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“Gideon the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir


I thought this was a hugely entertaining read even if there are some aspects of it that I have somewhat mixed feelings about. The first part of the book starts off relatively slowly but does introduce some intriguing mysteries, but the story really kicks into gear once it reaches the giant abandoned palace on a dead world that is hosting the competition to become one of the undying Emperor's personal necromancers. It has elements that might be reminiscent of everything from The Hunger Games to stately home murder mysteries to The Crystal Maze, but I can't think of anything I could really compare to its overall effect. There are several cleverly intertwined mysteries as the characters both try to figure out the challenges that they have to pass while also trying to work out who or what is killing off some of the challengers. It's a lot of fun to read and it does a good job of gradually revealing important information while at the same time raising the stakes and the tension. Like any good murder mystery it does a good job of throwing in red herrings and making all of the characters look suspicious at some point. The resolution to the mystery is foreshadowed enough that it's not really a surprise, but at the same time it wasn't obvious either. A small criticism might be that some of the choices some characters make sometimes feel a bit under-explained.

I think the biggest aspect of the book that I had mixed feelings about was the character of Gideon and in particular their dialogue. She's an enjoyable character to follow and I think having someone with a tendency to be irreverent does help to stop the tone of the book being too brooding. However, her dialogue does often feel really anachronistic, she feels like a modern character transplanted into what is presumably a far future dystopia and there's no attempt at an explanation for why she talks like that.

Other than that issue I think Gideon does have a good story arc, and I also like the parallel story arc that her necromancer Harrow gets. The other necromancers and cavaliers taking part in the challenge are a varied bunch, they don't all get the same amount of character development but I thought there were several interesting characters and the complex way they all interact with each other is also developed well.

It may not have been perfect but I thought this was very impressive for a debut novel and I'll definitely be reading the sequel.

Rating : 8/10