Leigh Bardugo’s NINTH HOUSE, her debut into adult fiction, having ventured into young adult beforehand, feels like lightening in a bottle to me.
I discovered it, via an advertisement on Instagram, was drawn in by its artwork and plot, and grabbed myself a blind copy. Never mind the fact that I fell prey to its marketing, for I don’t – NINTH HOUSE has an imagination and mythology so richly detailed that I found myself compelled to keep reading.
It’s so strange and wonderful that I don’t want to go too much into it’s plot so here is a little tease – Alex Stern, a tortured young woman, finds herself recruited into the strange and fascinating underworld of secret societies operating at Yale University. It’s part noir, part dark fantasy and with a heavy dose of horror.
A rich mythology and imagination won’t matter if the story itself doesn’t work. Thankfully, Ninth House moves by at a fast pace, driven by a central mystery, a fleshed out living and breathing world and its likeable protagonist Alex Stern.
Leigh Bardugo seems quite at home here in Alex’s world. I get the sense that Alex was a lot of fun to write, that it came naturally. Every page seems just seems to pop and come alive through her perspective, be it in wit or sarcasm.
There’s darkness to the story though and themes of guilt and trauma and hauntings, even literally, are woven throughout the narrative, done tastefully and masterfully. It doesn’t feel jarring or cheap or imbalanced because Bardugo sets the scales and tone wonderfully. The story and timely themes feel organic.
NINTH HOUSE is the type of novel that makes me want to read more of the work of Leigh Bardugo, the type that makes me crave a sequel, because the world is so different to what I’ve experienced in my travels along the dark fantasy or horror genres.
If you’re a fan of dark fantasy and horror and you’re looking for something different and unusual, give this novel a go.
J’s Verdict – ☆☆☆☆