The Grishaverse made Leigh Bardugo a household name in the young adult world. Ninth House will put her on the map as an incredible horror author, too. Ninth House is, in a word, incomparable. If you’re familiar with Bardugo’s work, you’ll almost definitely struggle to remember that this is the same author as you dive further into the cultish mysteries of her adult debut.
Ninth House, at its core, is an intensely believable narrative of power imbalances. We follow Galaxy “Alex” Stern; a girl who has been torn down by the world too many times, but has the strength to rebuild herself whilst still retaining a sense of justice and compassion. A freshman at Yale, Alex is thrown into a world of secret societies and tasked with protecting the common people of New Haven from the secrets within. Meanwhile, all the rich and powerful are summoning demons, raising the dead, and doing things that are far worse.
Bardugo’s iconic worldbuilding skills are still outstanding even with a modern urban backdrop. She has created a rich lore to both the secret societies of Yale (all based off existing societies), and the creatures that inhabit the world invisible to all but Alex and a select few others. The ghosts, or ‘Grays’, drift through the world, but can latch onto those they feel an emotional connection to. Beyond that, they have an affinity to strong magics and anything that can make them feel alive once more. The result is a book that feels both familiar and incredibly otherworldly.
It was an unexpected delight to discover that Ninth House has multiple timelines throughout the book, and we follow Alex through three different stages in her life, along with additional flashbacks. It made the unfurling of the story all the more delicious, with each timeline revealing their secrets in unusual patterns. After proving over the years that she can write wars, schemes, and heists, Bardugo has now created a layered mystery for the ages.
One thing that has been frequently praised about her work in the past is how she has created some relatable characters for people who rarely see themselves written well. Kaz Brekker from the Six of Crows duology has been a huge icon for members of the disabled community, as well as people rallying against post-traumatic stress disorder. The care that Bardugo puts into her characters has helped countless people feel represented, and it is much the same in the case of Ninth House. Many of the characters have gone through some intense traumas, and Bardugo has tackled the darkest themes in a way that is both powerful and tasteful, leaving the audience with a sense of catharsis. This book can be seen as a letter to survivors; a reminder that they can still hold strong in a dark world.
Whilst Ninth House is an incredible book, I would advise younger readers and anyone who is uncertain about the content to look further into the background of this book to ensure it is the right pick for them. This is a huge shift from her previous work, and it may not suit some of her existing readers.
QBD Books is currently running a ‘Ninth House’ giveaway, all the details of which you can find via Facebook.