Review: Ninth house by Leigh bardugo
Updated: Feb 8
Alex Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. Alex has been tasked with monitoring the mysterious activities of Yale's secret societies. Now there's a dead girl on campus and Alex seems to be the only person who won't accept the neat answer the police
and campus administration have come up with for her murder.
Because Alex knows the secret societies are far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone ever imagined. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living . . .
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is everything that I needed to read on this spooky season. I craved it and I got it and it was quite a good time.
The intrigue and bloody magic really kept this novel alive, but I may say a few not so good things about how the plot is empty and how the characters feel flat, mostly if we compare them to the other Leigh bardugo characters.
SPOILERS ahead, be warned that this is a spoilery review.
I absolutely loved the begging of the book, I may even say that the second chapter is my favorite and that is because it captures the whole vibe of the novel, the atmosphere that was set up. That is what ,for me, made the book worth to read. The creepy visuals that we get right at the begging. The scary way that Leigh wrote that scene with the Grays...it still gives me chills thinking about it.
”It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed”
The problem is that the good things about the plot stop here. I loved the writing but I was already expecting that because I read other novels from this author. I loved the dark and somber tone throughout the story but ,again, I was expecting it because Leigh Bardugo is a goth queen and a fabulous writer! But what about the rest? Where is the deep rooted characters...where?
To be fair this was the first adult fantasy novel from the author and everyone needs to find their footing, and I am not saying that the book is not good. Please I gave it 4 starts (follow me on Goodreads). But I did find it disappointing because of the hype that surrounds it, not just the author but also this book. Everyone is talking about how creepy and magnificent it is! And I agree to a certain point...
Let´s start with the characters, which for me was the thing that took me out of the reading experience.
Galaxy "Alex" Stern is the main character and the most annoying one of them all. I thought I had something in the first act of the book but them...every love for this persona that had build up was burned. And I really struggled to keep reading.
Look I know that Alex is the "troubled girl" trope in all fashion and I can live with that but murder? Possession is not an excuse. In my opinion the possession event was a way for the author to excuse Alex from the guilt of such a violent act. But it didn't work, I would rather read about a straight murderer instead of an "poor victim/excused" murderer. We know that Alex liked to kill and had no regret so why create a way to soften the hit?
After that revelation I stopped liking Alex, which until that point I was rooting for. She was pretty real, had a solid reason for being who she was and kept focus on her goal and her personality. A well-rounded character. But I just couldn't root for a murderer so I skipped the "yeahy you killed four people in a violent way, got away with it and think it is fine" wagon.
But honestly the worst part what that she let Darlington be eaten without lifting a finger. What? Nothing pointed for her to be this so ruthless, and I know that she is supposed to be depicted as a troubled person but hey, for me it was a little to much no?
Her past was a little shallow, just as the possession thingy. A lot of things were left unopened and I know there is more books in the series but I think it was kinda of frustrating....didn't felt like grounds for a sequel just untied backgrounds and lack of character depth.
Darlington, my boy. He was the carrier of the book. He made it glow and re-glow and me die a little inside in his last chapter. We know that something was up from the start. But still that last sentence...it made me feel incredibly sad for him even lonely, that was what his character gave me.
Now in the other end I think that all the characters are well made, in paper they are interesting and relatable, kinda. I love that Alex was so keen in money, because it is a real thing.
The problem is that I felt like there was missing pieces from them. Some essence that I couldn't quite fathom. It is possible that this is the case because the author is allowing space for grown on the next books of the series. But it just felt too shallow and empty.
Mostly the backgrounds. I believe that things that were included in the final draft were not necessary - for example, Alex rape scene. Too graphic. It did not served a purpose. It didn't gave a reason for why the gray was able to touch her and it didn't gave us a reason for her becoming such a rude and mentally problematic character. The rest of her past was enough.
The world building was special, just like the tone. This author truly has a way to make the reader immersive in the story. The details about the places were not too much but just enough. The different tombs, the way she described the rituals and the river scene were really cool to read.
I never been to Yale but it made me want to walk up the words and step up there just to check the place out. Also, I think she was very able to cast a filter of the secret societies/ black magic in New Haven.
I loved that important subjects like power and money dynamics where brought to light and really compared to reality. I liked how academic pressure is depicted in the book. The way that the adults vs college students power struggle was written is also something interesting.
But then things like Alex´s friend rape was skimmed through like nothing really happen, with no doubt that was a lost opportunity to start a conversation about college rape and how really is not talked about. It felt a bit thrown in there for just a little "spice".
And the end, oh the end. Such a misdirect.
Why? Why carry a whole story, focus so much on it and then made the twist from the side story that nobody really cared about? It was random, forced and honestly just flat. Uhh a big old villain that wasn't even a thing five minutes earlier wants to kill the main character? I..why should I care about it? I mean it was a twist but we can´t just write about aliens and then make the end about dragons and call it a twist can we?
Concluding, I liked the book in theory. I liked the idea behind it, but the final execution could be so much more than it was. There was too many things making a hell of a confusing mixture and the outcome was demons, ghosts, soul-eating person and death. And the demon thing in the end...that was just a stepping stone for the next novel in the series. Not a legitimate, intriguing end.
"There were always excuses for why girls died."
But I would recommend you reading it! Letting your own mind get your own opinions! It is a fantastic book with some fundamental problems that can be fixed in the next instalment! So hang tight for it, like I will most definitely do.