I thought Gideon the Ninth was insanity in a book, but then I read Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Really, this series should simply fall apart with everything that occurs, but it is like watching any sort of racing event wherein you secretly want all the crashes and accidents. Not only does Ms. Muir prove me wrong about just how crazy a story can get, but she also leaves me wanting even more of it.
In Harrow the Ninth, we have more of everything. There is more space, more ghosts, more necromancy, more bones, more danger, more characters, and infinitely more questions. In addition, we also have immortals, ghosts of dead planets, a mysterious enemy other than the dead planet ghosts, and a missing significant character. Nothing really makes sense, and you begin to wonder if reading the story is making you mad alongside Harrow.
The ending throws so much new information at you that you can only sit back and hope you absorb half of it. Honestly, after talking to others who already read Harrow the Ninth, I don’t think any reader truly understands what happens or the new information we receive. What’s more, because there is a universal lack of understanding, everyone’s interpretation of the information greatly differs. It does make for some pretty interesting discussions, so that’s a plus.
What makes Harrow the Ninth and its predecessor work is the writing. Simply, Ms. Muir is a genius. Her sentences are poetic but simple. Even better, she hides little joke nuggets in the simplest of dialogue, which enhances a scene to perfection. Added to that, her characters are so real as to be mundane. For example, the entire trilogy orbits around God, who just happens to be named John and acts as human as Harrow. No lofty naming convention for the immortal characters here and certainly no behavioral changes for immortals.
Harrow the Ninth starts out as the first novel’s complete opposite in pretty much everything. Tonally, the story is darker. Harrow flits between second-person and first-person narrative, both of which show she does not have Gideon’s flair for the dramatic or sarcasm. Plus, Harrow’s memories of what occurred at Canaan House in the first book differ greatly from the book you actually read. Much like within that first book, all you can do is go with it. Doing so means you get to enjoy Ms. Muir’s fabulous writing, which in itself is a reason to read this bizarrely fun story.