REVIEW: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The second novel in Tamsyn Muir’s The Locked Tomb series, Harrow the Ninth follows on closely from its predecessor Gideon the Ninth, continuing the same story but taking Harrow’s arc in an unexpected direction. After the dramatic conclusion to events at Canaan House, Harrow and Ianthe have taken up their new roles as Lyctors, but while Ianthe has largely taken well to her new duties Harrow is finding things difficult. Her fellow Lyctors are antagonistic to say the least, God himself is overprotective and weirdly sensitive, and both her memories and powers are proving unreliable. Add to that the apocalyptic danger of a rapidly approaching Resurrection Beast, and things are looking bleak for the young woman who was once the Ninth House’s Reverend Daughter.

39325105While Gideon was sort of a sinister, necromantic whodunnit, this time it’s more of a what-the-hell-is-happening, digging further into Muir’s deeply thought-out world while posing all manner of unexpected questions. Why are there so few Lyctors left and why is one of them actively trying to kill Harrow? What’s the deal with the creepy dead body of Cytherea? Why does Harrow hold on so tightly to a sword she can’t use and which makes her sick just to touch, and what’s going on with her memories of youth back in Drearburgh? These and more are posed and (eventually) answered as the novel develops, but while Harrow shares many similarities with Gideon it focuses even more on the sense of mystery running through it. Muir’s choice to tell a non-linear story in a mixture of second and third person – second for the ‘present day’ sections and third for flashbacks to Harrow’s childhood – emphasises this right from the off.

Combine this with Muir’s rich, dense prose and absolute refusal to spoon feed exposition to her readers and you’ve got a book which deliberately takes an unexpected narrative tangent and demands concentration, patience and trust. What it offers in return is more of the brilliant world building and razor-sharp dialogue that made Gideon so much fun, a deeper exploration of just how messed up, fabulously capable and utterly determined Harrow is, and a plot which, when it finally resolves, is a masterpiece in complex, mind-bending storytelling. Oh, and a few great new characters in the other Lyctors. If you loved Gideon the Ninth then chances are you’ll love this too, but just be prepared to be patient (and keep a copy of Gideon by your side for reference) – it will be worth it in the end!

Thanks very much to Tamsyn Muir and Tor.com for sending me a copy of Harrow the Ninth in exchange for this honest review!

Read Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

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Michael Dodd

Michael spends his days writing software user documentation, and in his free time runs Track of Words where he keeps himself busy writing reviews and author interviews. If he could spend every hour reading or writing about books, he absolutely would. You can find him at www.trackofwords.com or on Twitter @track_of_words - come along and say hi!