Reviews

Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

kay_andy's review

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adventurous dark funny mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.25

harukoreads's review

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3.0

I can see why this book is so polarizing, because while it is definitely a sequel to Gideon the Ninth, it is very, very different. 

I loved Gideon the Ninth because of the visceral writing, witty narrator, and engaging murder mystery. In contrast, Harrow the Ninth still has that same visceral writing (but with an added layer of weird thanks to about 40% of the book being written in second person), an emotionally broken and unreliable narrator, and so much buildup of confusion and illogical storytelling I debated if the author was ever going to explain herself. She does, eventually, but in my opinion she could have paced the revelations at the end of this book much better - instead of slowly ramping up the hints and clues until the climax of the story bursts into clarity, the first 90% of this book is incredibly discombobulating, and the final 10% has so many revelations I felt myself getting whiplash. 

I would not be surprised if many people DNF'd this book out of frustration because it is deliberately so vague. I held on because I enjoyed the writing style even if the story was frustrating, and because I have a terrible habit of being unable to quit a book even if I find it deeply unpleasant. Was this book unpleasant? I wouldn't call it an enjoyable read. You could argue the author deliberately frustrated her readers with a long, drawn out section of confusion just to make them sympathize with Harrow's broken state of mind and overwhelming grief, but frankly, I think it could have been cut short by at least 100 pages without losing the effect. After a while it was repetitive without adding anything new. 

I'm still rating this book positively because the final 20% or so of this book was just what I was hoping the whole book would be - strange but fascinating, devastating but hilarious. While this whole book is well written, certain sections dragged, and I just wish Muir had been a bit more willing to kill her darlings - that is, the long monotonous sections of prose, please leave my favorite repressed lesbians alone. 

featherinthebreeze's review

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adventurous funny tense medium-paced

5.0

thirstkirst's review

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4.0

"Do not fucking ask me for information. I could not be more lost right now."


This book kicked my ass. It fought me every step of the way. It has two extremely muscular arms with meaty balled up fists, and those fists just kept punching me in the head over and over and over again. Then, miraculously, after weeks of this abuse - I’d long since given up asking for it to show me mercy - the book stopped hitting me.

Bury me next to you in that unmarked grave, Joy. We knew that was the only hope we ever had–that we would live to see it through … and pray for our own cessation. Oh, we’ll still hate each other, my dear, we have hated each other too long and too passionately to stop … but my bones will rest easy next to your bones.


I’ve never felt so challenged by a book. Especially a sequel! A world that I thought I had come to slightly understand in the first book! I figured, if anything, this book would at least be a little easier to get into because I had a base layer of understanding. I was so naive to think I knew anything at all. This sequel is written in second person, first person, and third person. All the mentionings of the first book are not what actually happened, Harrow is remembering everything wrong. It’s unbelievably confusing. As with the first book, there’s all the necromancy magic/science shit that can be super difficult to follow sometimes.

“There had been another girl who grew up alongside Harrow—but she had died before Harrow was born.”


But. BUT.

Harrow the Ninth is a work of art.

“You sawed open your skull rather than be beholden to someone. You turned your brain into soup to escape anything less than 100 percent freedom. You put me in a box and buried me rather than give up your own goddamned agenda. Harrowhark, I gave you my whole life and you didn’t even want it.”


I think that Tamsyn Muir (the author) is a genius. She’s brave. Bold. Unique. Hilarious. Intelligent. Creative. Out of this fucking world. If you want a glimpse of how she truly writes, please click to view the quote below. It’s fascinating. Tagged for spoilers, but it’s not truly a spoiler if you don’t know the context of the situation.

SpoilerIt happened in an instant. It happened over a myriad. A wet red construct knitted itself back together, and then burbling out of its centre, a hot gush of pale pink meat and nerve—a lumpen squirting of organ, deep soft violets, fat-stippled cerises, coils of intestine and gentle buff-shaded curves of bowel—white pops in each eye socket, bumps of sandy pearl stuff filling in behind—the twitch of a wet red tongue in a mandible spurting teeth. The percussive, throbbing urgency of a heart, quickly hidden with a puff of bronchiae sliding into big soft lung shapes—abruptly muscled over, then dressed with belated modesty in skin—the skin shading over with a fine coating of hair at the arms, at the chest—dark hair undulating over the eyebrows, making wrinkles and ruffles over the skull. The hot white jelly of the eyes was dyed black as though oily drops had been squeezed into it—purling over in black, shining wavelets, staining it true nitid ebony—the white rings bobbing up to the surface as though they’d been ducked into the water, each matte black pupil resting in the central point.


