This time I shall be reviewing Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I have been having great fun telling people about it because the whole, Space Necromancers who Sword Fight tag line thing, is very prone to getting people to perk up and listen to you. If anyone else knows a few good books to add to my list that have Sword Fighting Space Necromancers in them please leave a comment, I am having a great deal of fun saying some version of that tag line. It’s great no matter which order you put the words in!
As always, if you would like a copy of the book you can buy a copy here on Amazon or here on Bookshop.org, both these links are affiliate links which will give me a little bit of money for directing you to them. This review will have some spoilers but it shouldn’t be too bad since it is only for the first half.
Aside from the obvious, I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I knew it was a blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy, but there are so many different ways for that to go that it didn’t really narrow down the options? And what have I found since starting the book, bearing in mind that this is only a review for the first half, well, if I say that I am getting some serious, And Then There Were None vibes from this book would you understand what the hell I was talking about? And Then There Were None is a novel by Agatha Christie where a bunch of people are locked up in a house together and slowly but surely they all start getting picked off.
This is basically what seems to have been happening so far in Gideon the Ninth, only everyone’s been invited to an Imperial Palace in space that has been abandoned for millennia and there are loads of mysteries that aren’t immediately about murder. Though given that it is all about necromancy maybe it is all about murder and I just haven’t found out about it yet? To be honest, with a book like this I am so suspicious of everything and every character I wouldn’t put it past it. Like, to be clear, this is one of those books where outright paranoia and distrust is probably not going far enough.
So, I’m having a great time!
I love Science Fiction, I love Fantasy (especially the kind of fantasy with lots of magic and politics), but Murder Mysteries have been the books I have gone back to again and again, when I need to read something reassuring. It’s weird, I know, but in times of stress it is comforting to know that someone will come along and figure everything out. Murder Mysteries, especially of the Agatha Christie mould, are one of the few genres of books (along with Romance) where the type of ending you get is reassuringly laid out for you from the beginning. It’s not “will” the detective figure out the murder, it’s “how” will they figure out the murder that makes you read them. Also, of course, finding out the details of the murder/s are also a reason to be lured into reading these kinds of books.
And I seem to have gone on a tangent, sorry!
What I am trying to say is that while Gideon the Ninth has all the hallmarks of the kind of Science Fiction and Fantasy I like, deep mythologies and backgrounds, worlds with believable characters who are terrible and delightful in all their own ways, but it also has plenty from the Murder Mystery vault to enchant me.
I really like this book, it’s great fun and I can’t wait to read more. The layers of different mysteries are wonderful to pick at. There are the murders of course, and then there is a question of what the people are supposed to do at the palace and the multiple levels of question about why they were called. And even after all of that, there are tonnes of mysteries about the characters too!
And yet, this isn’t a book which relies on being mysterious and vague to get away with not telling you anything. It tells you about lots of things. It has probably already told me what I need to know to figure out all the main mysteries, I just haven’t pieced them together yet.
The characters too are great. Gideon is a curmudgeonly delight, I want to be friends with her and send her puns and rude jokes. She is extremely clearly signposted as gay, which I appreciate. There is no, ooh well maybe, if you look at it in this way. No, she admires the other women in the book and talks about reading porn. There is no maybe about it. Harrow is terrible and I love reading about terrible people, especially when they are nominally on the protagonist’s side and are frighteningly effective. I’m still being introduced to the other characters, though I am building up an idea for all of them. At this point, the only thing that can really make you like them over each other is if you have a particular bias to one type of character over another. Gideon, the main point of view character, certainly does which is fun. I do love it when narrators are obviously biased because it’s so much more flavourful than when they are blandly fair to everyone. Some of the characters have already died. The only problem is that given this is a book with necromancy and And Then There Were None Vibes I cannot be certain once they are dead that they will stay dead. Which makes it a bit difficult to discount them as threats.
So I am basically running around in this story, not sure who to trust, fairly certain I shouldn’t trust anybody and enjoying it a great deal.
The settings are magnificent, the fight scenes are fast-paced and, I think the word I am looking for is, bouncy? It’s hard to describe but you sort expect a fun backing track with a lot of drums or bass drops to be playing as you read them. There are definitely nuances that I will need to reread to pick up, but that isn’t a problem because I want to read it again.
But that’s all I needed to say, the problem with splitting a book like this in half is that I really want to go read the rest. Which I might do. See you next time!
- Link to the main Virtual Book Club Page.
- Link to where you can buy this book on Amazon.
- Link to where you can buy this book from indie book shops at Bookshop.org for US and Canada buyers.