Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 458
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

Galaxy "Alex" Stern is anything but a normal Yale student.  In fact, she didn't get accepted to Yale by excelling at school, sports, or any of the usual things.  Simply, she got in because she can see dead people and this really appeals to Yale's secret societies.  Alex can attend Yale for free, (yes, free!), if she helps out the Lethe, one of the secret societies, by overseeing society rituals.  You see, all of these rituals attract ghosts and Alex has the uncanny ability to see ghosts without having to take a special drug.  Things start to get really complicated for Alex though.  For starters, there's a murder, there's corruption, and there's a whole slew of problems heading right for Alex.  Not to mention the fact that the ghosts, despite her avoidance of eye contact, are starting to engage with her.  Leigh Bardugo's creepy Ninth House is an adult fiction debut that will appeal to fans of fantasy as well the horror genre.

Alex is a complex character in Ninth House.  Based on her back story, I did feel for her and the many obstacles she had to overcome. I also could see why she became addicted to drugs in order to numb her existence and avoid ghosts.  Despite all of her mistakes, she is granted a second chance by going to Yale and essentially wiping her slate clean.  How could I not get behind her at this point? Everyone loves an underdog story.  When Alex starts to investigate a murder in town things start to heat up and I started to enjoyed her courage and gumption even more.

Bardugo's world building is really good in Ninth House.  I can see why so many people are fans of her YA novels.  The different secret societies at Yale were also done well. I think what is most captivating is the fact that part of this story could very well be true.  Ninth House isn't such high fantasy that none of this could occur, so it was fun to imagine what truly happens in the secret societies.

The best part of Ninth House were the ghostly elements and how Bardugo brought that to life through Alex's abilities. I really love a good ghost story, so I especially appreciated this part of the novel.  I found it to be the most atmospheric and compelling part of Ninth House, especially since I read it around Halloween.

One of my biggest issues with Ninth House was the tough material.  I am not bashful to say the least. I've read plenty of edgy novels, but I think Bardugo, for me, really was pushing the envelope in some instances. There's a lot of triggers in here: drug overdose, rape, statutory rape, forced eating of human waste, assault, etc. It's not for the faint of heart.  

But this made me think. I have dealt with a lot of dark material in novels and despite this, I ended up really LOVING them (Outlander, I am looking at you), but that was not the case here.  The problem came down to characters in Ninth House. I didn't care about Alex enough to be truly impacted by any of the violent elements, so in that case, it just felt like plot devices at times. Each chapter something happened, but nothing.actually.happened.  It just felt like a wash-rinse-repeat sort of situation. 

But with that said, I do think Ninth House will find legions of fans; after all, it was nominated by Goodreads as one of the best books of the year and there will be many people desperate for book two. I, on the other hand, will check out Bardugo's YA fantasy novels as I think they are more my speed.

Did you guys read Ninth House? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.  

1 comment:

  1. I like that this is a fantasy book that's actually grounded in our world, but it sounds maybe too edgy for me!


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