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gideon the ninth, harrow the ninth

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth & Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

I’ve been on the library waiting list to borrow Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir, for a while. My turn finally came and I got to read it. Once I finished it, I put myself right on the waiting list for Harrow the Ninth, expecting to wait another several weeks. But ended up getting the notice it was available later that same night!

gideon the ninth

Description from Goodreads:

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

my reviewIt took me a while to sink into Gideon the Ninth. I was confused for most of the first chapters; it does kind of just drop you in it. However, once I caught on, I really enjoyed it. Gideon is such a character and I loved her. Harrow is a flaming bitch queen for most of the book, but did manage to redeem herself in my eyes by the end. And I enjoyed most of the side characters and the mystery. However, the end…THE END. I am so not OK with the ending! But I can’t wait to read book two.

gideon the ninth

Harrow the ninthDescription from Goodreads:

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

my review

It took a long time to get into this look—even longer than in book one, which took a while. I think it was a full 25% before I had any idea what was going on. To be fair, neither did Harrow and that’s sort of the point. But a quarter of an almost 500 page book is a long time to be confused (and without Gideon). However, I stuck with because I so enjoyed book one. And once it all finally did start making sense…or a sense of sorts, I really did enjoy it. I just love the snarky sarcasm in both the dialogue and the narrative. I’ll definitely be looking for book three.

harrow the ninth


Book Review of Lyovitalis, by Julie Kirtón Chandler

I’m still on vacation. I’m currently sitting on the patio of Casa Escondida in Chimayo, New Mexico writing under a double rainbow.  Life is good.

Rainbows over Casa Escondida

Unfortunately, the book I’m here to review wasn’t. As this is a road trip and I’m not driving, I’ve gotten lots of reading done. But this one still took almost 3 days to finish. It just didn’t particularly hold my interest.


Author, Julie Kirtón Chandler sent me an e-copy of Lyovitalis for review.

Description from Goodreads:
Set during the early days of World War I, Lyovitalis follows the journey of the young and spirited doctor, Audrianna Foster, as she travels to Switzerland to continue the research of her recently-deceased father. Her object is to find a cure to the mysteriously fatal disease called lyovitalis, which not only killed her mother, but also a slew of young women in the idyllic town of snowy Zurich—where Audrianna comes to reside. In Zurich, Audrianna falls into the treacherously seductive company of Lorna and her regal family, the von Traugotts. Racked by incipient sexual desire for the salacious Lorna and a near-obsessive drive to uncover the seeming conspiracy around lyovitalis, Audrianna’s quest unfolds within the riveting pages of a medical mystery of the highest order. As Audrianna delves deeper into the science of lyovitalis, she is forced to dive deeper into herself—her desires, emotions, and insecurities—and what she discovers on the other side will change her life (and her universe) forever.

Nope, nope, nope, nope. When I was asked to read this book it was presented to me as F/F romance. I object to this classification. In fact, I don’t even consider it a romance, but I especially don’t consider it F/F romance. Sure, two girls kiss, but that’s not enough of a qualifier for me. Which leaves me questioning what genre it is. The answer is I don’t know. I think the author was aiming for romance, but just failed to actually accomplish it. These characters don’t even like each other.

Add to this a profound dislike on my part for every character, an irritation with the excessively formal dialogue and narrative style, an overuse of names, an odd need for everyone to scream, yell, or shout, instead of say thing and an even stranger number of things that secrete (like emotions) and you have a guaranteed failure for me.

What’s more, the book walked an awful close line to didacticism when it discussed the necessity of letting go of negative emotions. This came in the context of hinting what some of the characters were, but this really wasn’t ever explained satisfactorily for me. It was explained, but I found it offhand and incomplete.

The tragedy seemed pointless and it seemed like the ultimate villain was defeated too easily, if he was actually defeated. That’s never really cleared up. And lastly, but maybe most importantly, none of Audrianna’s emotions are believable. She never asks pertinent questions, accepts the unacceptable with ease and never reacts in a way that makes sense — swinging from defiant to weepy to angry to sad to embarrassed to gallant in an instant and without any apparent impetus for the change in her emotional landscape.

Now, maybe this is a style thing. Maybe other readers will enjoy what I didn’t. Other than feeling stiff, using names in dialogue too often, and some anachronisms the writing is pretty good and the editing is pretty clean. So, I wouldn’t discourage others from reading it. It just wasn’t a winner for me.

The Second Mango

Book Review of The Second Mango (Mangoverse #1), by Shira Glassman

The Second MangoI borrowed Shira Glassman‘s The Second Mango from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody think she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately.

Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.

Do I rate a book on my opinion of the story the author sought to tell or the one actually written? There are so many of aspects of this that I appreciate. It’s a story of genuine friendship between women, with no romantic underpinnings. Unusually, the world appears to be based on Judaism, instead of Christianity. There is a character with a significant dietary limitation. The main character is a queen, not a princess, therefore inhabiting a position of power and authority. There is diversity in both the gender and sexuality arenas. The women save the day. In fact, there are hardly any significant men in the book at all; all things you rarely find in fiction.

But, but, but…if not for the sex, I would call this Middle Grade Fiction. The writing is that simplistic and childish. The solutions are come to that simply. The happy endings (for everyone) come about that predictably and everyone talks and acts with that level of maturity and deep thinking. The book feels like it’s written for and by a child, a child with a firm grasp of grammar granted, but a child all the same. And if I thought it really was Middle Grade Fiction I could hardly fault it for that. But I don’t think it is, so in the end, I’m just left with a kiddie book for adults.