In 2019, Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel Gideon the Ninth hit the shelves. And faster than you could shout “lesbian necromancers in space!”, it became a best-selling sensation, making multiple year-end lists and cementing itself as one of my favorite fantasy books from the past ten years.
Gideon Nav is introduced trying to escape from the Ninth House, a clan of necromantic nuns who found her as an infant and have treated her like shit ever since. She dreams of becoming a soldier, but events transpire that make her act as cavalier to the cruel, ambitious daughter of the Ninth House, Harrowhark. When necromancers from all nine houses and their cavaliers meet up to compete for the chance to become Lyctors, a game begins with unforeseen dangers and stakes, and Gideon and Harrow will have to resolve their differences if they’re to make it out, alive or dead.
If the book won me over with its setting, it kept me with its central relationship. Harrow’s attitude towards Gideon starts off as sheer contempt, but as we learn more about her we realize she was sharpened to a fine point from birth to be a weapon, leaving little room for friendship or empathy. Her evolution, along with her sheer brilliance and bad-assitude, rank her among my favorite fictional characters in some time. That the book is also stupid fun is just icing on the cake.
Gideon the Ninth was followed up by Harrow the Ninth in 2020, with two more books scheduled for 2022 and 2023. I rarely read books the year they come out, but I look forward to making an exception.