Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. There’s no such thing as a perfect book, but there were definitely some major things that made me almost not enjoy this book. (Disclaimer: Historically, I haven’t been a fan of dark academia).
What I wasn’t a huge fan of:
- The first 200 pages are basically a giant info dump. I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was reading for a long time, and while I kept charging through, this will definitely turn off a lot of readers right off the bat. In Bardugo’s past books, her worldbuilding usually improves in book two of her series. But Ninth House has alternating timelines, which doesn’t make the beginning any less confusing. A lot of important worldbuilding information wasn’t explained until late into the book, which made this book a bit of a chore to get through.
- The plot is fairly slow moving. Because of the info dump beginning, there is a lot of narration and flashbacks. This gets in the way of the actual plot, which picked up around page 300.
- I generally enjoy reading dark books, but Ninth House almost verges on being too dark. Basically anything bad that can happen happens. Alex, the main character, had a hard past, but it’s almost too hard, if that makes sense. There’s a lot of violence that happens that’s almost unnecessary; it feels like violence for the sake of violence, as if Bardugo is trying to prove that she can write an adult book.
But the saving graces were:
- Darlington. And from what I’ve heard from other people who have read the book, we’re in agreement! He is definitely the shining character; his backstory resonated with me more than Alex’s. He has a great personality, and a charisma that bounces off of the page. And in a book full of morally grey characters, his character was welcoming.
- Bardugo’s actual writing is great. Her dialogue is always on-point. Her characterization is great. Her descriptions are lush and flow well. She’s clearly a smart writer, and her knowledge of Yale really shapes this book.
- The ending. The ending was the best part of the book, and it made me want to read the rest of the series. I have high hopes for the second book!
If you like dark academia, intense magic systems, and morally gray characters, then give this one a shot! Pro tip: There’s a small index in the back of the book that I recommend checking out before you start reading. If I knew it was there, the beginning definitely would’ve made a little more sense!
VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.5 /5
Trigger warnings: Pretty much everything: violence, gore, rape, murder, sexual assault, drug use. If you don’t like dark books, then I don’t recommend this book.