Reading Harrow the Ninth was like banging my head against a wall repeatedly.
And I loved every second of it.
The first thing you realize is: this is not the Harrow you know. Between Gideon the Ninth and now, something has happened to Harrow. She’s no longer the fullblown Lyctor from the end of the first book. There’s something wrong with her memory and she can’t look at her sword without vomiting. Harrow must figure out what happened and how to overcome her shortcomings before a monster made of the SOUL OF A DEAD PLANET (!!!!) arrives to kill her, her fellow Lyctors and the Emperor Undying.
So yeah. There are some stakes.
The novel alternates between Harrow’s Lyctor training and Harrow’s time back at Canaan House. While training to become a Lyctor, Harrow not only has to deal with her limited abilities but constant attempts on her life. Who is trying to kill her and why?
Then there is her time in Canaan House, where something else is seriously amiss. The events aren’t playing out exactly like you remembered in the first book. There’s something called the Sleeper roaming to halls. Not to mention the strangeness of Harrow’s Cavalier…
This is Harrow’s book and her perspective is a delight. She’s stubborn, talented and always has the best comebacks. I really appreciated getting to see inside her head and how she sees the world. In Gideon, Harrow as this extremely put together distant character who only dropped her shields and let Gideon in at the eleventh hour. In Harrow, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her. Everything she thought she knew was different and unbelievably complicated. The trauma from her childhood and her experiences in Gideon has gone unchecked and it’s starting to bubble to the surface and she doesn’t know how to deal with it. The world was a lot wilder and stranger then the Ninth House lead her to believe. Muir managed to build out her world and give us Harrow’s sardonic commentary at the same time.
I also couldn’t help but love the Lyctor’s and their relationships with one another. When you’ve known someone for over ten thousand years, you become well versed in their quirks. The relationships you would build would be extremely complicated and full of emotions that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Muir shows their interactions with all the love, hatred and heartbreak they’ve accumulated in the way only she could. If you’ve lived that long, you’re going to see the world a little differently.
Prose wise, Harrow is similar in style to Gideon. The major difference is that Harrow has sections written in second person. This can be alienating to the reader, but you do get used to it eventually. There is also a reason for this style change, so keep an eye out for that. Where this novel really shines is it’s dialogue. Like Gideon, Harrow is a mixture of styles, tones and dirty jokes. Just when you think you have it figured out, Muir drops something unexpected on you. I loved how descriptive Harrow was in her insults.
“I would rather have my tendons peeled from my body, one by one, and flossed to shreds over my broken bones,” you said. “I would rather be flayed alive and wrapped in salt. I would rather have my own digestive acid dripped into my eyes.”
“So what I’m hearing is… ‘maybe’,” said Ianthe. “Help me out here. Don’t be coy.”
Some of the best interactions happen between Harrow and Ianthe. The two of them have to figure out how to overcome their distaste for one another and work together. Ianthe is on her own for the first time, this is the longest she’s ever been apart from her sister. Though she claims to dislike Harrow immensely you get the feeling that she’s trying to fill the hole in her heart that her sister left behind. One of the best scenes happens about midway through the novel where Harrow has to grudgingly get help from Ianthe. It goes just as well as you would expect.
It would have been easy to just deliver more of the same; and let’s be honest it would have been awesome and we all would have loved it. But with Harrow Muir takes a risk. This book is balls to the wall ridiculous. It’s absolutely absurd. It’s bonkers. Muir does not hold your hand as she lets you wander through this nonlinear fever dream of a novel. Sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s laugh out loud funny and at others it’s extremely sentimental and heartfelt. I could see how this book could be offputting to some. As I read this novel I fuelled by the need to find out what the hell was going on. If you stick with this one and see it through till the very end it’s worth it. I want to go back and re-read the book to see all the foreshadowing and clues I missed.
My reaction to reading the majority of this book
Harrow the Ninth was a wild ride. It wasn’t the book I was expecting to read. and I won’t lie, it’s a little frustrating at times because I wanted to know now. But in the end it was worth it. Muir stuck the landing beautifully. After this, I have no idea what to expect out of the last book in the trilogy. I’m unbelievably excited and a little terrified for what could come next.
So if you’re a fan of lesbian necromancers in space, give this one a read.
But do yourself a favour, don’t try the soup.
Read the prologue for Harrow the Ninth here.