Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Series, 2)

by Tamsyn Muir

Hardcover, 2020



Call number



Tordotcom (2020), Edition: First Edition, 512 pages


Fiction. Science Fiction. Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to the sensational, USA Today bestselling novel Gideon the Ninth, turns a galaxy inside out as one necromancer struggles to survive the wreckage of herself aboard the Emperor's haunted space station. Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side by side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeathâ?? but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her. Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor's Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: Is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better o… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member JJbooklvr
It took me a bit to get into this book because the beginning was so confusing. Then I hit the OMG moment when I realized what was happening. Until the next twist. And then the next! I have no idea where the next book is going to go, but know that I cannot wait to read it!
LibraryThing member Sunyidean
"The only thing our civilisation can ever learn from yours is that when our backs are to the wall and our towers are falling all around us and we are watching ourselves burn, we rarely become heroes."

I can't rate this book. I don't know what its rating should be. So I have left it with no stars, at
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It is either an incomplete piece of brilliance that needs book #3 to finish it off, or it is a hot structural mess with bags of potential but a collapsed narrative arc. I genuinely, honest to Cthulhu, cannot tell which possibility is most likely at this point.

There were parts of it I loved, and parts that stay with me still. Is that enough for a 4 or 5 star rating? At the same time, I genuinely don't understand the ending. Between the shifting timelines and alternate such-and-such, I'm not actually sure what HAPPENED at the end.

I'm not the only person who was confused, so I don't think it's just me being thick. If it is, my apologies to the author. I adore Gideon as a character, and came to like Harrow. But the reveals were oddly staggered, and long stretches of interesting yet confusing events seemed to occur between equally confusing (yet beautifully written and somehow riveting) set pieces.

I could envision the storyline really pulling together in a grand operatic way with a third book, but it might yet dive into further proliferation and confusion. I will continue to recommend the series and will be reading book 3 when it comes out, but I am reserving judgment on book 2 for now.
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LibraryThing member jshillingford
More than halfway through Harrow and I was ready to give the book three stars. Harrow follows directly from where Gideon ended, but is written very differently. Most of the book takes place on a space station, the Seat of the Emperor. There are only six people there: The Emperor, Harrow, Ianthe,
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and the Emperor’s three remaining Lyctors, Mercymorn, Augustine and Ortus. However, there is something wrong with Harrow; making her an “unreliable” narrator who is blindly following instructions she has left for herself, written in her own hand. I’m not the biggest fan of narration by possibly insane characters, but it was an even bigger struggle here because Muir chose to write nearly all the book in second person point of view. I completely understand why she chose to do so – the style suits the story being told. I still hate it. It’s an awkward POV and makes it easy to forget who the events are happening to. The waters are muddied further by the fact that some alternating chapters go back to the events of the first book, but those events are now different. I figured out quickly what was happening, so it felt like a lot of time – too much time – was spent unnecessarily “rewriting” history until the big reveal of why Harrow came to be like she is. The plot did not advance for far too long.

Nevertheless, I read the book almost straight through because of the worldbuilding. Readers get a bit about the Great Resurrection through which the Emperor saved humanity, much more information about the planet revenants that are hunting the Emperor and a whole lot on necromancy. I enjoyed how Muir’s necromancy is treated more like a science, with expertise in various disciplines (bone magic, flesh magic, spirit, etc.) I like the new Lyctors. And frankly, I absolutely loved the Emperor Undying/God. He is fascinating and his interactions with Harrow and the rest of the characters are the highlight of the book.

The book jumped from three stars to five solely because of the last third (and that scene with the soup, OMG!). When Muir begins to tie all the threads together, when the plot against the Emperor is revealed, when we see what Harrow set in motion, who is in the Locked Tomb – I could not put the book down. The conclusion, while something of a cliffhanger, was excellent. I still feel too much time was spent on Harrow’s “madness”, but the story toward the end fulfilled the potential of book one so that I cannot wait for the finale, and more of John.
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LibraryThing member m_mozeleski
In the same vein of Gideon The Ninth, Harrow is remarkable for not mentioning once until 3/4ths of the way through that there even existed a Gideon.

You start to see the cracks early, but for the most part are just curious. You know whence Harrow's blade comes...but there is nothing else to indicate
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the how. You see she is trying to keep up the blade and coat it in blood (why?! Harrow's specialty is bone!)..and eventually bone. And you wonder. But everything going on is so new, and God is there.

There are subtle clues peppered throughout, of course.

I HIGHLY recommend reading this only after Gideon. I am especially excited for the finale.

