Book Review: Ninth House

Alex Stern is trying to get accustomed to life at Yale, a place nobody would ever expect her to be after learning of her troubled past and adolescence squatting with drug dealers. But when she wakes up in a hospital after her best friend’s murder, Yale’s dean is offering her a full ride as long as she serves as a member of Lethe House. We’ve all heard of Yale’s secret societies, like Skull & Bones, but author Leigh Bardugo has created a world where these societies are more than just exclusive frats. Each of the eight houses practices a specific type of magic that controls everything from the stick market to the film industry. It is the job of Lethe House to make sure this occult activity remains secret and in check. But Alex has secrets of her own, ones that make her particularly adept at this sort of job. And when a townie is murdered, she can’t help but draw a line connecting the murder to the houses.

I haven’t read Bardugo’s YA series (Shadow and Bone, Six of Crows), but this shift into the adult fiction world makes me think I need to give everything she’s written a chance. It started a bit slow and took me a minute to understand the style and how bits of Alex’s past were being slowly revealed, but I soon fell in love with the fantasy of it all. The ghosts (yes, ghosts) don’t feel cheesy and are instead like jagged edges of a believable world that’s just beyond our line of vision. There is enough background and detail to make this whole underworld seem believable.

Pair with: A blood and sand cocktail, in a coupe glass.

4.5 out of 5 stars