Let’s just jump right in. My biggest issue that I had with Gideon the Ninth is that I frequently did not know entirely what was going on. And not in a “Ohh, there’s a mystery afoot, and people are being secretive” nor in a “The narrator and I are both doubting reality” a la Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I just kept feeling like I was missing things. Missing lines of dialogue, missing transitions, missing some exposition.
Gideon Nav is a member of the Ninth House (as an indentured servant? an enslaved person? just a poorly mistreated citizen?). The main tormentor in her life is Harrowhawk Nonagesimus, princess of the Ninth House and powerful bone magician. They both grew up together and have been at each other’s throats since day 1. But now, Harrowhawk has been called to the First House to participate alongside other necromancers from the other Houses in a trial that will decide who will become Lyctors, a group of incredibly powerful and immortal soldiers. Each necromancer needs a cavalier, and Gideon is the only one for the job. Together, Gideon and Harrow travel to the First House where the mysterious trial awaits. There, they encounter the other necromancers, their cavaliers, and deadly mystery surrounding how to become a Lyctor.
I don’t know, y’all. The premise is great. The mysterious house with hidden rooms, magical puzzles, and ghosts are all a lot of fun. Gideon is a phenomenal character whose irreverence for most things cuts through the darker parts of the story. The various forms of necromancy on display were inventive. But I just felt the entire time that I kept missing things. I didn’t and still don’t entirely understand the House system. I don’t know how these Houses sustain themselves. There was frequent mention of a war between the Emperor of the Nine Houses and… someone else? Somewhere else? I have too many questions about the world in which this story takes place and too many questions lingering about what occurred within this story itself to read the sequel.