“I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Format: Physical Copy
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Thank you Flatiron Books for sending me a review copy in exchange for a honest review!
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
WOO LORD, where do I start with this one? Ninth House was my most anticipated read of 2019 and while this did and did not live up to my expectations I still really enjoyed it. My biggest piece of advice I can give you before starting this is to look up its trigger warnings. I’ll have a list at the end of this review but please know there are things I may have possibly missed while reading this since I don’t find many things triggering. There are also tons of reviews out there already with much more in depth trigger warnings if this is something you’re concerned about. This is a dark book, it’s about abuse, trauma, and the lengths we will go to to survive, whether they be good or bad. It’s not a pretty story and the next book is probably going to get a whole lot darker.
“I let you die. To save myself, I let you die.
That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.”
The story of Ninth House takes readers from the past and present through the POV’s of Galaxy (Alex) Stern and Daniel Arlington (better known as Darlington). I absolutely loved the back and forth and felt it made a lot more of the plot twists in this so much more impactful. Alex, wakes up in a hospital, the sole survivor of a brutal unsolved homicide and is offered a chance at a new life. Upon taking the opportunity she packs up her life and heads to the other side of the country were she’ll be monitoring Yale’s secret societies for the next four years. Her “mentor” Darlington will be teaching her everything she needs to know about the societies, their occult activities, and how to at least try to keep them at bay from wreaking havoc on the world.
“All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down.”
When a young girl is murdered, Alex is convinced it was one of the secret societies doing and cannot look the other way. With the magic she’s learned, a handy sidekick named Dawes, pesky ghosts, and a detective who wants nothing to do with Alex meddling in his case, Alex’s revelations indicate something far more sinister is happening at the college. Leigh Bardugo’s writing and world-building throughout this is INCREDIBLE. She creates the perfect setting for this dark, gritty story. She also brings up a lot of other important discussions like white privilege (especially with males), and how dangerous it can become when it’s unchallenged. There are definitely some tough parts to read about but I love the way Leigh addressed and handled it.
“There were always excuses for why girls died.”
So, why can’t I give this one five stars? It’s a simple but also kind of a contradicting answer. The reality of it is that this book doesn’t need to come in at just about 500 pages, and I think this is something that other readers may struggle with too. You have to give this at least 100 pages before it starts to take off and you’re able to figure out who the hell is who and what the societies are all about, tack on a few more chapters to find out the direction the story is actually going in. Which means if you’re not invested in the characters, this is probably going to fall pretty flat for you. Luckily, I loved the characters so they were really what kept me going when the pacing dragged. But I also feel like if this book were to be cut shorter we wouldn’t get the top notch world-building and atmosphere that Leigh created, which had me in this weird middle ground for a decent chunk of the book.
“That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible.”
“You couldn’t keep sidling up to death and dipping your toe in. Eventually it grabbed your ankle and tried to pull you under.”
“She’d never broken a bone, had surgery. But the worst damage didn’t leave a mark.”
TW: rape (graphic), PTSD, murder, blood & gore, violence, drug use, overdose, sexual assault on video, racism, forced eating of feces
All in all, even though I struggled with the pacing I still enjoyed my time with this book. I LOVED the ending and cannot wait for the second book. If you think you’re in a good headspace for this book I would definitely recommend it, however, I would advise against reading it just for the hype if dark books are not your thing. I know we’ve all been waiting for what seems like forever for this book but please put your mental health first, friends! 🖤
P.S. – I did not guess the murderer, so props to Leigh for that!