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  • ★★★★★-5

Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Spoiler-Free, re-read)

what rock was i living under when i gave this four stars

'Look around. What do you see? People in costumes, horns, fake jewels, adorning themselves in tiny layers of illusion. They stand up straighter, suck in their stomachs, say things they don't mean, indulge in flattery. They commit a thousand small acts of deception, lying to each other, lying to themselves, drinking to the point of delusion to make it easier. This is a night of compacts, between the seers and the seen, a night when people enter false bargains willingly, hoping to be duped and to dupe in turn for the pleasure of feeling brave or sexy or beautiful or simply wanted—no matter how fleetingly.'

Over the years, it seemed like I'd fallen out of love with fantasy. The last fantasy novel I gave five stars (besides re-reads) was Queen of Shadows in 2020. I started getting bogged down by second worlds, frustrated by over-engineered magic systems, and found myself unable to become as immersed in a fantasy novel as I had been able to be previously. But when I cracked open Ninth House for a second reading, it happened. I was absorbed completely. Finally, I found her: 15 year-old Emily in the sun-soaked loveseat of her bedroom, falling into the pages of Shadow and Bone for the first time. She wasn't lost for eternity.

Leigh Bardugo is a genius. A true master of her craft. Not only can she tell a compelling story, but she paints it so vividly and with so much purpose. Writing Ninth House required an exorbitant amount of research and Bardugo sought out every ounce of it. She walked the grounds of every cemetery. She visited the houses of each society, the mansions. She weaved in lore of real Yale alumni, connected true stories of the past to a fantastical present. She made it all something solid.

As proven by Six of Crows, Bardugo is the queen of tragic backstory. Somehow, she manages to meet the impossible standards set by Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa with Alex Stern and Darlington. And if you think Kaz and Inej have dark histories... strap in for what Bardugo's adult debut has in store.

Now that the ice has been broken and his name has been uttered, I have to address it: Darlington. The gentleman of Lethe. Our golden, destined for glory, perfect boy. God, I need more of him. There's something about the Richard Campbell Gansey III of it all that got me this time around.

The party at Manuscript may be one of my favorite scenes in literature of all time. Writing about it won't do it justice. You need to experience it for yourself.

I think I may perish on my journey through Hell Bent. But I can't wait to make that descent.

P.S. I am inconceivably excited for her upcoming historical-fantasy novel set in Spain. I screamed every time she sprinkled in an Andalucía reference.

^re-read 2024

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