Ninth House (2019) Review // IF WE WERE VILLAINS x KINGSMAN (MEETS FANTASY)

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)

Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

Book 1: Alex Stern

Adult, Dark Academia, Fantasy, Mystery

Audiobook, Review Copy

Trigger Warnings:  violence, death, murder (on page, graphic), dead bodies (graphic depiction), autopsies, ritual, infected wounds, self-inflicted pain, drug use, overdose, anxiety, corpses, child rape (12, graphic), statutory rape (15), sex, assault, sexual assault, violence, past trauma (PTSD), loss of a loved one (past), grief, magical date rape drug, gore, drowning (on page), parental neglect and manipulation/abuse, racism, forced/drugged sexual assault of multiple women filmed on video which was circulated amongst a group of men, forced eating of human waste (to a rapist), talk of suicide, physical abuse, blackmail, use of words like whore, slut & bitch, toxic relationships, physical abuse for sexual pleasure (depicted negatively), bloodletting & self-harm

Publication date: October 1st, 2019

Thank you to Hachette Australia for supplying me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

addtogoodreads-script_26_orig - Greg Vogt Author

Character/Terms Guide ⇩

►Galaxy “Alex” Stern → MC, attends Yale, can see ghosts (Greys) in colour, “Dante”, didn’t finish high school, Jewish mother, didn’t know father, has 2 full sleeves of tattoos on her arms, black hair
►Daniel Arlington “Darlington” → Alex’s mentor, “Virgil”, raised by his grandfather
►Tripp Helmuth → On the sailing team, rich, working hard or hardly working, total wet blanket
►Mercy + Lauren → Alex’s roommates
►Pamela Dawes → Gets along with Darlington, finishing her dissertation, likes taking care of people
►Tara Hutchins → murder victim
►Lance → Tara’s boyfriend
►Len → dead, from Alex’s past, anger issues
►Helen “Hellie” → dead, from Alex’s past
►Detective Abel Turner → Black, early 30s, Centurion, Police officer, on the Tara Hutchins murder
►Cosmo → Darlington’s cat, mismatched eyes
►Dean Sandow → a recruiter from Yale
►Bertram Boyce North → A Grey

►A Grey → a ghost
►A Gulma → “a husk, a spirit raised from the recently dead to pass through the world, go-betweens who could travel across the Veil. They were messengers. For Book and Snake.” (Ch 9, pg 159)
►Red smoke → corpse beetles, will eat you from the inside out
►Meredy → a drug taken to make the user/victim give up their will
►Lethe → A watchdog organisation that is supposed to keep Yale’s eight Houses of the Veil in check
►Coins of compulsion → coins that can compel someone into doing what you want (not forever)
►Black Elm → Darlington’s house

3.75 ⭐

“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”

Hi guys, welcome back to my blog! Today I’m reviewing Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo! A little background info here, I have never fully finished a Leigh Bardugo book and the only thing I’ve ever read from her is Shadow and Bone which I DNF’d so, I’ve never really experienced her “YA writing”. Also, just being honest with you all, I was sent my copy of the book by Hachette Australia for review when it came out but I really put off reading the book because of a little thing called hype slump. Everyone was so excited to read it and then once they did they either didn’t talk about it or I only heard negative reviews. Hype Slump.

Ninth House was one of the most anticipated books in the YA community which is of course, completely ironic because, if you take anything from this review I want it to be this; Ninth House is NOT young adult! It’s a dark, hard-hitting, fantasy adult novel!

I also want to mention, that this book probably has the most trigger warnings that I’ve ever included for a review, so if you have any triggers at all, please check them before reading. I’ve included the trigger warnings that I found at the start and end of my review!

So, let’s get into the review!

Where to start? This wasn’t a perfect book like I think a lot of people were expeting it to be, but it was pretty damn good in my opinion. It wasn’t perfect by any means, the first 100 pages were a bit shaky and it felt like the author was still trying to find their footing but Bardugo really found her groove once she kickstarted the mystery aspect of the story! The book does hit a bit of a lull towards the end but, all in all it was an engaging read and I really don’t think it deserves all the hate it got when it first came out.

I strongly suggest looking up triggers before reading and not just picking it up because you like the author’s YA books. As long as you know it’s dark academia and you’re aware of the triggers, you should know exactly what you’re getting into and whether or not you’ll like it! This is a really atmospheric book, perfect for a rainy day, and once you’re into it, it’s super easy to binge-read so I definitely recommend it!

“There are worse things than death, Miss Stern.”

It’s Dark

This is a dark story, I mean, did you see my list of trigger warnings? I woke up in the mood for a dark academia and this was absolutely perfect! It has a super dark atmosphere to it and it’s not actually that triggering. Like, the scenes that you write triggers for are definitely confronting and some of them are extremely hard to read as well as graphic but, the rest of the book is actually pretty chill. It’s not amazing by any means but I definitely don’t think it deserves any of the hate it was getting! (I would say that the main load of triggers are in the first few hundred pages and then it progressively get’s less hard-hitting and just maintains the dark atmosphere, more than anything else. But, please be aware of triggers before reading.) The triggering scenes are definitely confronting and difficult to read, but that’s no shock, honestly. But, if you can get through them, the rest of the book is a really compelling mystery and a really interesting exploration of trauma.

Something that struck me while I was reading was that, like most media, this felt like an accumulation of things I’d read or seen before, but with a fun low-fantasy twist. Ninth House particularly reminded me of the atmospheric acedmic nature of If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio + the covert society of Kingsman + the general atmostpheric, low-fantasy feel from the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning.

