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.
First things first: I am still hot ‘n heavy for Bardugo. This woman could write a grilled cheese recipe and I would read it. Honestly, I think I enjoyed her even more, writing for “big-kids.” Her adult debut contained the same sharp, biting voice – only, it left a little more grit between your teeth as a reader.
Let’s talk first about Alex Stern. I may be in the minority here but I love a main character who is pissed at the world. I love when an author takes a dry, sarcastic MC and throws them in the fire. Alex is scarred and imperfect. Everyone underestimated her, even herself. And I loved her anyway.
Also, the magical system. I’m still a BIT blurry on the details but I’m diggin’ the foundation. I love the Grays (ghosts), the breakdown of each house’s focus in magic (and the alumni of celebrities), the politics, the idea of Wheelwalkers, etc. All of it pulled me in and I’m curious to see where all of it goes from here.
As far as the setting/s? HOLY PERFECT. From Yale to the Hutch, Black Elm and Il Bastone – talk about dark and individual personalities. Each of these buildings/places emitted a different vibe and exuded mysteriousness. They were living, breathing entities all on their own.
Regarding the climax, I was definitely surprised at the “big reveal.” It was handled pretty masterfully, in my opinion. Bardugo took all these different story-lines, layered-motives and emotions and managed to merge them into one moment. **Slow-clap.**
Something I want to acknowledge, too, is this: Bardugo is brutal but she also writes with the most beautiful edges. Things like: “…it’s panels glowed amber, a burnished golden hive, less a library than a temple.”
YES. I eat that stuff up.
And: “Ahead of her, Grays formed a thin gruel that shifted over the roof of the law school, spreading and curling like milk poured into coffee.”
Excuse me while I beg for more.
Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of Ninth House. The docked-star is probably more my fault than Bardugo’s- but the pacing threw me off. I’d be really sucked in, then lose a bit of interest, then right back into it, on-and-on. It was a roller coaster of good plot movement but felt a little whiplash-y, too. Again, that was probably MY mindset more than anything.
At the end of the day, I am here for this. Let’s go, Alex Stern #2.