Gideon the Ninth Review

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is the first in The Locked Tomb trilogy. Having been a fan of necromancers in video games and stories ever since I could remember, it’s nice to see a series with characters solely featured and revolving around them. Who doesn’t like the prospect of exploring death, reanimation, soul siphoning and building a skeleton army to do your bidding?! I hardly knew anything about Gideon the Ninth prior other than that it was on many reading recommendation lists. What I got in the end was a pretty big disappointment. As usual, I feel like I’m in the minority here but having read other reviews, I can’t shake the feeling that a lot readers nowadays are confusing popularity, hype and using whatever is trendy on social media with actual quality.

To start off, I have no problems with the author jumping on the current LGBT trend. I could tell though that she was however treading very lightly as if testing the waters first with her audience to see how well received it would be. For the curious, no, there are no hardcore sexual scenes of any kind. In fact, there is hardly any romance at all, which keeps in touch with the darker setting of the book. Basically, Gideon just seems to prefer women and calls them ‘hot’. That’s about as LGBT as it got as far as I’m concerned.

Gideon is a very snarky character due to her predicaments in being stuck on a planet and place that she has no love for. Combine this with being forced to team up with her necromancer partner, Harrowhark, whom she absolutely despises of and vice-versa, allows for some pretty hilarious moments and dialogue. Be warned that Gideon has a pretty foul mouth so if language is of your concerns, you’ve been warned. The one big issue I saw immediately is the author giving really horrible names to the large cast of characters. There are multiple houses with 2-3 characters from each. Sometimes the characters are referenced by their house number, first name, nick name and/or roles. Add to this how the majority of the characters are forgettable and you can see where this is going. My trick is to subconsciously replace multiple names for one character with just one. For example, every time I see Harrowhark being addressed as ‘Nonagesimus’ in a conversation, I just supplant that with “Harrow” in my mind and be done with it.

To be honest, I was very close to having call it quits on this book. The beginning is very slow and it takes a while to get used to the writing style. I stuck with it only due to my love for necromancers in stories. The story doesn’t really begin until around the 35%-40% mark. Prior to this, you’ll probably get extremely bored. The author also in my opinion does a bad job of describing and painting certain sceneries. It seems like she wants to give the readers a vivid picture of certain surroundings but does it in a way that is very bland. Experienced authors can get away with this but here you can tell the author has a long way to go. Part of the problem I believe is that there just isn’t that much fascinating things to describe in a huge mansion that is sparsely populated. She obviously tries but it can be tiresome to read and is what drove me to wanting to quit in the beginning.

The author also doesn’t seem to know what this story wants to be. Calling this a space travel/opera is incorrect as there is very minimal of that being done here. Maybe the second book will have more of this otherwise it would have been a missed opportunity. Is it a story that revolves around necromancy itself? There are some highlights here and there to support this. What about action wise? The story is very slow paced throughout and it felt like the author suddenly realized this towards the end and you could already guess what she did to ‘remedy’ this. What about focusing on world building and history? Well, there’s definitely many questions left unanswered about this universe, especially surrounding the houses themselves as well as the Emperor Lord and of past events. Is it a classic who done it mystery with some dark necromancy voodoo sprinkled in? I would say that this would be the most accurate description and something I honestly least expected. You’d most likely have already guessed and narrowed one or two characters prior to the ‘reveal’ but just not the reason. I initially envisioned the story to revolve around powerful necromancers and sorcerers dueling it out in different universes and planes of existence with treacherous characters backstabbing one another to unlock the darkest and most powerful spells. Yes, I stereotype.

At the moment, I am about 25% in favor of reading the next book. My review is mainly negative but some part of me do want to see how well the author will improve. I honestly think that if the majority of the story was not solely focused and revolving within one giant mansion that the story could have been better. All that explanation and description of ‘twisting hallways and locked doors’ can get tiring after a while. Also, if so many characters are involved, even if briefly, they should be at least semi-interesting and not just seem like cannon fodder. I would have been happy if the author spent a little more time on building up her characters than on other things that seemed pretty meaningless. I did get a kick out of some pretty funny moments from Gideon but that was about it.

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