Published: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Series: Alex Stern #1
Pages: 458 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
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.
Darlington is the angstier, adult version of Richard Campbell Gansey III but without the bee allergy and Alex Stern is like Blue Sargent but with slightly more magic and possibly a death wish. FIGHT ME. Darlington is also the most interesting part of the book for the first 75% but then Alex gets way cool and the STAKES ARE RAISED, NOW WHERE IS THE SEQUEL.
That could be the entire review, but I feel like that would be cheating you guys, you know? Like, how fair is that? So vague, yet so intriguing.
First of all, I’d like to say the audiobook is quite stellar and worthwhile, especially since there’s a cool little interview with Leigh Bardugo where she reveals an interesting fact that is related to the story. This is a book where the narration really brings it to life and perhaps make what would have been a good-ish book into a pretty cool book that I’ll definitely be reading the sequel to.
I think I summed up the characters pretty well in the first paragraph, but I’ll give some background on them now. Alex Stern can see grays, which are spirits of the deceased, aka ghosts. This gift brought her to the attention of Important People at Yale University, who offered her admission and a full scholarship if she would just join their secret society. This is all in spite of the fact that she was the lone survivor of a multiple homicide, is/was a drug addict, and most royally screwed up her life. What a second chance! Once at Yale she meets Daniel Arlington (Darlington) who is to be her mentor in the secret society, called Lethe House. Darlington (and now Alex) are meant to be the police for the eight other secret societies on Yale’s campus that produce the wealthy, the talented, and the ambitious people of the world. They each have their own unique brand of magic, some/most of which is disturbing. Like, borrowing people from mental wards to read the stock market trends in their viscera. *WHAT* *WHY* Lethe House is present at all events involving the other societies to ensure rules are followed, no more hobos are killed, and nothing goes wrong. Theoretically.
In theory, this book should be everything that could be interesting in a book. Magic in the modern world, secret societies, a collegiate setting, etc. It was interesting, but it did take awhile for me to really get into it and even then it took me awhile longer to find Alex Stern to be anything other than sort of bland. Darlington saved this book – his POV was interesting from the start and his absence was even more attention grabbing. He’s so totally not in Spain, but where is he? The mystery portion of this book (ie, who killed the girl and were the societies involved?) did keep me reading longer than I would have if the book solely relied on me liking Alex Stern. I did like her by the end and I will absolutely be picking up the sequel on release day.
Overall, Ninth House was a win for me, with reservations. I felt the ending was a bit rushed and unexpected. Yes, it was a mystery/horror book but you know, clues are a thing and being able to smack your forehead and go “WHY DIDN’T I SEE THAT SOONER” is how these things should go. It shouldn’t be me going “GOLLY, THAT WAS OUT OF THE BLUE, WHAT THE HECK”. Between this, and the blandness of the characters towards the beginning, this is only getting four stars from me.