Also repare yourself for the meme to top all memes.
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LibraryThing member TheDivineOomba
I was super excited for Harrow the Ninth - and it didn't disappoint. However, it messed totally screws with your head, seemingly contradicting the entirety of Gideon the Ninth. This is not a bad thing, but as a reader, I had serious problems trying to figure out which book is true - Gideon the
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Ninth or Harrow the ninth?

As for the story itself, I liked Gideon the Ninth better. I had to put a lot of work into Harrow just to kind of understand what was going on. I also had hard time combining the two Harrow's - the one from the first book, who is confident, egotistical, or the one from the second book, who is just existing, broken, demeaned by everyone around her. The witty back and forth is there, just not said by Harrow.

As for the other characters, "God", Ioanth, The Saint of Mercy, the Saint of Patience, etc, with such limited characters, Author Muir throws a spotlight on what it means to be immortal and being in direct contact with a real life God.
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LibraryThing member drudmann
Convoluted and confused, not much fun. Gets going at the 72% mark but remains unclear. Reading it felt like work.
LibraryThing member quondame
Complex layering of deceits an and interweaving with scenes from an alternate version of the previous volume, all played out in unappealing settings with little in common with either our world or projected deep space futures of our world, make this a dense and balky read. With alliances charged
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with rotted feelings and enmities implacable as inexplicable this shouldn't work, but well it does.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
I thought Gideon the Ninth was insanity in a book, but then I read Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Really, this series should simply fall apart with everything that occurs, but it is like watching any sort of racing event wherein you secretly want all the crashes and accidents. Not only does Ms.
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Muir prove me wrong about just how crazy a story can get, but she also leaves me wanting even more of it.

In Harrow the Ninth, we have more of everything. There is more space, more ghosts, more necromancy, more bones, more danger, more characters, and infinitely more questions. In addition, we also have immortals, ghosts of dead planets, a mysterious enemy other than the dead planet ghosts, and a missing significant character. Nothing really makes sense, and you begin to wonder if reading the story is making you mad alongside Harrow.

The ending throws so much new information at you that you can only sit back and hope you absorb half of it. Honestly, after talking to others who already read Harrow the Ninth, I don't think any reader truly understands what happens or the new information we receive. What's more, because there is a universal lack of understanding, everyone's interpretation of the information greatly differs. It does make for some pretty interesting discussions, so that's a plus.

What makes Harrow the Ninth and its predecessor work is the writing. Simply, Ms. Muir is a genius. Her sentences are poetic but simple. Even better, she hides little joke nuggets in the simplest of dialogue, which enhances a scene to perfection. Added to that, her characters are so real as to be mundane. For example, the entire trilogy orbits around God, who just happens to be named John and acts as human as Harrow. No lofty naming convention for the immortal characters here and certainly no behavioral changes for immortals.

Harrow the Ninth starts out as the first novel's complete opposite in pretty much everything. Tonally, the story is darker. Harrow flits between second-person and first-person narrative, both of which show she does not have Gideon's flair for the dramatic or sarcasm. Plus, Harrow's memories of what occurred at Canaan House in the first book differ greatly from the book you actually read. Much like within that first book, all you can do is go with it. Doing so means you get to enjoy Ms. Muir's fabulous writing, which in itself is a reason to read this bizarrely fun story.
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LibraryThing member robwriter
Great book. I've seen a lot of people are turned off by the second person perspective of the sample. Let me reassure you that it is well worth the read and fits perfectly with the story. Also, the book isn't entirely in second person. If you enjoyed Gideon The Ninth then you will enjoy this as well.
LibraryThing member Black-Lilly
Delightfully chaotic. It was missing a bit the snarky dialogues from the first book, but considered that the majority is written in second person that is not really possible.
Up was down and down was left and right was up, of course there were skeletons, and slime and tea and soup.
Can I really
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wait another year for the conclusion?

