8. A book written in Australia/Pacific Islands: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
List Progress: 8/30
Exposition is hard. Telling the audience the rules of a new world is a delicate business, and the more differences there are from the real world, the more information needs to be conveyed. Some authors hold the audience’s hand, others leave them to catch up as they go, and then there is New Zealand author Tamsyn Muir. I was over four hundred pages into Muir’s debut novel, Gideon the Ninth, and I still was not 100% sure how the magic systems of this universe worked. That mystery would be frustrating on its own, but when large beats of the climax depended on said magic system, I was left trying to intellectually puzzle through what should have been emotional moments. The book was a fun ride with characters I came to care about, but the logistical issues were hard ones for me to overlook.
Gideon the Ninth takes place in a universe populated largely by necromancers, magicians who use human remains and souls as components in spells, and cavaliers, non-magical swordspeople who protect said necromancers in battle. The titular Gideon was not supposed to be a cavalier, but is shoved into service when the lead necromancer of the Ninth House, Harrow, is called to engage in a massive challenge with other necromancers to be gifted immortality by the Emperor, a shadowy necromancer figure who rules over the planets that make up the dynastic Houses. It is an interesting set-up, and each House has its own particular style of magic and necromancy to make the universe feel larger and more varied, but this further muddies the rules of this reality.
Gideon and Harrow are great characters, prickly and crude in their own unique ways but with loveable hearts. The necromancer-cavalier pairs from the other Houses are sketched more broadly but still in very evocative ways, like the assorted Tributes from The Hunger Games. These characterizations are what kept me going through the confusing world-building and I am ultimately glad I did, but it will likely be a while before I pick up the next installment of the Locked Tomb trilogy, Harrow the Ninth. You get the feeling that Muir has formulated a lot of this world and the relationships between these characters; I just wish more of it had gotten to the page.
Would I Recommend It: Yes. At the end of the day, it’s still a lot of fun.