Review: Harrow the Ninth

I read Gideon the Ninth this time last year and have been wanting to treat myself to Harrow ever since. You’ll understand why if you have a read of my review of Gideon here. I’ve been in a reading slump recently and decided it was time to entice myself with this baby. Major spoilers for Gideon the Ninth.

Harrow the Ninth had big, black, bone-studded boots to fill. A common fear for many sequels, this was particularly difficult given that my favourite witty, irreverent cavalier died at the end of Gideon. I’m sure I’m not the only one who started this book with a bit of trepidation given this fact.

I shouldn’t have worried. Where previously Harrowhark stalked around like an angry mausoleum on legs, this book allows us to see inside those cryptic walls. And oh, is it bleak. Ianthe-Tridentarius-as-your-bosom-buddy-forevermore bleak. With Harrow front and centre, we get an insight into her psyche in more ways than one; her idiosyncratic mind is a dark depiction of how childhood trauma can warp someone’s perspective. It’s different to Gideon, but it’s still pretty entertaining.

They only intervened if it looked like you might choke to death on your own vomit, a mercy that you always vaguely thought a shame.

Muir hits her world building into overdrive as the science part of this science-fantasy bubbles closer to the surface, filled with horrors reminiscent of Catching Fire and Solaris as Harrow and Ianthe fly into the stars. We are also, if it’s possible, bombarded with even more of the technical nitty-gritty involved in necromancy. I am very much a fan of soft magic systems, a la Lord of the Rings, as opposed to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, but although this element didn’t appeal to me, I highly recommend it if you do enjoy it.

There’s also a new host of idiosyncratic characters ** mild spoilers** along with a few familiar faces. We are dealing with necromancers, after all.

‘I hate you all,’ said Mercymorn passionately. ‘I have hated you for millennia…except you, my lord.’
‘Thanks,’ said God.
‘I merely want to put you in jail.’

I’ll be honest. I spent the first half of the book utterly confused (if enjoying the ride) and wondering if I needed to reread Gideon before continuing. This was due to, in no particular order: mentioning multiple characters by their multiple names, multiple characters with the same name, and just general fuckery. Was the stress getting to me? Was my brain beginning its inevitable descent into death? Was I going mad?

To that last one at least, the answer was yes, but only because Muir intended it so. Muir drives a much harder, much more ambitious narrative here, and it does take a couple of hundred pages for any of it to start making sense. Eventually some questions are answered, but these only lead to further questions and confusion. The world building is so obviously rich and gritty that exposing us to it through the lens of first one, and now two clueless teenagers, seems like either a waste or writer’s crutch. Nonetheless, I was thoroughly entertained, particularly as Muir led up to her typical bombastic, cinematic finish.

Featuring the best use of second-person perspective I’ve ever seen, and the worst dad joke I’ve ever encountered, this is a great sequel to everyone’s favourite lesbian necromancers in space.

VERDICT
💀💀💀💀
A great and gritty gothic follow up to Gideon the Ninth, which, if it doesn’t exceed its predecessor, does an excellent job living up to it.

But is it gay?
Yes. Featuring wlw, mlm, and arguably an attempt at polyamory, although polyhatred may be the more accurate term. This is all filtered through a repressed evil twig of a girl, which does add a certain bitter flavour to it.

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