Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Rate: 4.5/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers)

I’ve been looking forward to picking up Harrow the Ninth ever since I finished the first installment of the Locked Tomb series, especially with that cliffhanger ending. That said, once I finally started Harrow the Ninth I was shocked to find myself utterly and completely lost. At one point I even did a Google search to verify if I was actually reading the correct book. Amplifying my confusion was that characters who I thought dead were back in action, while other story lines had significant deviations from Gideon the Ninth that left me wondering if I was misremembering. In this state of utter bafflement, I did something I have never done before mid-read. Can I confess my heinous actions to you without you judging me too terribly?

I read the cliff notes while simultaneously listening to the actual book. 

There. I said it. And I have zero regrets. 

Upon finishing, despite my deep puzzlement (that bordered on amusement), I still really enjoyed Harrow the Ninth. I’m not sure I could have appreciated the complexity of Muir’s overall story design and all the twists and turns along the way had I not had a helping guide to connect the well-orchestrated dots. As a whole, I can’t help but be impressed with Muir’s ambition that is shown throughout Harrow the Ninth. She could have taken this story so many conventional routes, but chose to take a huge risk that in hindsight feels true to the story thus far. 

This second installment of the Locked Tomb series follows Harrow, a character who is quite unlikable in Gideon the Ninth. Every time the reader potentially could start to like Harrow, she would do or say something just awful to squash any burgeoning connections. This novel is told from two timelines with the first being Harrow in the present day going about her life as a new Lyctor. With heavy handed foreshadowing, each chapter heading prefaces a countdown to the murder of the emperor, which as you can imagine adds quite a bit of suspense while heightening the stakes of every interaction. The other timeline involves flashbacks to events in Gideon the Ninth, but with different outcomes and characters than was established in the first novel. While it was refreshing to have the return of characters thought lost, it simultaneously incredibly confusing, especially with the addition of new, albeit familiar characters in locations and situations they’d never been before. 

Muir expertly crafts an ending so full of twists and revelations that it leaves the reader reeling from the far reaching implications. Overall, while Harrow the Ninth might easily be the most confusing novel I’ve read, it was also one that is highly entertaining, packed with vivid personalities and a complex world of necromancy. 

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • Why did Ianthe help Harrow and keep her secrets? What loyalty did they have together?
  • What other letters did Harrow have written for people?
  • How did they keep this secret from John?
  • Gideon being replaced with Ortus as Cavalier left me so utterly confused. This was probably the biggest source of confusion. Especially as there were soon two Ortuses. 
  • How did Gideon the First preserve his Cavalier Pyrrha without John knowing?
  • I loved that Sextus was still ‘alive’ as a ghost. Can Camilla bring him back?
  • Will the Ninth House be renewed? 
  • I loved having Abigail and Magnus back even just for a little bit.
  • Can Harrow and Gideon both be brought back somehow?
  • Who was the unknown person in the epilogue being cared for by Camilla Hect?
  • Commander Wake seems like a bit of a monster. What else was she involved in?
  • We finally find out who Gideon’s parents are! Talk about mind blowing!

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