August 1, 2023

Review: Nona the Ninth

Nona the Ninth Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My view of this series have seesawed back and forth, commensurate with my liking the first book and being severely disappointed with the second. After nearly heaving the second book, Harrow the Ninth, against the wall, I said I wouldn't touch the third with a ten-foot pole.

Well, three years later, here we are? I must say, libraries and not blowing money on hardbacks I might hate are wonderful things.

It helped that I did hear good things about this book--primarily its main character. The world is the same gonzo batshit crazy universe as before (ostensibly science fiction with a heavy dose of necromancy, magic, walking skeletons, sentient planets, the proven existence of souls, humans mutating into gods and swallowing planets and suns, and death meaning nothing as people are constantly resurrected--see what I mean?). As with the previous two books, I must respect that the author clearly states the rules of her gonzo batshit crazy universe and sticks to them. But what really makes this book is its titular character, Nona. Nona is unlike any character I have read in this series before. She's not neurotic like Harrow or angsty like Gideon; she is loving, loyal and kind, the closest thing to a regular person that can exist in this bananapants series.

This is not to say a lot doesn't happen to Nona and the people around her. She woke up in this body six months ago and remembers nothing of her life before (view spoiler). She is surrounded by people who are revealed to be necromancers, cavaliers, and Lyctors of the Nine Houses (nearly all of them sharing souls and bodies, thus flipping back and forth between two characters in the same body). These secondary characters are all running around in a panic as the planet-destroying Resurrection Beasts are approaching, they are fighting each other, and the Locked Tomb is about to open, releasing whatever horror has been confined there for ten thousand years. This makes for a fast-moving gonzo plot that Nona is smack-dab in the middle of, and she becomes increasingly important.

But because of how well-written and rounded Nona's character is, this book has a grounded feel to it (well, as much as it can in this batshit universe, anyway) that was entirely lacking in the first two books. Because of Nona, I was able to go along with all the other bonkers stuff happening around her. Nona is a more appealing character than either Gideon or Harrow. It's enough to make me (cautiously) optimistic for the fourth and final book, and I would never have said that before I read this.

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