Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
(3.5 stars) This is going to be one of those annoying reviews to write because, after giving it a couple of days, I still don’t fully know where I stand on Ninth House. I’m torn between loving it, wanting to love it more, and being annoyed.
I love it because: fully realized, fantastic, morally gray characters, true Leigh Bardugo genius world development, and a novel that lands smack dab in one of my favourite literary sub genres: Dark Academia.
I want to love it more: because Bardugo is one of my favourite writers and I feel like this should have been a slam dunk five star read but I’m surprisingly waffling between 3 & 4 stars because …
I was annoyed. I was annoyed by how the plot often took a back seat to the overly descriptive monologues on Yale and New Haven geography. There is no need to grab either a Yale or New Haven directory after reading Ninth House, as the amount of history of the buildings, roads, doorhandles, stonework, and who sat on what with whom during what major such and such in history is so thoroughly detailed, there’s simply no need. She just kept banging on and on about all her knowledge of Yale. Not to mention the constant references to obscure, niche literature … unfortunately all of it came across very pretentious.
I wanted more of the characters, I wanted more of this dark world she created, but as the novel dragged on and on under the weight of the unnecessary geography lessons I grew rather tired with its tediousness. Also, while I understand that this was a novel with a strong subtopic of campus rape and the culture of sexual harassment in higher learning, did it cross the line into overdone and therefore drowned out the whole? Maybe. I felt there was a lot of singular preoccupation on this topic and the high number of sexual assault scenes started to take away from the message. For me, the parts that I loved were few and the parts I could’ve done without were numerous, on the whole leaving me with an unbalanced story that really could’ve been a favourite if those ratios had been reversed. Unfortunate.
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