Book Review – Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

This was a book I was gifted for my birthday by my amazing Canadian Bookstagrammer friend, Sienna. It is one I have been looking forward to reading having fallen in love with Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, but at the same time I was a bit worried. For an author who is well known for her YA Fantasy, it is always a risky move. There is always that concern that the fiction will either be too similar to YA or just doesn’t work. In this case, it seems I had nothing to worry about.

This is the first book in the series, and I am very happy to say that the sequel is coming, yay!! It is called Hell Bent and is release January 2023 and I couldn’t be more excited. After reading this book, the 2nd book title is perfect.

So, without further ado let’s get on with the review.

Ninth House is about Galaxy “Alex” Stern, a young woman who has lost her way in life and is hurtling down a steep spiral of drugs, booze and crime. But she has a secret, she can see ghosts, or Greys as they are also known as. After one fateful event, where a multi homicide leaves her the sole survivor, she is approached in her hospital bed with an offer to completely turn her life around. She has been offered a place at an Ivy league college, Yale to study and also work to help monitor Yale’s secret societies. When a young girl is murdered on campus, only Alex will look into the events deeper to help uncover her killer.

Whereas, Grishaverse had magic, fantastical lands and a taste of a gritty underworld, this book is on a whole other level. Here we are pushed into the real world, into an elite university where we are exposed to its dark, gritty underbelly where everything is possible, and nothing is as it seems. This is a world where the elite carry out secret experiments and rituals and can get away with well, pretty much anything they want, especially as they fund the college.

The main character, Alex Stern at first is your typical struggling woman, lost into a world of drugs and booze and trying to stay afloat but slowly, or not so slowly drowning. But when she arrives in Yale her determination to remain in this position and prove herself is not only impressive but also admirable. She is committed to making something out of this once in a lifetime chance she has been given, even if the ghosts of her past (and those wandering around the campus) keep coming back to haunt her. But, although she will do anything to stay in her position, she is someone who won’t take any crap from anyone. But, underneath, she is a deeply troubled character still suffering from her from the events which occurred during her childhood and teenage years. But her strength, stubbornness and determination to not back down makes her a force of nature.

Alex smiled then, a small thing, a glimpse of a girl lurking inside her. That’s what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible.

My first concern before reading this novel is the transition the author needs to make from YA and adult and how she would differentiate between the two genres. But I didn’t need to worry at all. This adult fiction is completely different from her YA. It is much, much darker and grittier and some of the events which Alex experiences in her life are horrific and certainly not ones you would see in a YA novel. But this wasn’t the only change in this novel. The language, Leigh Bardugo used was more mature and that much more refined than her Grishaverse series. With her YA her writing was great, it was engaging and fun and tense. In this novel, her writing is terrifying, exciting, just as, if not more engaging and full of so much tension, you will struggle to put the book down.

It is difficult to come up with negatives about this book. I really enjoyed the characters and their personality. If I had to nit pick, I would have liked to have read more scenes with her mentor to get a bigger picture of him. The different levels of magic was intriguing, from the usual spells and rituals we know from other movies and books to some very dark and disturbing rituals you wouldn’t like to witness. This is a very dark side of magic in a realistic world, which made the story all the more disturbing. If it was set in a fantasy world it would make it easier for the reader to distance themselves from the action. However, by setting the story in a real location, in this case Yale University, it brings the action and the carnage closer to home and you can’t help but become unnerved by some of the scenes. We all know there are secret societies in some of the elite universities around the world and so to gain an insight into the societies in the world of the Ninth House was all the more disturbing and at times horrific.

From start to finish, this book grabbed me by it’s magical talons and didn’t let go until the end. Everything from the setting, the description of each scene and the characters were so wonderfully executed that it brought everything and everyone to life clearly.

If you ever want a dark, gritty, engaging read and you are a fan of fantasy I would definitely recommend this book.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  – a gripping, engaging read from start to finish, this is a book you won’t want to put down.  

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