Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In anticipation of the recent release of Hell Bent, I wisely chose to reread Ninth House. The first time I read it, in July of 2020, I listened to the audiobook while on a road trip.
I’ve left my full, original review up below. You will see that at that time I rated it 3.5-stars, rounding up to 4. This time, it’s nothing but a full 5-stars, baby!!
I think the difference is I was able to put my full focus on it this time around. I don’t know about you, but when I am traveling, my mind is going a million miles an hour, it can be hard to concentrate.
While I can enjoy a story I am listening to on the road, the premise, the vibe and the characters, I don’t think I was truly able to hold onto the finer points of this one.
Upon reread, I’m in love.
One of the aspects that really stood out to me this time around was the detailed back stories for both Alex and Darlington. I remembered a little bit of Alex’s, particularly the trauma she suffered directly before being recruited to Lethe House, but Darlington’s I remembered not at all.
I definitely have a stronger understanding of both of their characters now, which I feel is going to be important going into Hell Bent.
Also, I feel like I have a better understanding of the structure and functioning of Lethe House. The importance of the different roles and who fills those roles.
I love how dark Bardugo gets with this story. With this being said, though, although most of us are aware of the numerous trigger warnings, if you aren’t, please be sure you find those and are aware prior to jumping into this story.
Finally, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the murder mystery aspects. The investigations into the other houses and all of the supernatural aspects help to make this story quite compelling.
At this point, I have started Hell Bent and am absolutely loving it. I’m not sure how many books are slated to be in this series, but you best believe, I will be picking up every single one.
If this series sounds interesting to you and you haven’t started it yet, you absolutely should. There will be no better time to read these first two books than right now…
**3.5-stars rounded up**
Ninth House is moody, dark and secretive. In other words, it’s everything I love in my fiction!!
This book is a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.
I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What’s not to love about the Yale campus in Autumn, paired with secret societies and magic?
On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.
I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed the story even more if I had read a hard copy.
I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the fine details if I had been holding the book in my hands. There’s a lot to take in here.
There are intricate details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as a back and forth between timelines. I think I just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.
I was intrigued by Alex as a character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life; raised by a hippie Mom in California, yet somehow, mysteriously ends up at one of the most elite institutions of higher learning in the world.
After a close call, Alex ends up not in the morgue, but being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale. Why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn’t recommending her for the slot.
Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.
When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.
It’s also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.
Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.
Essentially a Murder Mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.
One of these that I found extremely interesting, was the examination of the amount of privilege on the Yale campus. The way that uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.
There is also quite a bit on page regarding drug abuse, addiction, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.
With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo’s transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.
It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem incredibly real. I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.
I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.
I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.
Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?
The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!
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