I think I’ll always check out a book that set in the mold of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. I loved that book so much… Kinda-snooty college kids in a creepy, ivy-covered campus, delving into mystical secrets that are just as likely to leave them maimed as to lead to wealth and wisdom. I’ve read other books that try to capitalize on the idea of being ‘the-next-Harry-Potter-but-darker,’ and I’m usually disappointed.
Leigh Bardugo’s novel did NOT disappoint. First of all, the novel stands apart by grounding itself within a real-world locale: Yale University. Those Yale secret societies that we’ve all heard about, that produce so many presidents and captains of industry? In this book, they are all covens of witches and wizards, each with its own specialty (necromancy, glamours, clairvoyancy, etc.) and a Game-of-Thrones-style crest and motto. Sweet! For some reason I’ve always wanted to visit New Haven, and this book is like a travelogue for the city, delving into details that set the mood by being creepy and intriguing—but also effectively set the stage by being mundane and unvarnished when needed.
So excellent details. And I really loved the way Leigh Bardugo laid out the rules of magic in her world. I also I liked the rules around ghosts. For instance: Ghosts hate graveyards. If you want to avoid being haunted go there. On the other hand, ghosts love anything salty and sanguine—anything that reminds them of life. Spilled blood and loud dance clubs and sweaty hook-ups are all prime lures for specters who are searching for any kind of connection to their former lives.
The characters are all distinctive and relatable. The plot centers around a mystery which I also found very enjoyable, although like a lot of these urban fantasy books, the machinations of the mystery are all paranormally convoluted. I took my guess at who would be the ultimate culprit; and I was both impressed with myself that I was right and impressed with Bardugo that my correct guess in no way affected the exciting reveal and climax. It sounds like Ninth House could be coming to a streaming service near you, and I, for one, can wait to watch and read more!