Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Alex Stern #1)
“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”
Ninth House takes place in an exciting dark academia setting and is full of magic, surprises and secrets
After a slow start, I was immersed in the world of Alex Stern and the Ninth House. Bardugo creates a beautiful world that feels both lifelike and magical. She builds the tension and leaves you at the end of the book with a craving for the second part. In Ninth House, Bardugo also discusses important topics that are considered taboo. Her characters are imperfect which makes them feel very real and genuine. Ninth House is one of my favorite reads of this year.
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 I would like to say that I am a huge fan of this cover. I like the colors and the hose is really cool. I like how the snake hides behind and between the letters. I also really like the font. The cover perfectly reflects what a dark and moody book Ninth House is.
I have had a lot of trouble with this book. The first chapters were very difficult to get through. The pace of Ninth House is very slow, especially in the beginning. From page one you are thrown into a strange world without actually being sketched, which makes it difficult to fully immerse yourself in the story. The chapters are all quite long too, which made the pace even slower.
From pages 100-150 the real story starts to take off and the book becomes very good. In the meantime you already know some characters and you are more concerned with them. I would really recommend readers to read on. It really gets a lot better!
My review so far sounds a bit negative, but I sincerely enjoyed this book. The rest of the book (the remaining 300 pages) were great. The storyline was quite interesting. The whole idea that there are 9 secret societies in the well-known Yale University is innovative and interesting. In Ninth House, Alex is investigating a murder. During her search, she unravels many dark secrets that she may wish not to have discovered.
“I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.”
All the characters in this book were very well-developed and fun to follow. My personal favorites are probably Alex and Dawes. I thought they were a great duo and can’t wait to find out what difficulties they will be in in book two. Galaxy (Alex) Stern is a badass young woman who has been through a lot. It is nice to see how Alex grows as a person. We get to know her former self through flashbacks. And no matter how hard she tries to convince herself that she is a bad venomous snake, you find that she has a good heart and takes care of the people she cares about.
The world-building was great. This is certainly one of Bardugo’s strengths. In Ninth House, a lot of attention is paid to the setting and atmosphere. Each place is therefore described in detail. This adds a lot to the book, you can perfectly empathize with the story. I could imagine all the shelters, societies and other buildings perfectly.
I found the history of the societies very interesting. I liked that this was in the book. I also loved Alex’s fascination with it. She seems like a low-skilled girl, but remembers everything Darlington says or asks of her. Her interest in books was very much in tune with her character.
The magic in Ninth House is well-thought-out. The magic that the societies use is powerful and versatile. There was a magical solution for every situation. I’m not normally a fan of this, but the magic Bardugo has invented is so special and well worked out that every time magic is used, you crave more.
Would I recommend it?
Yes! I recommend giving this book a try. Don’t be put off by the first few chapters, it will get better and more fun. I can’t wait for the second book in this series.
Death, murder, death of a loved one, autopsy, drugs, drug dealing, taking drugs, menstruation, strangulation, self-harm, vomiting, violence, rape, mentions overdoses, (forced) eating feces, manipulating people with magic, bullying
Representation in this book
Half Latina / Hebrew main character, black minor character, Asian minor character, socio-economic diversity
October 8th, 2020
About the author
Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse (coming soon to Netflix) which spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Ninth House (Goodreads Choice Winner for Best Fantasy 2019) which is being developed for television by Amazon Studios.
Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, and graduated from Yale University. These days she lives and writes in Los Angeles.
Do you like books set in a dark academia setting? Let me know in the comments!