Hi! I’m coming to you with a review of a book I finished most recently. It’s a big one.
- Publication date: October 8th 2019
- Publisher: Gollancz
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
I haven’t seen such a polarising book in a long, long time. Spoiler alert – I loved it.
Leigh Bardugo is a Queen. I’ve been anticipating this book, her first adult book, since I found out about it. It was definitely one of my most anticipated releases of the year. The synopsis got me hooked, I couldn’t wait to read it, then saw a few bad reviews and my excitement dampened a tad bit. I was worried I’d be part of the group who disliked the book and that would be absolutely tragic because I already loved it in my mind. But I picked it up and… it was wonderful.
I won’t give you a synopsis, it’s up there, you can read it yourself… I’ll just jump right into my thoughts.
I loved every damn thing about this book. I loved the writing, which is not surprising, as Leigh is an amazingly skilled writer and we know it. The book flowed perfectly, was super atmospheric and dark. I loved the Yale setting, though I’ve never been, yet after reading this book I feel like I know it. I loved the details on the societies and magic used by them. Whoever said the book is boring must’ve read some other book. The pacing is just right, there’s always something happening, there’s always a mystery to be solved!
Let’s talk about Alex – the leading lady. It’s not often we see such a flawed FEMALE protagonist. I mean, sure, we get them sometimes, but when we do, mostly they’re trained assassins, and I think that’s a bit different. Female anti-heroes are almost unheard of. Alex has been through hell, her life was terrible (and mostly by her own making, though there were factors that made her take the wrong path) and she’s learned to be tough. She’s badass, she has a big mouth, she’s done unthinkable things and she’s not afraid to do them again, if it means she’ll survive. I live for morally grey characters! She is a really interesting protagonist and I loved her drive and how unapologetically herself she was throughout the story.
The magic is super approachable. I see how for some the passages about different societies, their abilities, magic and rituals could feel a bit info dumpy, but I enjoyed them. If this has been a high fantasy, maybe the way the info was delivered would irk me, but since it’s an urban fantasy and the plot revolves around a few mysteries and not necessarily the magic itself, I thought it was well executed. Bardugo gives a lot of details on the societies and has a little glossary at the end telling you what house does what. It’s handy if you just need to flip back for a refresher and it gives you a few notable alumni.
The writing is super atmospheric. Bardugo didn’t stray from gory details. There are a lot of things described in the book that need a content warning (I’m still baffled how some stores shelved it with YA books, honestly), like drugs, abuse, overdose, rape etc. It’s a violent and disturbing book, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but I ate it up.
I didn’t think I could enjoy the setting as much as I did. I don’t seek out stories set in schools/colleges and while the secret society aspect was intriguing, I didn’t really know what to expect. It surprises me still I enjoyed reading about rich, spoiled, advantaged kids (an adults), but I did, and the way Bardugo wrote them – it’s a great commentary on power and privilege.
I think I’ve rambled enough, though I probably haven’t touched on a lot of things I wanted to comment on. I need more. I need the next book.
Get your own copy here.
Have you read Ninth House yet? Let me know your thoughts!
Thanks for reading and see you soon