Re-read, September 2022, in advance of Nona Wow. What a change 17 months makes? (edited to note: I originally felt like Gideon was 3.5 stars, too confusing by half, not the best thing I’d read but I was interested to read more)
I originally read this in a bit of a weird space. I had made some pretty momentous decisions in my personal life, but due to the whole COVID of it all wasn’t in a place to put them into motion for another half a year or so. Vaccines had just come out, and there was no indication of when the general public would be able to get their hands on them. Into that void I finally, finally picked up this weird lesbian necromancer book, a small voice in the back of my head annoyingly reminding me that maybe I was putting off reading this book because of my own ambivalence towards perhaps being less-than-straight.
Is it any wonder that I found it confusing and great and thus a bit too much to handle? Cut to this year, when I have spent hours upon hours on Reddit and the general inter webs and on video calls with my friends (hi Evin and Britt!!!) dissecting what’s going on in these novels. I’ve printed out legal sized charts of the various interpersonal relationships and cavalier body hosts and planets. I’ve gone down rabbit holes of plot points, tried every which way to explain to people what these books are (great) and aren’t (comprehensible).
What I will say, germane to the re-read: re-read this book, people. This is not a book that you wish to remain unspoiled for, so to speak. This books improves with spoilers, when you aren’t wondering wtf is happening. I found myself understanding so much more of what was going on, because I remembered the larger plot points and could appreciate the steps to get there. The pathos that I knew was coming was also more pathos-y, because I could see the groundwork that Muir is laying down. There’s no part of this book that was ruined for having read it twice. Usually a re-read is a comfort thing. Not in this case! Revisiting the world of Gideon is a reminder of how the best authors reach into your chest cavity and pull our your beating heart seemingly without trying.
Re-read, September 2022 in advance of Nona: I actually copied a few Reddit links to “explanations of Harrow” for myself into the notes section of my original review for this book. What a silly thing to do, I should have realized I’d just end up re-reading this book ahead of the next one! Which, as a reminder, we all thought was going to be the last of the novels but instead we got bonus Nona and now have Alecto to look forward to next year (spoiler for Nona (view spoiler)
Like Gideon the Ninth there is no part of this book that isn’t improved by re-reading and having a summary/cheat sheet/diagram beside you to guide your journey with the Emperor (MF JOHN) through the rivers of hell and bubbles of river and blood bubbles and oh my god I forgot how much I wanted everyone in this book to take a shower and properly remove their face makeup. I think I could make a killing (HA) selling an balm-to-oil cleanser along with a guide to double cleansing to everyone on this boat, but especially Harrow.
How much more heart wrenching were the stories of my favorite cavaliers (Mercy and Augustine) the second time around? The answer is a thousand billion million gazillion times more. As Harrow limps through learning how to cook (SOUP) and trying to solve a mystery that prior!Harrow didn’t want solved, it’s all you can do to store up your sad, pathetic tears for the denouement that you know is coming.
Re-reads also made clear some obvious-at-second-glance hilarious bits which had me cackling on the floor. The entire interregnum bit in the bubble when Eden is fighting Matthias Nonius, but as devised by Ortus the First in his epic enneameter The Noniad? Side splittingly funny as Harrow realizes that she’ll owe her life to Ortus’ desire to
dully immortalize the best swordsman in history (of the Ninth, and possibly of all time).
This book makes for a good segue into Nona, although I will say that it’s a bit of a double edged rapier—after the heights that we end with here, it’s a bit of a let down to go to Nona’s world. But also, you’ve been repeatedly traumatized over the course of two books by multiple creepy characters and so it makes Nona a reprieve. All I’m saying is, there’s no downside to reading this again and I look forward to doing so a third time in advance of next year’s finale.