Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Genre : Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Gothic
Date Published : September 10, 2019

Publisher : Publishing

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead. Publishing

Gideon the Ninth was pitched to me as LESBIAN NECROMANCERS IN OUTER SPACE and I am confident in my assertion that this book not only lived up to this pitch but far exceeded it in literally every way possible.

Let’s start with the LESBIANS! For all the SFF books I’ve read this year, I’ve been overall disappointed in the lack of queerness (a lot of the more popular SFF titles that I’ve been trying to ‘catch up on’ all seem to exclusively feature side character m/m relationships, which honestly got pretty bland after awhile). But Gideon the Ninth?! I literally cannot get over the queerness of this book. It was just so unflappably gay. Gideon is the snarky, butch, sword-fighting heroine I always knew I needed. Harrowhawk Nonagesimus (say that ten times fast) is the goth gay girl I never knew I wanted. And Dulcinea…oh Dulcinea…is the tragic lipstick lesbian of my (and Gideon’s) dreams. So, Lesbians? Check.

Now…the NECROMANCERS! Muir does a fabulous job of building her magic system throughout the story. Early on, we see the many ways in which Harrow is a talented bone necromancer – she raises the dead to do her bidding (which usually involved kicking Gideon’s ass) and can create entire skeletons out of a teeny tiny metacarpal. But even Harrow has her necromantic limits, literally sweating blood when she overexerts her abilities – a small but badass detail that I loved reading. If that isn’t cool enough, we soon learn that each of the nine Houses have their own necromantic specialty, ranging from soul-siphoning to psychometry. (I found this really neat article from Tor that breaks down each House’s necromantic specialities, which I highly recommend checking out). Necromancers? Check.

And, of course, the OUTER SPACE! If Muir had simply written a story of lesbian necromancers, I would have been satisfied. But she goes above and beyond and sets this story in an entirely different galaxy. There are a few ways to interpret the setting, but I read it as: eons ago, humanity fled the Milky Way and ended up in a new galaxy, where the primary energy source has become thanergy/thalergy (basically life energy/death energy). Each House literally has its own planet on which it resides, which opens up so many possibilities going forward in the next two books (Gideon the Ninth gives us glimpses of the Ninth House and First House planets, but the rest remain a mystery!). Without giving too much away, the book ends on a space ship headed to God knows where (hehe), which makes me even more excited for the possibility of deep space necromancy and all that could entail! Outer Space? Check.

So, yeah. Gideon the Ninth blew me away. I can very confidently say that is my favorite book of 2019. Gideon is the most snarky, loyal, lovable, and badass character I’ve read in awhile, and my heart broke into tiny little pieces when I realized the story was over. I don’t want to spoil much (the ending is WILD and UNEXPECTED and left me with SO MANY QUESTIONS!) but I am very excited to see what comes next in this trilogy – I am just very sad that I can’t read it right now. But, for the time being, I will have to satiate my need for more lesbian necromancers in space by plotting my Halloween costume, which will definitely involve aviators and skeleton paint.

[Review originally published on]

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