Review: Harrow of the Ninth

Harrow of the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow of the Ninth cover

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

If you haven’t read Gideon of the Ninth, beware spoilers! Go and read that now. Then come back. And if you have read Gideon, I’ll try not to spoiler for this one.

Ok, so you know that when you finish a book, you’ve got certain expectations for the sequel? I expected to see Harrow and Gideon trundling around, kicking ass and being snarky. There were going to be bones, skeletons and blood. There would be a bunch of new characters, a bunch of mystery, a dollop of intrigue, and probably characters having Emotions at each other.

Some of that… doesn’t happen. Specifically, the Harrow and Gideon bit. And, having got to the end of Gideon with a rather fond opinion of Gideon, that was a bit of a surprise.

There are, however, bones, skeletons and blood. There’s new characters. There’s mystery. There’s Emotions.

And, incidentally, the entire premise of the first book is going to get turned on its head.

So, y’know, not really what was expected.

However, it does involve lesbian necromancers in space, fighting a horrible Thing, trying to handle a sword without puking (not very successfully, HARROW), being bitchy to each other (naming no names, MercyMorn), people making Dad jokes (SERIOUSLY?!) and a whole bunch of kickass awesomeness. Also, there’s terrible poetry.

The book definitely focuses more on Harrow, and that’s amazing; we get to see much more of her personality, her skills and her character – mostly, admittedly, when people are trying to kill her. Or she’s throwing up. Or going mad. All three happen a lot.

(Also, I LOVE the soup incident. I think that’s possibly my favourite bit.)

But we also get to see more of the background of the Ninth House, Harrow’s upbringing, and more of the wider world of the Houses. We get to see more of the magical behind-the-scenes, and more of the world – albeit the part that’s stuck in the Emperor’s Mithraeum trying to teach two baby Lyctors how to not get killed the first time they wade into the River.

And Harrow’s also fighting battle’s she’s already won – and she’s going mad. She’s seeing things that don’t exist, remembering things that never happened. And even worse: a previous self appears to have left the current Harrow letters. There’s one “To be opened if your eyes change colour”? What?

There’s also more twists. Now, I loved the twist in Gideon (I’m not going to spoiler it here in case anyone is reading who hasn’t read Gideon) but this… oh yes.  It’s the sort of book that you just have to turn another page because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT RIGHT NOW. It’s the sort of book that you just stare at when you hit the twist, because suddenly everything makes sense and HOW VERY DARE THEY.  It’s the sort of book that you get to the end, go “OHHHHHH” and then immediately have to go and re-read.

And then you go and re-read it, because screw life. Go and join the necromancers!

In short: enthusiastically surprising in the best way.

In short: fun, exciting and ridiculous with an amazing twist at the end.

In short: lesbian necromancers kicking ass in space. Why would you not?

Disclaimer: I stole borrowed an ARC copy of this from a friend, so I have absolutely zero obligation to anyone to say anything but the truth. I am actually this enthusiastic!

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.