• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Harrow the Ninth (Locked Tomb #2) by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, is a complex, fascinating, gruesome story full of action and shifts in reality as well as endless bad language, wicked barbs, and dark-as-night humor.

At the start of Harrow the Ninth, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the last necromancer of the Ninth House, wakes disoriented and without her full powers on the Emperor's space station.

She's haunted by a beautiful apparition she begins to think of as The Body, and to her surprise, her longtime enemy hands her letters written in Harrow's own hand, with confusing references and bossy, unwelcome directives she's inclined not to follow.

Trapped in the eerie space station with three grumpy, unwilling teachers trying to prepare her for the battle of all battles (which by all accounts will be unwinnable), Harrow has to determine whether someone is trying to kill her--and to figure out what she has to live for anyway.

All I can say is that it was complicated back in Canaan House, and sometimes a cute older girl shows you a lot of attention, because she’s bored or whatever, and you sort of have this maybe-flirting maybe-not thing going on, right, and then it turns out she’s an ancient warrior who’s killed all your friends and she’s coming for you, and then you both die and she turns up ages later in the broiling heat on a sacred space station and like, it’s complicated. Just saying that it happens all the time.

Characters sometimes inhabit each other's bodies, so they may look like one character and sound and behave like another; certain characters exist in ghostlike states; the story tracks back and forward in time; visions of corpses and ethereal beings ("the Body") appear to only be known to Harrow; characters lie steadily to each other; and Harrow is an unreliable narrator, with memory lapses and falsified recollections. I listened to Harrow the Ninth as an audiobook--and tried to keep up with all of the shifts, manipulations, and developments.

She rounded on him. Harrowhark knew that she was being unfair; she knew that she was being petulant--had been scared into it, and could not soothe herself, and was using any means fair and foul to try to do so now. But when she was scared, she was a child again, and she was more afraid of being a child again than anything else in her life. Almost.

This is dark dark dark, with death, nefarious plotting, and gleefully gruesome elements (bone work, etc.). But Harrow the Ninth also offers fantastically bratty episodes on the parts of various characters; frenzies of double-crossing, long-term plans for destruction, and evil impulses; and endless moments of silly and dark humor that made me laugh.

The strong, ruthless, intelligent women in Harrow the Ninth absolutely steal the show--which is saying something, since God of the Universe is a character in the story.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

For my review of the first book in this series, Gideon the Ninth, check out this link.

Gideon the Ninth was also mentioned in my Greedy Reading List Six More Postapocalyptic and Dystopian Favorites.

The third book in the series, Nona the Ninth, was published in 2022, with the fourth book, Alecto the Ninth, to follow in fall 2023.