She could hear Darlington’s voice in her head: When was the first time you saw them? Low and halting, as if he wasn’t sure whether the question was taboo. But the real question, the right question, was: When was the first time you knew to be afraid?
Alex was glad he’d never had the sense to ask.
― Leigh Bardugo, Ninth House
Ninth house refers to Lethe house, the watchers and keepers over the magic practices of the “Ancient Eight” houses, or magical societies at Yale.
After a traumatic experience leaves all of her friends dead, and Alex with zero memory of what happened or how she survived, Alex receives an offer from Yale. Come to Yale and become the Lethe House Dante: the student tasked with keeping the magical rituals safe and consistent, and preventing ghosts, or ‘Greys’, from breaking through the veil between the living and the dead.
Things go wrong nearly from the start, as Alex is a reluctant observer in gruesome prognostications performed by the various houses. Her mentor, Darlington (the outgoing Dante), is tasked with training Alex. Alex doesn’t necessarily want to be Dante but, after a life of being tormented by ghosts and humans, she takes the opportunity at Yale for what it is: a means of escape.
When Darlington disappears one night, Alex and the rest of Lethe leaders huddle up and continue to move forward, hoping that they will be able to recover Darlington at a new moon ritual. However, before the ritual can take place, a young woman is murdered and Alex suspects that the societies have something to do with her death.
I’ve had this book on my reading list for a while. I enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s other books in the Shadow and Bone universe, so I figured I would like this one as well. This one was better than the Shadow and Bone trilogy but not as good as the Six of Crows duology.
In summary, this book is perfectly fine. But there are so many other truly wonderful books that I would recommend instead.
The good: As a character, Alex is great and I will definitely read the next Alex Stern book when it comes out. The real mystery for me is about what happened to Darlington, his backstory, and what Dawes and Alex need to do to get him back (if that is even possible).
The bad: The other characters are too cookie-cutter for my taste: the put-upon cop, the dean – beholden to alumni and university donors, the fratty psychopath, the naive good girl, and the creepy mentor. The mystery of what happened to Tara went on far longer than necessary. The ending was, well…I thought it was just plain stupid. By the time they solved the mystery, I was like Lazlo in What We Do In The Shadows – I DON’T CARE! I was also annoyed by the constant “stop fucking with women, you misogynist shitbags” message. This was not subtle. The author basically beats you over the head with it throughout the entire book. I was fine with the first few times, but after that, it gets old. I get what the author is trying to do, but it annoyed me more than it inspired me. I feel really really bad writing about how much I disliked this, but I’ve seen other authors do a much better job conveying the same message.