Updated: Feb 27
Ninth House is a tale that depicts a tragic story about abuse, loss, and coping with our inner demons. I describe it as Nancy Drew meets dark fantasy. We follow the main character Alex Stern who is the sole survivor of a triple homicide. This appears to be the last stop on the downward train that is her life. While recovering, she is given an opportunity of a full ride to Yale in exchange for assisting a mysterious secret organization that seeks to utilize her unique abilities. With no family or living friends, she agrees to take the new job. There, she works closely with the secret members of Yale and experiences dark magic in a whole new world. Darlington, a senior of the society, is appointed to the position of training her. Despite his initial despise of Alex, the pair eventually grow closer. However, before their friendship can truly blossom Darlington goes missing. Left to fend for herself, Alex is attempting to solve the murder of a young girl and figure out what happened to both the girl and Darlington. When I first started the book, I was a little confused because it tells from the perspective of both Alex and Darlington. This was confusing because he is missing through much of the story. It is a clever format of writing I found, showing both the past (Darlington's POV) and the present (Alex's POV). In this writing style, you might read something vague in Alex's POV and then have it explained farther in Darlington's POV. There are also some flashback scenes by Alex that ties everything together nicely. Once you comprehend how the POV works, the story is extremely easy to follow along with. I encountered no other issues whatsoever and this one wasn't even an issue, to begin with. The book itself is wrapped around dark humor, magical rituals, mysteries, abuse, triggers and so much more all while remaining in slightly modern fantasy. The tale includes many real-life topics like sexual abuse and dealing with unhealthy family and or friends. Meanwhile including dark magic and creatures of various forms. You have an MC who blurs the lines of 'good' and 'bad', without really feeling guilty about most of her actions. She does things in this book that blows your mind, however, in some of these actions you may consider yourself agreeing they were justified. This plot of the book is effectively developed, but it drags a lot until you reach the end of the middle. Therefore, it takes some time to sell us on the story and the characters. Initially, I didn't care about Alex, but that was primarily because I didn't know her story. When you have a morally grey character, there has to be something that makes you care. However, as the book continued and picked up, I found myself entirely invested. So much that I completed the book in two days. Darlington, however, just has this way of making you care. Perhaps because he genuinely is a humble and kind guy, if not a little uptight sometimes. He works hard and believes in earning everything he possesses. However, like Alex, he has personal issues going on in his life. The reader gets an inside look at that throughout the book, which helps his character grow immensely. I think if this book lacks anything, it is world-building. The synopsis talks a lot about the rich and powerful players at Yale, but in truth, we don't get much of a window into that world. The mystery, secrets, and dark magic are all there and brilliantly described to the reader. Though for those who were expecting a school setting at the forefront of the mysteries and magic, you may be disappointed. I legit cannot recall a singular thing about the other students, excluding the ones that purposely affected the plot. I didn't expect myself to appreciate this book as much as I did. I'll be straightforward, this is the first book I've ever read from Leigh Bardugo. However, now that I have, I plan to revise that. This should tell you a lot about how good the book is since I am often too apprehensive to step out of my comfort zone of authors. What I loved most about the book is how shockingly sad it was. At the same time, it was realistic as many of these situations take place every single day. Alex is a strong character, but also a terrible person in my opinion. She manipulates things, and people to influence her wants or needs and doesn't often feel bad about it. Which I low-key love about her. She is unapologetically herself throughout the whole book even if that means screwing some people over. There is, of course, some growth by the end of the book. I don't think it makes her any less Alex, I call it a more evolved Alex.
In the end, I think Leigh Bardugo did an amazing job! I'll have a spoiler version up soon!