Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo (Alex Stern, #1)

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite

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. In fact, by age twenty, 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 prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

Review:

In the words of Eleanor Shellstrop . . .

HOLY MOTHER FORKING SHIRT BALLS.

Damn. That was so good.

So I have to be honest . . . I was a little nervous to read Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I was not a fan of her most recent release (King of Scars) and it is a big jump from the Grishaverse into the adult world. I wasn’t sure if she could pull it off. BUT DAMN. I WAS SO WRONG. Ninth House was absolutely incredible. It definitely joins my list of favorite all-time books. I had the absolute pleasure of attending Leigh’s

Ninth House follows Alex Stern, who is a new Freshman at Yale. Alex has a special ability . . . she can see ghosts (known as Grays) when no one else can. Because of this ability, Alex is recruited to become the apprentice to Lethe House. It is here where Alex meets Daniel Arlington (aka Darlington). Alex learns that it is the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the secret societies and to ensure they all act within order. But nothing is easy for Alex Stern and her apprenticeship quickly becomes so much more than she bargained for. Ninth House is told from Alex and Darlington’s points of view, and it takes place over the course of the year between Fall and Spring.

I had no idea what to expect from Ninth House due to it taking place in the real world. I actually loved that this story is a fantasy set in real life New Haven, Connecticut. I had zero knowledge of Yale’s secret societies prior to hearing about and then reading Ninth House. It is all so fascinating! I love the way Leigh took the facts and blended it with her story. The world building was just excellent! Leigh was able to create a complete atmosphere. From the campus setting to the ghosts and magic . . . this world and atmosphere was totally captivating. I felt completely transported to Alex’s world.

I loved the cast of characters. I didn’t always agree with their choices, but I always felt myself rooting for them. Alex’s character development was very well done. Leigh was able to write Alex in a way that she made huge strides in her development, but it all felt natural and well paced. I think Pamela Dawes is my favorite character. She’s a nerdy bad ass! And Darlington . . . I want more!

One of my favorite parts of Ninth House was the focus on feminism and inequality. Leigh did a wonderful job shining light onto privilege and the inequalities that women, minorities, and impoverished face. Leigh did not hold back in showing what happens if privilege is allowed to rule unchecked. Leigh was able to connect a story about ghosts and rituals to our present day society and its many issues. One of my favorite quotes from Ninth House addresses victim blaming. This quote (found on page 190) is just perfect. Leigh did such an outstanding job articulating our society’s major problem with victim blaming and the silencing of victims. Huge props to Leigh . . .

“Alex has indicated her own concerns regarding her assault, and instead of hearing her out, you’ve chosen to question her credibility. You may not have meant to imply anything, but intent and the effect were to silence her, so it’s hard not to think this stinks of victim blaming. It’s the semantic equivalent of saying her skirt was too short.”


Ninth House was a dark and twisty roller coaster. It kept me on the edge of my seat! I loved the mystery that had me guessing the whole time! I feel like I had permanent shocked face through the last ~100 pages. Congratulations to Leigh Bardugo on a fantastic adult debut!

I do need to include that Ninth House is definitely an ADULT fiction book.

Trigger warnings include: drug abuse and overdose, sexual assault, violence, murder, date rape, gore, and rituals.

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