Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)by Published 08 Oct 2019
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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.
The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.
Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) Reviews
"There were always excuses for why girls died."
To answer your question: yes, it really is that good.
Ninth House and I had a bit of a slow start. The new world that Bardugo has created might not be set in a fictional fantasy universe, but it features enough new concepts, characters, and settings that it takes some time to take it all in. Not only does every character have an alias and maybe even a nickname, so do the buildings at Yale. And since all my Yale knowledge is based on that cute little courtyard from Gilmore Girls, I struggled to figure out where and who and what was going on. As soon as I had grasped all of that, though, I was unable to resist the pull of this dark, compelling, murderous book.
I don't know where to start. The book was sombre and thrilling, brimming with ancient mysteries, magic, and the promise of danger. The characters were incredibly well-painted, my favourites being Turner and Dawes. The plot was thought-out, and until the very end, it was tense and exciting. My only criticism comes with the one or other reveal during the final showdown. Bardugo dropped enough clues here and there that the reader could have figured out who might have been behind the murder at the centre of this novel. That is until the plot is twisted yet again and delivers an explanation that adds new possibilities that no reader could have suspected. It was drawn up out of thin air and therefore not as genius as I had expected it to be.
Now, be warned. If this book is one thing, it's violent. There are some graphic scenes that show sexual abuse. There is trauma and pain and it's not glossed over. I've seen people get mad at Leigh because she chose to show these horrible acts of violence. They accused her of exploiting the pain for shock value. I cannot agree with them. The novel is deeply feminist and shows characters with a past that is tough, that made them survivors. Readers also have no right to know whether the scenes in the book are based on the author's personal experiences. She doesn't have to justify writing about sexual abuse by proving that she has been in a similar position. I do, however, agree that the book needs trigger warnings.
I honestly can't wait for the sequel. I mean, I personally don't care about [redacted] and whether they'll manage to save them or not, but the world that Bardugo created is so rich and leaves so much to discover that I wouldn't mind another three to five books. It feels like Alex Stern only just got started kicking ass.
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This book is just fabulous. It has excellent worldbuilding; deep, dark mystery; fascinating characters that you root for even when you don't like their choices; a twisty, original and unexpected plot that had me guessing all the way until the end. Highly, highly recommend.
Review to come!
leigh bardugo is synonymous with five stars, as far as im concerned.
so believe the hype because its real, its here, and its very adult.
alex stern is doing slytherin proud. 🖤🐍
the hot trend for 2019 is snakes on covers and it makes me wish i was a slytherin. their brand/culture is t h r i v i n g.
↠ 5 stars
BOTM choice November 2019!
"I am a daughter of Lethe, and the wolves are at the door."
Hello friends, and good evening. Do me a favor will you? Could you all please stand up? Thank you. Now, if you're a fan of dark fantasy/horror and stories involving occult magic, please remain standing; everyone else can sit down. Remain standing if you also retain the ability to push through a read that has a slew of triggers, such as sexual assault, graphic rape of a 12 year old girl, murder, gore, death, drug abuse/overdose, possession, the forced eating of excrement to a rapist, and many more subjects. Great, now also remain standing if you are ok with reading a book where you are dropped into the middle of a world much like our own, but you have no idea what's going on and have to figure it out as you go at a slow burning pace, until all is revealed. If you're still with me, follow me to the next portion; the rest of you may be excused.
Why the dramatics, Chels? Well, to be fair, this book won't be for everyone. I'll go as far as saying that it won't be for a majority of people. Ninth House is an extremely dark and heavy read, one that is well-written and plotted, but contains many aspects that are so niche that I can't imagine a majority of Bardugo's YA fantasy fans crossing over into this realm. Many of my close, trusted friends have struggled with this book, and I highly respect their opinions and reasons for not resonating with it, and if you're looking for a wonderful, objective 3 star review to offset mine, I suggest you read Melanie's HERE.
If you're still with me, I'd like to take a moment and break down, into sections, just what ground the book covers. There will be no major spoilers, but if you want to go in blind without any sense of what the book is about, stop here.
"That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you'd been before life took away your belief in the possible. It gave back the world all lonely children longed for. That was what Lethe had done for him. Maybe it could do that for Alex as well."
The book opens with a touch of an ending, and abruptly brings us back to what I will refer to as Present Day. We are dropped directly into Alex's daily schedule, and over the course of the first 150 pages or so, we slowly gather information on the various secret societies at Yale, how magic is involved, and snippets of Alex's past that lead her to Yale in the first place. This is the section where the book weeds out those who bought this because it's one of the most popular new releases of 2019, and those who are genuinely interested in dark ADULT fantasy. Once we get a general sense of this alternate contemporary world, we realize there are two mysteries at hand. One is the murder of a student and there appears to have been magic involved. Who killed her and for what purpose? This particular mystery does tie into the next mystery I'll be mentioning, but suffice it to say that this murder is solved and completely wrapped up in this first installment. The second mystery is the disappearance of Alex's mentor, Darlington. This mystery receives answers but will continue on into the sequel. Along the way, Alex teams up with a few human people and also Grays (spirits of the deceased that still roam the earth) to solve both mysteries, while also revealing the entirety of Alex's background and how she came to be at Yale.
I'll be honest, I had my doubts in the beginning. When I say that the pacing is slow, I mean it is S-L-O-W. The audio version of Ninth House features two of my favorite narrators, and I found that this format worked best for me in the beginning, and I enjoyed it so much that I mostly listened to the entire book rather than reading my hard copy. Once the ball gets rolling, I became fully engrossed. I can't tell you how interesting it was to read about all of these real societies with the added flair of magical abilities. Bardugo created a world that felt eerily realistic; no detail is left untouched and she used the old Stephen King method of "make it real, but change the slightest detail to make it not real," and this worked beautifully.
After a majority of the book being the slow burn, the ending is absolute bonkers in the best way! Wild, action packed, and with a few twists I did not see coming! I felt the ending was brilliant; it wasn't a cliffhanger but it did leave me ready and wanting to come back for more. I'll stop before I ramble on, but I'd like to cautiously recommend this book with gusto. If you've read it, I'd love to chat with you about it. If you decide this isn't for you, I respect that, and I can't wait for the next book we get to chat about together.