Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book set on a college or university campus TW: Sexual assault/rape, violence, death, ...

PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book set on a college or university campus

TW: Sexual assault/rape, violence, death, sexism, classism

Have you seen the absurd amount of hype over Ninth House? I mean, there is a lot of hype. And I mean, what's not to love about the synopsis of this book? Ivy league, secret societies, ghosts. It's a whole thing. So I was pumped to see it as an option for November's Book of the Month pick, and it satisfied one of my many remaining 2019 reading challenge prompts. But if I've learned anything about hyped up books, it's that they usually don't live up to the hype for me, which is such a disappointment. 

Galaxy Stern goes by Alex. She's a bit rough around the edges. An addict from a not so pretty background. Oh, and she sees ghosts - or grays, as the secret society members at Yale call them. Because of her special skill, she's recruited to serve as a member of the House of Lethe, the governing body that watches over the secret societies (like Skull & Bones). Her recruitment also lands her a spot at Yale, somewhere she could never afford or get admitted to on her own. Hell, she didn't even graduate high school. But to oversee ancient societies is much darker than she could've ever imagined, especially when a local girl is found dead on-campus, and things just get worse from there. 

*I think it's important to note that the novel has multiple rape/sexual assault mentions and scenes, which would likely be triggering for some folks. Please be mindful when reading this book.

This book is slow as all heck. It took me so long to understand what was even happening. I was confused by the jumping back and forth between time periods and scenarios, and at times, the writing was a bit too messy for my liking. I just could not grasp the story. There's also the unique difficulty of world-building when it comes to fantasy novels. And it was a total struggle. I had a difficult time visualizing the world and what different scenes looked like in my head. I was probably two-thirds of the way through the book before I could see it clearly. BUT, once I got there, I was totally into it.

Somewhere around page 300 of 458 is when I finally became immersed in this novel. I became attached to the characters and have a longing to know more about them, though I didn't quite love Alex. There were many times where I felt she was being a bit too hardheaded, and things could have been resolved much better and quicker if she would stop being so damn stubborn. Granted, that's not a problem with the book. I can totally enjoy a book while disliking it's protagonist. This book was so twisty and every time I thought I knew what was happening - BAM, new twist. It kept me on my toes, for sure, once I was living in its pages.

I've got quite a fascination with secret societies, and even did a project on them during grad school, so I was quite taken with the subject of this novel. It's intriguing and kind of scary. I'd absolutely love to see it as a film or series (which would definitely help with those visualization issues). I also really loved the map of Yale at the front of the book, which I compared with actual maps of the campus. I've definitely got a thing for colleges, so that was maybe the most interesting piece to me. 

"Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all." - Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo

I know Bardugo is a fan favorite, but this was the first book of hers I've read. It also happened to be her adult novel debut. From what I hear, her YA novels are a true crowd-pleaser, but I don't know if Ninth House has inspired me to jump into those just yet, but I will definitely be picking up the sequel because now the characters have grown on me, and that cliffhanger was truly too much to bear.

Ninth House is a terrifying and fantastical spin into secret societies. While the novel started out terribly slow and hard to imagine, the story finally came to life for me and ended leaving me longing for more. for more, it didn't quite live up to all the hype, but I will be picking up the next book in this series.

Goodreads rating: ★★★☆☆

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