Book Gush: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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.

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Anyone else have books they’re so excited for, the anticipation becomes a mountain they can’t climb, and the book goes unread for a stupidly long time?

No? Just me and Ninth House?

Okay.

Well, I finally climbed the mountain, after over a year of psyching myself up, and two failed attempts… And it was absolutely worth the battle.

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❗️Mild spoilers ahead!❗️

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❤️THINGS I LOVED❤️
❤️ So much about this book seemed written for me. The occult, angry girls, girls who wear a lot of black, pure female friendships, acid-tongued comebacks, morally grey characters trying to be Good, slow burn potential romance where both sides think it’s unrequited… Check, check, check.
❤️ No one does characters quite like Leigh Bardugo. She nails every single one of them. It’s great with the characters you’re supposed to like, obviously (though admittedly I suspected Dawes at first, for which my current adoration of her will be eternally mortified), but it’s most excellent when you’re supposed to hate them. I’ve never read anything that so perfectly captures condescending, mysogynistic, hateful toxic masculinity the way some of these characters do. They all just feel real.
❤️ If it’s righteous, rage-fuelled, magic justice you want… This is your book.

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💖THE THING I LOVED BEST💖
💖 There are SO MANY quotable lines from this book. (it made choosing a favourite quote INCREDIBLY difficult) Profound, deep, funny, quick, meaningful, gutteral, heart-wrenching… Leigh just has a gift with words, and so many of the ones in this book are beautiful (and fitting, given how she writes about Aurelian, a house that specialises in wordcraft).

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❗️A WARNING❗️
Ninth House comes with a TON of trigger warnings, and for good reason (off the top of my head: murder, death, sexual assault, drug abuse, overdose, violence, gore, human waste). They are described in graphic, deliberately repulsive detail. Personally, I don’t think they were out of place: this is a book that handles a lot of hard subjects, and I think it’s to the credit of Leigh and the book that it does so without kid gloves, with grit and hard realism, not for gratuity or cheap shock value. I suspect a lot of the criticism for this comes from the fact that Leigh is so well-known as a YA author, and this book is NOT YA, by any means.

Having said that, trigger warnings should be printed on all books; so if these concern you, or you’re just not in the frame of mind to read them, hold off. It’s a dense, tough read–rewarding, but at your own consideration. Be kind to yourself, and think it through. It’s a book that deserves to be read in a good headspace–and you deserve that experience, too.

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🌟THE HIGHLIGHTS🌟
🌟Favourite character: If saying Alex is a little easy (which I grant you, it is), I’m going with Dawes. She speaks to the soul of a lot of us, I think.
🌟Favourite quote: ‘”What is wrong with you?” […] “I’m a bad dancer and I don’t floss. What’s wrong with you?”‘
🌟Favourite moment: There are a lot of stand-out moments in this one, but I’m going with a more subtle one. There’s a moment, halfway through, where Alex has enough of being Yale!Alex and being written off, condescended, and patronised, told what she should and shouldn’t be bothering with–and she fucks it all off and goes to burn the whole thing down. And THAT was the moment I knew I loved this book.

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This book is:
A standalone🔶Part of a duology🔶Part of a trilogy🔶Part of a series

It’s also:
Action-packed🔶Charming🔶Clever🔶Comforting🔶Creepy🔶Dark🔶Emotional🔶Funny🔶Gripping🔶Haunting🔶Heartbreaking🔶Intense🔶Mysterious🔶Powerful🔶Quirky🔶Romantic🔶Sad🔶Scary🔶Sweet🔶Tear-jerking🔶Tense🔶Touching🔶Twisted🔶Violent🔶Witty

It’s:
Middle Grade🔶YA🔶(decidedly, entirely) Adult

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