By Robert Drinkwater
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is an urban fantasy that takes place at Yale University. We follow Galaxy “Alex” Stern, someone with the ability to see ghosts or “grays” as the book refers to them. Alex has had a difficult life. When she was young she experienced a traumatic event that sent her life in a downwards spiral that involved drugs, crime, and death. Alex gets an offer when she’s in the hospital to go to Yale free of charge. As it turns out, Alex has to join one of the secret societies at Yale, where she helps solve crimes involving the dead and whatever’s beyond the veil.
One of my favorite parts about this novel was the location of it. Most of it took place in New Haven, Connecticut, in and around Yale. There was so much detail put into the secret societies, their history, and lore. Each society specialized in certain magical abilities. As it turns out these societies, Manuscript, Skull and Bones, Book and Snake are all real societies. Bardugo is an alumni from Yale which made it seem all the more accurate and it was interesting to see here put magic in these real things. This book kind of reminded me of the television show The Magicians because of it being in a college type setting and the magic that they were able to do as well as having characters in that show deal with with life issues and traumatic events. This novel combines real life modern college experiences with fantasy that adds to the overall story.
The main character Alex is a fantastic and realistic protagonist. I felt like she really developed throughout the novel. I also enjoyed the flashback parts. We see Alex grow up and endure all of that trauma that she’s been through. She is easy to sympathize with, but also strong as she struggles to find her place in the world. Alex is someone who has dealt with drug addiction, abuse, and the novel starts off with her as the sole survivor of a homicide.
Daniel Arlington, or Darlington as he os called is another main character in this novel. This book primarily takes place from Alex’s point of view, but there were a few chapters from Darlington’s perspective. Unlike Alex, Darlington has lived a fairly privileged life, living off of the wealth of his grandfather. However, over the course of the novel, as we see more backstory from his perspective, he becomes more sympathetic.
Despite this being a fantasy novel, the characters and situations in it felt real. This book tackled real life issues that people face today and mixed in a little bit of magic in it. This book is also filled with twists and turns with layers of unpredictability added in every chapter. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll say that I was very satisfied and shocked. It had a twist that immediately made me want to reread this book.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys modern urban fantasy. It is full of realness with magic involved and characters that made this an unforgettable novel.
You can buy Ninth House on Amazon for 16.78