Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is pretty much a cross-genre odd duck. It's science fiction with magic ("thanergy"--as best as I can figure out, this is life energy, which in the hands of a trained necromancer can be used to communicate with the dead and produce skeleton-servants and skeleton-warriors from bone chips), fantasy with space shuttles and interplanetary travel, nine inhabited planets of an alien system, immortal necromantic Emperors, a feudal government, sword fights, and a main character with dirty magazines and death metal face paint.
This sounds very much like throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks and cranking it up to 11, and it doesn't always work. I'll give the author props for creating the rules of her world and sticking to them, even when many of those rules are flat-out bonkers. And she does write a tense, fast-paced and very good final fight scene. I don't object to the worldbuilding as such. What I objected to is a passive, opaquely written main character I wasn't particularly interested in and couldn't really relate to. I had a lot of trouble getting into this book, and I soon realized it was because I didn't want to be in Gideon Nav's head. I wanted to be in the head of the person I thought was the real driver of the plot, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. I didn't get that wish until the very end of the book, and the epilogue and fragment of the last chapter, from Harrowhark's POV, is the only reason this book is rated where it is.
(But my appetite is certainly whetted for the sequel, Harrow the Ninth.)
Your tolerance for this book will depend on whether you can handle a lot of over-the-top, disparate worldbuilding and storytelling elements that are blended together, with varying degrees of success, into their own unique stew. For me, the jury's still out as to whether that uniqueness is a good thing or a bad thing. But this author definitely takes risks. I suppose that is a triumph all by itself.
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