Take Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, set it at Yale, and throw in enough Harry Potter to make it accessible to recent young adult fans.
And you get the Powerpuff Girls.
No, you get Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo’s first(?) foray into writing adult novels, branching out from her wildly successful Grishaverse.
The result is…..eh?
I like the setting. Have you heard of Yale’s secret societies? They hit the mainstream when we found out George W. was once a part of the skull and bones society. The concept is that New Haven, Connecticut, is full of magic, and those old societies (frats for smart, rich people) take advantage of that magic to get a step up. Presuming that going to Yale already isn’t a step up. (How does Harvard produce any successful grads when one school has freaking magic at their disposal?)
Not all students know about this, just the society members. And one house, the Ninth House, Lethe, is the protector of the community. Making sure that all the other societies use their magic in safe ways. Guess what? They don’t. Cue a mysterious murder, a mysterious disappearance, and a lot of covering up. And this protector house? They have literally three current student members. Maybe recruit some more?
The whole concept is good. I like putting magic in a real world place. But the book lacks…something. I’m not talented enough to fully identify it. But it may have to do with the time jumping aspect of the novel. Bardugo bounces back and forth between past and present and further past. I’m all for time manipulation as a narrative aspect but sometimes it feels like a crutch rather than a tool. And as I was most recently annoyed by it with V.E. Schwab’s Vicious books, I didn’t take to it kindly here.
Also, there’s a very unexpected rape/sexual assault. And it feels…pointless. Go in being aware of that.
I feel there’s a lot of potential here, but I’m worried about the execution. I will probably continue reading because there were some very revenge related moments that I enjoyed immensely. But I would just as easily forget about it.
2.5 out of 4 stars