CBR14: Bingo “Funky” – Much of Harrow the Ninth is written in second person perspective which is odd enough on its own but Muir also mixes in first and third perspective as well, making this a truly funky read.
Spoilers: This is a review of a reread and will contain spoilers. Continue only if you’ve read Harrow the Ninth.
Reading Harrow the Ninth the first time was challenging on a variety of levels. I was struggling processing my own grief while reading Harrow fumble through hers. Added to that was the second person perspective, the mixed up retelling of events from Gideon the Ninth, and the bouncing around in time. In trying to understand it all, I read the last third of the book about three times. This time everything made much more sense, or at least I understood what was happening better.
Teasing apart the story takes time and effort. Even on the reread I put more effort into this book than anything else I’ve read so far in 2022. Once everything falls into place, the scope of it all is breathtaking. Plans laid over hundreds of years to take down the Emperor lead to Gideon and Harrow being pawns in a galactic game. And it ends up being all for naught as John truly is the Undying Lord. Their gambit fails and it appears, there are now only two Lyctors left, Ianthe and a compromised Harrow. It begs the question, where does John go from here? The nine houses were just raided for their adepts and cavaliers. Does he try again? I guess we’ll find out in future books.
Of course the biggest question is; whose body is Camilla caring for at the end of Harrow? On reread, I’m still stumped. We know that the Blood of Eden has the incorruptible corpse of Gideon, and Camilla is with BOE. We also know that Harrow’s body, which Gideon was controlling at the time, gets CPR from someone after the crashing of the Mithraeum in the River. The epilogue reveals a potential clue as the body eats something incredibly hot with no discernable damage, forcing them to use a different food vendor. Does that mean it’s Harrow’s body and it was automatically healing from the burn damage because of Lyctoral abilities? I’m eagerly looking forward to starting Nona the Ninth and hopefully getting some answers.
Speaking of Nona, I noticed this in the reread. It had been meaningless before but now is something of interest.
The Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus ought to have been the 311th Reverend Mother of her line. She was the eighty-seventh Nona of her House; she was the first Harrowhark.”
A fun thing that stood out to me this time is that romance seems to be a commonly read genre in Muir’s setting. Dulcinea was reading romance novels in Gideon. At least twice romance novels and their tropes are brought up in Harrow. These two had me howling with laughter as I reimagined the movie “She’s All That” as a necromantic romantic comedy.
Harry,” she said, and said it tenderly, “have you never read a trashy novel in which the hero gets a life-affirming change of clothes and some makeup, and then goes to the party and everyone says things like, ‘By the Emperor’s bones! But you’re beautiful,‘ or, ‘This is the first time I have ever truly seen you,'”.
“Abella Trine, inevitably of Ida, is considered a poor prospect on the marriage market because she’s too skinny, her tract-specialist flesh magic is too good, and she wears her thick chestnut hair in an unflattering bun, which is mentioned at least twice a chapter.”
I am quite fond of how Muir describes things. These books are full of gems but I quite liked this description of an awkward pause, it had me wincing with sympathy.
He trailed off. He stared into the middle distance, still grasping his cup of tea… The pause stumbled execrably, fell down the stairs, and lay in a tangle at the bottom in full view of all listeners, who had to watch it bleed out in embarrassment.”
Just like Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth is well worth a re-read. I caught details that I had missed before because I was too caught up in what was happening. Lyctor Gideon, after having his chest ripped open, talks to Harrow thinking that Commander Wake is inside her and asks about the baby (Gideon) because he thought it was his child. I somehow missed that Lyctor Gideon’s soul dies but his cavalier, Pyrrha who had been compartmentalized in his skull, is now in control of the body. So many souls, too few bodies!
I know that Nona the Ninth is probably going to leave me with even more questions but I look forward to the journey that Muir is going to take me on.