Gideon the Ninth

Image of Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Trilogy)
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
September 9, 2019
Publisher/Imprint: 
Tor.com
Pages: 
448
Reviewed by: 

“Gideon the Ninth is a whirlwind of dark fantasy and dark humor, all wrapped up in sarcastic, delightfully sapphic Gideon Nav. The narrative oozes with voice and every sentence rattles with Gideon’s disaffected attitude and the creepiness of skeleton bones.”

Gideon Nav lives on a depressing, underworld planet filled with semi-sentient skeletons, irritating nuns, zombie rulers, and Harrowhawk—the only other teen her age—who is determined to make Gideon’s life a living hell.

Gideon’s only dream is to escape the House of the Ninth and join the military. She is an exceptional swordswoman after all, and why should she ever bother to return to The Ninth, when she’s been certain to pack all of her dirty magazines?

Gideon’s plans to sneak off the planet on a shuttle are thwarted, however, when a summons comes from the emperor. He needs necromancers, and all good necromancers need cavaliers. Harrow must answer the call, and Gideon is the only swordswoman with the skills that Harrow needs to survive the trials to become a Lyctor—trials which, of course, take place in a haunted mansion that was once inhabited by evil scientists.

Harrow and Gideon must navigate the trials and monsters of the mansion, compete with their fellow necromancer pairs, and find the ability to trust one another—or neither will make it out alive.

One flesh. One end.

Gideon the Ninth is a whirlwind of dark fantasy and dark humor, all wrapped up in sarcastic, delightfully sapphic Gideon Nav. The narrative oozes with voice and every sentence rattles with Gideon’s disaffected attitude and the creepiness of skeleton bones.

There are countless gems of dialogue throughout, and range from Gideon’s porn stash:

“Give me a break, Crux, I’m begging you here—I’ll trade you a skin mag. Frontline Titties of the Fifth.” This rendered the marshal momentarily too aghast to respond. “Okay, okay. I take it back. Frontline Titties isn’t a real publication.”

to her issues with authority:

“I know. It’s fine. Don’t get me wrong, Captain. Where I’m going, I promise to piss fidelity all the livelong day. I have lots of fealty in me. I fealt the Emperor with every bone in my body. I fealt hard.

“You wouldn’t know fealty if it—”

“Don’t hypothetically shove stuff up my butt again,” said Gideon, “it never does any good.”

to her dreams of a better future:

“Gideon wanted a drop ship—first on the ground—a fat shiny medal saying INVASION FORCE ON WHATEVER, securing the initial bloom of thanergy without which the finest necromancer of the Nine Houses could not fight worth a damn. The front line of the Cohort facilitated glory. In her comic books, necromancers kissed the gloved palms of their front-liner comrades in blessed thanks for all that they did. In the comic books none of these adepts had heart disease, and a lot of them had necromantically uncharacteristic cleavage.”

The backstory of Gideon and Harrow is revealed slowly throughout the story, as the worldbuilding becomes increasingly complex. Narratives from other necromancers and cavaliers are wound through as well, and the Battle Royale feel of the later chapters toys with the emotions, beloved characters fall prey to experiments gone wrong and, in some cases, competitive necromancers.

The only potential pause in an otherwise flawless narrative is the ending which, while heartwrenching and beautifully rendered, does have strong elements of the Bury Your Gays trope. Whether this will be realized in the sequel remains unclear, and so readers should be aware that the ending is not what most would hope for, but fits thematically within the world.

Gideon the Ninth should be on everyone’s To Be Read pile, particularly readers who enjoy dark fantasy and humor, as well as anyone who has ever yearned for a chance to make their mark in a (skeleton-filled) galaxy.