Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

“When it comes to epic fantasy, it’s difficult to imagine a more purely fun read than Tasmyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth. Muir has received acclaim for her short fiction, and her debut novel is startlingly confident. She plunges the reader head-first into an unapologetically strange, complex and frequently disgusting universe ruled by powerful necromancers.

The crux of the novel is the relationship between Gideon and her necromancer Harrowhark Nonagesimus (Gideon the Ninth does not skimp on delightfully odd names). Gideon and Harrowhark have carried on a vicious, sometimes violent feud since they were children, with its roots in a horrible tragedy that is not fully explicated until well into the novel. Despite their antagonism, they have an undeniable emotional connection, and much of the book’s most interesting character work lies in deepening and complicating their relationship. Muir is adept at showing how closely love and hate can be entwined, and their evolving dynamic forms a compelling emotional through-line in a book that regularly features enormous monsters magically pieced together from hundreds of bones.

Apart from Gideon and Harrowhark’s relationship, Gideon the Ninth is at its most thrilling in its action scenes. Even veteran fantasy readers can expect to be blown away by Muir’s sheer creativity, especially in her descriptions of the necromancers at work. The skeletal constructs are a descriptive high point: “It was just simply, suddenly there, like a nightmare—a squatting, vertiginous hulk; a nonsense of bones feathering into long, spidery legs, leaning back on them fearfully and daintily; trailing jellyfish stingers made up of millions and millions of teeth all set into each other like a jigsaw.” The climax of the story features a true show-stopper of a fight, its intricate choreography closely interwoven with the book’s themes and relationships. Gideon the Ninth is simply one of the best and most original books in recent memory.” — Shelf Awareness, Starred Review