Gideon The Ninth (Locked Tomb Trilogy book 1) by Tamsyn Muir (book review).

‘Gideon The Ninth’ is book one in the ‘Locked Tomb’ series by Tamsyn Muir which currently stands at two books, but we’re hoping for many more.

OK, so you’ve probably all heard of this series of books but I’m going to try and explain the book quickly for those who are new. Gideon the Ninth is a swordswoman who has grown up on a planet where her only companions are skeletons and possibly dead nuns. But it’s OK as she has a plan to get herself, her sword and her dirty magazines off this planet. Harrowhark Nonagesimus is a necromancer who specialises in bone magic, she also has plans and they don’t involve Gideon escaping.

Harrowhark is going to enter a contest set by the Emperor to test the various Houses to find his new right hand and to become an all-powerful immortal. Each house needs a necromancer plus a cavalier to enter this contest and Gideon happens to be Harrowharks cavalier. They both have to travel to the single most gothic planet I’ve ever read about in my life to fight for their lives and the honour of their House. Of course, things do not pan out as they or anyone else expected and people start dying in gruesome ways.

Wow! This book was very different in every sense of the word. I’ve never come across something with Science Fiction elements alongside magic and so much gothic background. As the reader, we are simply dropped into this completely random and very different world and left to try and catch up while the book rushes onwards. This did make it hard for me to get into in the beginning. I will recommend that if you’re going to start into this book give yourself a good couple of hours, do not just dip into it or it’ll push you right back out as it did with me. The only other book I feel is in any way similar to this is ‘Gormenghast’ with its gothic feel and the way their world works like nothing I’ve seen before. Plus the way it’s written is somewhat confusing in a similar way to ‘Gormenghast’, I’m honestly not sure how to explain it.

As I was reading this book I did find the juxtaposition between such scientific elements alongside sword fighting to be really odd. I’m assuming that this will be explained at some point, but my only thought at the moment is that the science elements are from a left over world. They still exist in this gothic, burnt out kind of world but people don’t use them or have any idea what to use them for. It was interesting for the characters to come across these things and have no idea what they were or did but, as the reader, we were almost shouting at them how to use them.

Harrowhark and Gideon are the absolute worst of enemies. They truly hate each other and will kill each other given the chance. However, they have to hold off simply to make sure of their own survival both on their home planet and now in this terrifying contest. Their snarky comments to each other throughout the book and just perfectly done, filled with venom. Some of their lines were truly hilarious, plus the things that go through Gideon’s mind are so weird.

After finishing, I have to say that this wasn’t an easy read for me. I did enjoy it but found it hard going in some parts. I will keep reading more books from the series because I have questions I need answering. Things like why does every planet worship death and dying? What’s with all the high-tech elements amongst the really old elements? I need more information about the other planets that the other contestants came from. So yes, I will be reading more just to settle my mind, but I’m fairly sure I’ll come away from book two with even more questions.

A note to any readers from my experience is that you have to keep reading with this book. You will not understand a lot of it and may even have to re-read once things become clear. Do not go into this book thinking you will understand everything, just immerse yourself and you’ll be fine.

Sarah Bruch

August 2020

(pub: TOR, 2019. 448 page hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-25026-659-0)

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