This is very dark and hard to stomach at times but I did still genuinely enjoy it. It took a minute to get into the flow of things but as soon as the mystery started, maybe 100 pages in, I was really into it!

In general, the book is quite graphic and dark. The whole story isn’t dark but, it has a very dark vibe the whole time. So, even when it’s just a normal mystery or there aren’t any “Greys” (basically, ghosts) around, it still feels dark. It’s very spooky and atmospheric!

“If you want to live, you have to fight.”

Room For Improvement ⇣

I think Leigh Bardugo has some room for improvement, like it’s hard to get attached about the characters and the flashbacks are a bit jilted BUT it has a great dark vibe and a great spooky atmosphere so I have high hopes for book 2! I think this would be a great Halloween or Fall read!

The first 100 pages were a bit slow and you could tell the author was still trying to find their footing but it gets a lot better as they get into the groove of things and I was really enjoying it until the very very end! But, I would definitely look up triggers before reading and not just pick it up because you like the author’s YA books since this is a whole other wheelhouse.

As for the ending (no spoilers, of course!), this is a mystery book, though not in the traditional Sherlock-esque sense. So, they did have a mystery to solve by the end of the novel. I do think the story got a little but lost towards the 80% mark and I really wasn’t sure if the author would be able to sum of the mystery in time but, low and behold they did! But, I will say, the last 100 pages did feel a bit rushed and the pacing was definitely off.

Also, I had to mention this because it’s a whole new experience for me, but, I actually guessed the killer for the first time in my life!! I’ve always wanted to guess the killer but now i can’t tell if i was just paying really close attention, or if i’m just a good guesser or if this means the mystery was written badly. god damnit.

Bad Reviews ⇣

Okay, so my review is basically over now, apart from my sum up paragraph which you can feel free to skip to if you like, but I did want to talk about the negative reviews that stopped me from picking this up in the first place! Because, I think it’s important to note that a large nunmber of the people who read this ehen it first came out where predominantly YA reader who liked the author’s previous YA works.

This is an adult, dark academia book, not at all like what the author has written in the past, so if that’s not what you’r lokking for and/or you don’t like adult books, don’t read this just because you like the author!

This honestly would’ve been between a 4 and a 5 star read if it wasn’t for the rushed ending, so I genuinely think that this book is worth a second thought if you wrote it off anfter hearing all the negative reviews for it when it first came out.

I’d honestly really interested to see if the people who gave this a low rating did so because they genuinely had a problem with the book/didn’t like it or if it was because a bunch of YA readers who love the author were suddenly reading a dark, hard-hitting adult novel and then rated it harshly because of that.

“Her mother believed in faeries and angels and crystal visions, but what would she make of real magic? Could she grasp the ugly truth of it all? That magic was a commodity that only some people could afford?”

So, yeah, is this worth your time? Should you give it a read? I think so! It’s really easy to binge if you’re in the right mood! I’m just lucky that I woke up with a craving for dark academia on a dark rainy day!

I think as long as you know it’s dark academia and you’re aware of the triggers, you should know exactly what you’re getting into and whether or not you’ll like it! I think a lot of the negative reviews are from ya readers who love the author (which is totally valid) but didn’t totally know what they were getting into! It’s a really atmospheric book and I loved the main character! I have high hopes for book 2 and can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Trigger Warnings:  violence, death, murder (on page, graphic), dead bodies (graphic depiction), autopsies, ritual, infected wounds, self-inflicted pain, drug use, overdose, anxiety, corpses, child rape (12, graphic), statutory rape (15), sex, assault, sexual assault, violence, past trauma (PTSD), loss of a loved one (past), grief, magical date rape drug, gore, drowning (on page), parental neglect and manipulation/abuse, racism, forced/drugged sexual assault of multiple women filmed on video which was circulated amongst a group of men, forced eating of human waste (to a rapist), talk of suicide, physical abuse, blackmail, use of words like whore, slut & bitch, toxic relationships, physical abuse for sexual pleasure (depicted negatively), bloodletting & self-harm

HAVE YOU READ NINTH HOUSE?
ARE YOU A LEIGH BARDUGO STAN?

8 thoughts on “Ninth House (2019) Review // IF WE WERE VILLAINS x KINGSMAN (MEETS FANTASY)

  1. You really harp on the trigger warnings here. There are definitely some things I felt like were upsetting, like the child rape. Just saying, you could mention it once and move on. There’s so much to talk about with this amazing book and repeating a bunch of times that the book covers tough topics doesn’t do the book (or the potential readers) justice.

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    1. Just because someone points out TWs doesn’t mean they’re trying to be negative about the book or its readers — I think Ellyn’s just concerned about people potentially going into the story without knowing what to prepare themselves for, which is kind of her. As someone who gets triggered by certain topics, I’m personally really grateful that she’s as thorough as she is and I wish more reviewers were like her.

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    1. Haha, that’s okay!
      I think that’s completely understandable. From what I can remember, it’s more something that happened to her in the past rather than a motivation but, I’d probably have to re-read the book to double-check so I’ll 100% keep that in mind in the future!

      I think the author was using it more to show how dangerous and inescapable the world is for the main character, but you’re right, it wasn’t a necessary addition to the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful review, love! I pre-ordered this but I also had the horrible Hype Slump lmao. I don’t know how I haven’t read it yet! It sounds so good though. Thanks for mentioning how dark it is, as I’ll definitely make sure I’m in a good mood before I read it. 😂 It sounds like it might be a good fall pick for my seasonal TBR later this year though!!

    Liked by 1 person

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