my only beef I have is that the editing was really shoddy. I lost count of the spelling and grammar errors after a while. Really hope that thise will get fixed for future editions.
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LibraryThing member rivkat
This sequel is more batshit than the original, which is really saying something. Structural problem: the character we came to know and kind of like from the first book is absent for most of the second. Also, I have only the faintest idea what was going on in most of the book, which goes back and
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forth between (1) maybe-replays/fake memories of what happened in the first book up to and including a meet-cute at a coffeeshop-analogue (these occur without much narrative resolution—they lack coherence even though their existence is ultimately explained) and (2) Harrow’s not-actually-training to fight on behalf of the Emperor against the forces trying to destroy them. And while it was easier to ignore the genocidal foundations of necromantic power in the first book because the protagonist wasn’t a necromancer and Gideon/Harrow didn’t actually kill a lot of people, that’s not the case here. To mangle a movie quote, to make me like her Harrow would have to be one motherfucking charming genocidaire, and she doesn’t quite make it, largely because she is fairly passive throughout. While she solved major puzzles in book one, here she seems to have no idea what’s going on with the older lectors, who amidst their present-day power struggles make jokes intelligible to people with late 20th/early 21st-century pop culture knowledge but not to her. It made sense that she was a necromantic genius but didn’t understand anything about people, but it wasn’t that much fun to read about when she didn’t do very much or observe enough to really put together the backstory. I mean, I respect the gonzoness of it all, but I actually started enjoying book one eventually and did not get there with book two, even though I might read book three just to rubberneck.
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LibraryThing member bookbrig
tldr: I liked it and am looking forward to the next one.

Oh look at me reading a WHOLE BOOK vry quickly. I am trying. This one helped my aversion to reading by being a book that I really wanted to read. It also challenged me because its structure is so deeply weird and I have an eensy amount of
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brain space for reading anything right now, particularly stuff that is remotely unusual. I am challenged sufficiently with just, like, living at the moment. The weirdness works, and it is a good book, and also I only made it through the first half because I really am trying to force myself to read stuff. The second half was easier for me. If you aren't struggling with books, you might not have a problem with the first half at all.

The gross body gunk stuff is EXTRA a lot in this installment, so maybe know that going in. That has nothing to do with the rest of this review, but feels like a good FYI. There's gross killer space bugs (this is not a spoiler. You find out about them on maybe the second page) as well as the various necromantic exploding body shenanigans and it gets gory in new and visceral ways.

Unrelated to that, there are three things that I don't do a great job with while I read:
1) Numbers. Dates, ages, temperatures, counting, whatever; I almost never retain any of them while reading something the first time. I just re-read Gideon the Ninth and discovered that the two main characters are 17 and 18. I did not pick that up the first time I read it, even though it SAYS it right there on the page because that is just... a thing I always manage to overlook or forget immediately. I did at least manage to remember the Fourth were teenagers, though I did not remember their actual ages either.
2) Names. This goes extra for a name that I'm not sure how to pronounce, but still applies to names I can pronounce perfectly well where my brain will fill in a word shaped blob instead of the actual name. Like. I see the shape and texture of the word and that's what my brain pops in while reading instead of the actual name. Sometimes, if I am trying to consciously work on this, I can slowly reread a name over and over and make it stick. Lots of times I don't and then discover after reading a book that I remember no one's names at all. I was 3/4 of the way through this when I figured out her name is HarrowhaRk not HarrowhaWk. Like, I read a book and most of another book and thought her name wrong all that time because ???
3) Maps and/or any sort of spatial description. I hate them and cannot understand them in any way that makes useful sense. I avoid book maps at all costs. As a person who enjoys epic fantasy, I recognize this is probably a failing but also I cannot make maps make sense so I've stopped trying. This wasn't really important to this book, but it is A Problem I Have.

This is why I like to reread things I enjoy: I'm terrible at details the first time through. I feel like this is a series where reading the books more than once would be useful for anyone though. There's a lot going on, a bunch of it is cryptic, and there's mysteries wrapped around mysteries. It's very satisfying to watch the way Muir threads everything back together, though I am still not totally sure I know what's going on. I was very entertained. I am extremely excited for the next story
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LibraryThing member Shrike58
If the first book in this trilogy was something of a hot mess, but fascinating and over the top for all that, the second book is even more of a mess, as, for much of the story, everyone's favorite teenage necromancer is in a world of mental disassociation as a result of the events of the first
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book. Whatever else this book slams home it's just how young our main character is, and how callow. The other thing this book slams home is all the bad faith and moral cut corners that this empire is built upon, crimes that have blow back from the cosmic level to the personal, and those choices are really going to detonate in the last third of this book. While I do feel that the first book is the better reading experience, I am left with a damn, WTF, kind of feeling, and the knowledge that the third book isn't coming out until 2022 does leave me frustrated.

