Ninth House

By Leigh Bardugo

The Short Take:

To say this book centers on magic undersells it. It’s smart, brutal, surprising; part murder mystery, part fish-out-of-water, part hero’s journey. The heroine is perfect: strong in some ways, highly vulnerable in others. I couldn’t put it down.

Why?

Ninth House is no Harry Potter. The magic acts encountered in its pages are raw, bloody, erratic, and used to keep the rich and powerful rich and powerful.

Set in present day Yale University (which Bardugo attended), the famed secret societies (Skull & Bones, Manuscript, Scroll & Key, etc.) all have secret magical practices–a different one for each of the eight ancient houses. One can create unbreakable contracts, another reads the future of the stock market through a living human’s entrails, yet another can create portals to distant places.

A completely unprepared Alex Stern drops into this world, charged with keeping the houses’ rituals and errors secret, and cleaning up their messes. A high-school drop-out and small-time drug dealer/user, she receives the offer of a free Yale education after surviving a horrendous multiple homicide. Though she is unaware of why this fresh start is hers, it’s because she can see ghosts. Ghosts are a problem for Yale and its societies.

She receives some help but the problems grow, become intertwined, and create a knot of tremendous suspicion and fear that she must overcome or die trying.

A Little Plot:

Alex comes to Yale with little more than the clothes on her back and an incomplete, substandard education. She hopes to gain an education that will open doors while handling the tasks of protecting the secret societies.

It’s not an easy combination. And then it really gets tough.

For more about Bardugo and her work, click here.

PS. Though this is supposedly a stand-alone book (and the main story does resolve), Bardugo leaves the doormen for a sequel.

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