Bardugo’s excellent first fantasy novel for adults (following her highly regarded Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone YA series) introduces an antihero who is just the right person to take on rising dangers in an elitist society. Galaxy “Alex” Stern’s early life was wrecked by her unusual ability to see “Grays”—earthbound ghosts—but that same ability gains her admission into one of the magic-based houses at Yale. As she struggles to adjust to college life, she’s forced to confront evil powers swirling under the thin veneers of tradition and ritual. When a young woman is killed, Alex becomes determined to find the murderer, even if it means dodging attempts on her life and striking eldritch bargains. Alex is the story’s gritty, rock-solid heart. While other characters refuse to admit what’s happening, too insulated by their own privilege or distracted by banal needs such as funding, Bardugo gives Alex a thoroughly engaging mix of rough edge, courage, and cynicism, all of which are required to get things done. Much of the book’s white-knuckled tension comes from the increasingly horrific flashbacks revealing Alex’s past, which is still very present in her mind. Fantasy readers, particularly those who love ghosts, will hungrily devour this novel. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Oct.)
Yale's secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.
Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy "Alex" Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo's (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college's famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies' occult rituals. In Bardugo's universe, the "Ancient Eight" secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys' breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they're wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo's specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or "illusions and lies," helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It's Alex's job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). "Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home." A townie's murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who's spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.
With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo's compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.
"Ninth House is the best fantasy novel I’ve read in years, because it’s about real people. Bardugo’s imaginative reach is brilliant, and this storyfull of shocks and twistsis impossible to put down." - Stephen King
"Ninth House is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in years. This book is brilliant, funny, raw and utterly magnificent it's a portal to a world you’ll never want to leave." - Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author of The Magicians
"Ninth House is the best thing I’ve read in a long time. There’s so much magic here that you'll begin to feel it seeping into the room around you as you read, and characters so real you ’ll practically hear their voices in your ear. Leigh Bardugo has written a book so delicious, so twisty, and so immersive I wouldn’t blame you for taking the day off to finish it." - Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Get in Trouble.
"Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House rocked my world. I could not get enough of sinewy, ghost-haunted Alex Stern, a heroine for the ages. With a bruised heart and bleeding knuckles, she risks death and damnation again and again for the people she cares about. I was cheering her on the whole way: from the first brilliant sentence of this book to the last. More, please, Ms. Bardugo." - Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2
"In this mesmerizing novel, Leigh Bardugo introduces us to Alex, a high-school dropout who gets a free ride to Yale because of a unique talent. Bardugo's New Haven is plausible and frightening, and I was one rapt reader." - Charlaine Harris, bestselling author of the True Blood series
"With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo's compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Atmospheric...Part mystery, part story of a young woman finding purpose in a dark world." - Booklist (starred review)
"Genuinely terrific...The worldbuilding is rock solid, the plot is propulsive, and readers will be clamoring for a sequel as soon as they read the last page." - Library Journal (starred review)
"Excellent...Bardugo gives [her protagonist] a thoroughly engaging mix of rough edge, courage and cynicism." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Instantly gripping...Creepy and thrilling...The world of this book is so consistent and enveloping that pages seem to rush by." - BookPage (starred review)
“Simultaneously elegant and grotesque, eerie and earthbound...Wry, uncanny, original and, above all, an engrossing, unnerving thriller.” - The Washington Post
Galaxy "Alex" Stern woke up in the hospital after an overdose to learn two things: that she was the only survivor of an unsolved bloody multiple homicide and that because of her ability to see ghosts, she was being offered a spot in Yale's freshmen class, provided she join Lethe, the clandestine group that monitors the school's eight secret societies. In this highly anticipated adult debut from YA author Bardugo (Six of Crows), each group specializes in a discipline of the occult, from necromancy to divination, and the members of Lethe are responsible for making sure their activities don't harm anyone, inside or outside of the societies. Alex feels overwhelmed by everything—her Lethe duties, her schoolwork, how to act around people her age—when two things occur: a local girl is murdered and Darlington, her mentor, disappears into a portal to…somewhere. Disturbed by how lightly people seem to be treating the girl's murder, Alex pushes to find out what happened to her and Darlington, uncovering rot, corruption, and some answers to her own history along the way. VERDICT Demand alone would necessitate purchasing multiple copies in all formats, but this is genuinely terrific. The worldbuilding is rock solid, the plot is propulsive, and readers will be clamoring for a sequel as soon as they read the last page. [See Prepub Alert, 4/1/19.]—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal