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Review of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Macmillan 2019) has garnered a lot of attention, receiving nominations for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. As of this writing, it has won the Locus Award and is in the running for the Hugo Award. The praise is well deserved, as this novel of space lesbian necromancers is a delightful read, filled with twists and turns all the way until the end.

The titular Gideon is an indentured servant of the Ninth House, one of eight necromantic houses that serve the Emperor (the Emperor’s house being the First House). While she is trying to escape her servitude to join the Cohort, the Empire’s military branch, she makes a wager with Harrowhark Nonagesimus (aka Harrow), the heir to the Ninth House, and things start going downhill for Gideon. She and Harrow travel to another planet, where Harrow is to undergo testing to become a Lyctor, one of the most powerful necromancers of the Empire.

What follows is a locked “room” mystery, replete with necromantic constructs, archaic dueling rules, and a whole lot of humor. The narrative flows between gothic description and wise-cracking dialogue, much of which comes from Gideon herself. There’s a large cast of characters, but they start dying off pretty quickly (don’t get attached to anyone), plus everyone has a surname that’s related to the number of their House, which makes it easier to track who’s who.

If you like your space opera full of snark and heart, you’ll love Gideon the Ninth. The second book in the trilogy, Harrow the Ninth, comes out in August!

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