As an aside, in the afterword, Muir gives a shout out to all the medical caseworkers who feed her anti-psychotic drugs, whether she wanted them or not. Muir apparently has hard experience with mental illness that she has filtered into this novel.
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LibraryThing member lavaturtle
I have really mixed feelings about this book. I loved the previous book in the trilogy, so I was excited to read this one. But the first ~2/3 of the book are just... utterly confusing, like, I don't know what's going on and the protagonist doesn't understand what's going on either. Once it becomes
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clear what's going on, the rest of the story is pretty great and compelling! (Although the ending is a bit... ambigious.) Some questions from the first book are answered, but there are some more I would very much like answered, hopefully in the upcoming third/final book...
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LibraryThing member jakeisreading
This is one of those times I wish I'd read more reviews before jumping into a book, because I certainly wasn’t expecting Harrow the Ninth to be such a challenging read.

In this second instalment of The Locked Tomb trilogy, Muir has made some divisive and ambitious creative choices: every other
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chapter is written in second person with an unknown narrator, the main character is possibly delusional, and there are frequent flashbacks that directly contradict the events of Gideon the Ninth.

The story kicks off where Gideon ended, with the Necrolord Prime asking Harrow to help him in his war against a mysterious enemy. Instead of preparing her for battle, Harrow's teachers dismiss her as a lossed cause as she questions her sanity and is convinced someone is trying to kill her.

Muir is a fantastic writer with a unique style, completely unafraid to go into new territory. I fully understand why many people will love this book, but for me it felt like a test of endurance before getting to the juicy bits.

I can reassure you that the final chapters are epic, with some mind-blowing ideas and impressive storytelling, and all loose ends tied up fairly neatly. There are also many fun things to discover throughout Harrow, notably the most messed up take on FTL travel since Event Horizon. I will still be reading the final instalment of the series, but perhaps with a more open mind.

If you’re happy to wade into the insanity and trust Muir to pull you out just as you’re about to drown, then absolutely give this book a go. Harrow has a lot of parallels with The Stars are Legion, so Hurley fans in particular should check out this series.
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LibraryThing member renbedell
Amazing follow up in the Locked Tomb series. The story follows Harrow and expands upon the world and the characters from the previous book. World-building is very light and the focus is on the characters. If you enjoyed Gideon the Ninth, then you will enjoy this book as it is very similar in how it
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is written and how the story unfolds.
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LibraryThing member macha
second book in the Locked Tomb series (make sure you read book 1, Gideon the Ninth, first). the nature of the murder mystery changes now over time, becoming more complicated, as Harrow the Ninth becomes Harrow the First, because everything changes as a result, including memory, alignment, location,
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and history. time may have stopped. it may be a pocket universe. or madness, of course. the older Lyctors are hostile, but the Emperor appears kindly. the cavalier is a declamatory poet, for whatever that's worth. Harrow is interacting more, but connecting less; large portions of her self appear to be missing. i loved this one too.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
Reviewing this one is tricky.... I listened to the audiobook, and I think I must have tuned out for something important at the beginning, which made me confused, which made it hard to pay attention, which made me miss some more stuff and made me more confused.

But on top of that, the reader is
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supposed to be confused. I'm not sure if I experienced the expected level of confusion, or if I was extra confused.... Without giving too much away, I can say that Harrow is the most unreliable narrator who has ever narrated, and it's, well, confusing. I came away from this book feeling like Muir is way smarter than I am and I probably missed a lot of the clever things she did.

Parts of the book are third-person flashbacks to events that happened before or during the first book, except they're completely different from what happened in the first book, which is a big hint to the reader that something really weird is happening. Other parts of the book are written in the second person - "You woke up" - where "you" is clearly Harrow, and that is also confusing. At the very end of the book, this does, more or less, make sense.

The humor in this is very different from the first book, because Harrow is a very different person from Gideon, but is no less delightfully clever. The world-building continues to be excellent. I particularly enjoyed how mundane Emperor/God is, and how annoying that is for Harrow. Muir also has an amazing grasp of human anatomy, and all the ways it can be subverted.

Despite the fact that I had no idea what was going on for most of this book, I still enjoyed it. I will probably read it again before the third book comes out.
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
I didn't care much for Gideon the Ninth, so I wasn't expecting much here... and I didn't get much, either. This is one of those books where the words seemed to roll over me. Who were all these characters? What were they trying to do? I couldn't tell you. I know from reading other reviews that this
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is one of those books designed to be confusing... but I was so lost, I wasn't even confused about the things I was supposed to be confused about; I didn't even remember the first book well enough to know that this book was deliberately contradicting that one.