I’m not going to pretend that I understood everything in this book. I think that even the biggest fan of this series couldn’t fully grasp it. But there’s SO MUCH here that you don’t have to understand it all. Just buckle in, keep reading, and enjoy the ride.

“Well, I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me.”


The rich characters, the witty dialogue, the mystery/suspense, the dealing with loss and grief, the absolute endless pop culture references, the fucking memes - those are what keep me going. I laughed. I cringed. I cried. Please note, it would take multiple re-reads of this series to even begin to pick up on all references that Muir has included. It’s insane.

“Is that the truth, or the truth you tell yourself?” asked Augustine.
“What is the difference?” said God.


Do I think that the ending is worth the beating this book gave me? Yes. Was it 100% worth these black eyes and a fractured skull, though? No. I could have done with a *touch* more. I was so close to being fully satisfied, but I didn’t quite make it there.

If you truly enjoyed Gideon the Ninth, I would recommend that you give this second installment a try. This book is definitely not for everyone, and I would understand why literally anyone would not be able to get through it.

"I kissed you and later I would kiss him too before I understood what you were, and all three of us lived to regret it - but when I am in heaven I will remember your mouth, and when you roast down in hell I think you will remember mine."


I must give it a high rating with a good review. It may be one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read, but I am thoroughly impressed by Muir. I can’t help it. I love it.

“I’m not fucking dead,” I said, which wasn’t even true, and I was choking up; everything I’d ever done, everything I’d ever been through, and I was choking up.

And the Emperor of the Nine Houses, the Necrolord Prime, stood from his chair to look at you–at me; looked at my face, looked at your face, looked at my eyes in your face. It took, maybe, a million myriads. The static in your ears resolved into wordless screaming. His expression was just–gently quizzical; mildly awed.

“Hi, Not Fucking Dead,” he said. “I’m Dad.”


Happy reading!

sleeping_while_awake's review

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5.0

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read Harrow the Ninth. I liked Gideon the Ninth, but I found the lack of explanation to the world-building detracted from my enjoyment. Additionally, combined with the sheer number of characters in Gideon, it was hard to ever think I knew what has happening.

I am really glad I decided to read Harrow. The worldbuilding is still vague, but at least with the second book it's familiar. In no way can you read Harrow without Gideon. A very large part of Harrow's plot is "re-telling" pieces of Gideon.

The second book was helped by a narrower focus. Less characters, less of the mechanical/magical workings that are never explained. It's primarily in one location, often with just Harrow alone.

Plot-wise, Harrow is now a powerful Lyctor. But, the events that took place in Gideon don't appear to be correct. People she thought died are now alive, and vice versa. Someone that wasn't ever a participant now had a starring role. She claims it's because she is going insane and her memory cant be trusted. But, there's something much more to this.

There's more sci-fi elements than Gideon. The magic system I still don't get. I understand there are a few different types, but how everything breaks into Houses and their specialties, it's beyond me. I went into Harrow not trying to figure it all out, and it was fine, as it's not the point of the book.

I really enjoyed the main mystery. Harrow is a unreliable narrator. I did pay very close attention throughout the book for possible clues, although I certainly did not really figure it out ahead of time.

If you weren't sold on Gideon, you may want to try Harrow. I would recommend refreshing yourself with the events of the first book.

cbilladeau's review against another edition

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challenging dark funny mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

carlow's review

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adventurous challenging dark emotional funny tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

daydreamermoonwalker's review

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adventurous dark funny mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

The first half of the book was really confusing and kinda boring, but I kept reading because I love the characters and wanted to see what happened to them. I'm glad I did, because the second half of the book was excellent. It was fast paced and all the mysteries from the first half got answered. Another thing to note is that a good chunk of the book is written in 2nd person pov, which was an interesting experience. 

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lyriclorelei's review

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5.0

Okay, so I liked Gideon fine, but I adored Harrow. It took me a bit to sink into the 2nd person and the middle felt a bit long, but it felt like a puzzle to try and piece together what I knew and what was happening.

shhhh__sam's review

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5.0

This book is the most wonderfully, confusingly fun book I’ve read all year. Confusing is the operative word because I had no fucking clue what was going on for most of the book — reader beware because you will have NO FUCKING CLUE what is going on for most of this book. Somehow the confusing what the fuckness was on purpose and done well??? So I’m not mad at it. Also, Gideon Nav is the coolest fucking character I’ve ever read, even when she’s dead.

Other great things: the best dad joke ever, references to memes both classic and obscure as fuck, and the sentence “these motherfuckers had a hunger only thumbs could satisfy”

Definitely read this book, it’s great. But be prepared to spend most of it gleefully baffled.