranking necromancer and a ‘cavalier’/bodyguard). Their task is to unravel the secrets of necromancy and ascend to become all-powerful and immortal ‘Lyctors’. Gideon and Harrow don’t play well together, or with others, so there are repeated clashes during their time on The First.
Eventually, they put their differences aside, form some tenuous alliances, and tackle the task at hand. The novel mixes fantasy and humour to produce something almost right, but not quite. The aspect of the story that I felt was too unbelievable to overcome was the pure hatred between Gideon and Harrow being let go so easily. Gideon had been systematically abused her entire life by Harrow. Neglected, assaulted, berated. Yet, in an instant, Gideon forgives Harrow after a simple apology. Okay – a water-logged apology – but still. I just couldn’t buy it.
Don’t get me wrong, there is good stuff here. It’s just not to my taste.
Overall, 3 knuckle bones out of 5.