Then at the end, there's like fifty pages where characters explain the plot to each other, which was sheer tedium. I really hope no more installments of this series get nominated for the Hugo Award, so that I don't feel obligated to read them.
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LibraryThing member reading_fox
Sadly disappointed, this is a poor continuation from Gideon. Of the two of course Gideon was always the more interesting and outcoming character, but Harrow had her moments, and the lines of cutting sarcasm could probably have sustained a whole novel. But that's not we get.

Harrow is not the Harrow
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of before, she's become a Lycator, Hand of the Undying King, etc etc. But exactly what that means isn't clear, as the story jumps all around the timeline very confusingly. It doesn't help that many excerpts are from Harrow recollecting/altering a different past where Giddeon didn't kill herself. It's never really clear why this happens, as although there was mention of a prior plan, along with a set of detailed 24 envelopes of encrypted instructions, by the time of the end of the book when the timelines have sort of converged the original plan appears to be forgotten. This is annoying, as a good half or more of the book is spent turgidly traipsing though entrails as Harrow fails to be the lyctor we'd expected, for, in the end, no explained reason at all.

Perhaps it's just mid-series slump, setting up a bigger plot, the epilogue and 'additional story' at the end seem to imply so, but I think I've lost interest at this point, and it will take some particularly enthusiastic reviews to pick the series up again. Which is a shame because the first was so good, a wonderfully irrelevant blend of humour, gore, romance and mystery. This just has the gore, and it's not enough. Characters feeling pity for themselves is the least enjoyable mode of writing, ,and while Harrow has justification (we think, but agin, lost plan so who knows) it's just not interesting enough. The motivations of 'God' and the other lyctors don't make much sense, even as mis-direction, the whole final explanation appears incredibly petty. I didn't like the world-building much either, especially the metaphysical River appearing as a real object.

Just nowhere near as fun.
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LibraryThing member James_Knupp
I’m really frustrated with this book, because while in the end I understand a lot of the creative choices made, they are simply annoying until you’re nearly done with the entire thing. The book lags for the first 2/3s, then dramatically ramps up and reveals all. The mysteries unfolded are
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fascinating, but the execution just feels like such a slog to get through. The previous book didn’t feel that way. Honestly, a solid ending is what kept this from only being a 2 star book.
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LibraryThing member Glennis.LeBlanc
Review to come

I loved the first book and was a bit confused by this one in the beginning. The book screams unreliable narrator to the reader if they have read the first book. It can be a bit of a slog, but the end does payoff. I did bounce off it the first time I read it but other people loved it
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so I looked up how it ended and then went back and listened to the entire thing on audio. I might have enjoyed it a bit more if I had read it right after the first book but I don’t think I will be do a reread.
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LibraryThing member fred_mouse
Hopefully I'll write a proper review later, but having just finished, I think at best I can manage 'holy hell, WTAF'.

Took a while to warm up; Harrowhark is possibly the most unreliable narrator I have ever had the pleasure to read, but that eventually becomes clear as to why. If you read the first
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book, there is quite a bit of 'what am I missing', but it might be even more confusing if you haven't.

multiple tumblr in-jokes; they were a good bit of levity in some quite tense situations.
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LibraryThing member jennybeast
OMFG, what? I mean, whaaaaaaaat?!?!?

I hardly know how to review this, because it is by far the most compelling mindfuck I've ever fallen into, and I'm not sure if I like that? And I'm not entirely sure that I even understood all of the plotlines, but I sure as hell didn't want to put it down. Be
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prepared for a descent into madness, I mean, probably. Be prepared to question your own sanity/memory, after a while. Be prepared for the body-exploding, sword-fighting, necromantic lesbians to come raging back, eventually. Good luck. it's totally worth the journey.

Advanced Reader's Copy Provided by Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member Narilka
Harrow the Ninth is the second in The Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir. Even though events pick up a shortly after Gideon, you are going to start questioning everything you think happened. I am impressed with the author's ambition.

This was such an odd read. The first 2/3rds are very confusing and
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nearly caused me to DNF out of frustration. The final 1/3 is awesome. The story is told alternating between second and third person perspectives for the most part. There absolutely is a reason for this and I can't believe I figured it out, though I kept second guessing myself. It does get explained by the end. There are subtle hints. I'm still not sure how I picked up on them.

While there are many reveals that were rewarding, it ends in a frustrating cliff hanger. I'm glad I read this just before Nona published so I didn't have a long wait to find out what happens.
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Hugo Award (Nominee — Novel — 2021)
Chesley Award (Nominee — 2021)
ALA Over the Rainbow Book List (Longlist — Fiction and Poetry — 2021)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

512 p.; 8.73 inches


1250313228 / 9781250313225
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