This 400+ page book is now one of my all-time favorites. It takes a little bit to get use to in the beginning and requires a slower reading pace in places in order to take in the setting and the creatures you encounter. However, it does not take long before you will be gobbling up the pages to find out what happens next to the protagonist.
Galaxy Stern, also known as Alex, has become a freshman at Yale University and a member of the Lethe House because of her ability to see Greys, what she calls ghosts. Yale’s lifestyle is vastly different from the west coast drug den she was living in just before she woke up in a hospital room with the Dean of Yale University sitting next to her. Yale is home to the Ancient Eight Societies-Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, Book and Snake, Wolf’s Head, Manuscript, Aurelian, St. Elmo’s, Berzelius. Each house has their own specialty in teachings, such as divination, portal magic, glamours, storm conjuring, etc., and their own notable alumni including presidents, celebrities, world leaders, and authors. Skull and Bones is the oldest and most powerful house, boasting more powerful alumni than any other. Lethe House acts as a policing agency, making sure rituals and parties of the Ancient Eight do not go too far. Their motto is We are the Shepherds, and they are the ninth house of the Houses of the Veil. Each house has its own structure and chain of command, and Alex is adapting to her new role as the Lethe House’s Dante, which has become a trial by fire since Darlington, her mentor, has disappeared.
A homicide on the Yale campus initially appears to have nothing to do with any of the Houses of the Veil or any of its members, but Alex is required to investigate to be sure. Of course, nothing is what it seems and Tara’s death on campus takes Alex on a wild search that will bring her to the river’s edge where the living end and the dead roam, and into the bowels of the “tombs” in most of the houses, whether she wants to be there or not. While investigating Tara’s death, Alex becomes bonded to the Bridegroom, a Grey thought to be a killer, and puts her in a new moon ritual that brings her face-to-face with soul-consuming demon that has been lurking on campus closer to her than she thought.
Yale is a demanding and prestigious ivy league school with rigorous academics. How is Alex, an unlikely student at Yale, going to maintain a GPA high enough to stay enrolled as well as keep her job as Dante in Lethe? And investigate Tara’s death and Darlington’s disappearance? Oh, and the Bridegroom keeps following her around! Now what?
Ninth House is a long and dense read, filled with background of the secret societies that we hear about, true or not, as well as bits and pieces of New Haven’s history. There are a lot of characters to get to know, but the author does an excellent job in keeping them separate and distinguishable. I felt pity for Hellie’s fate, angst for Alex’s adventures, and thankful for Dawes’s knowledge. The author does a fantastic job in making the reader realize, and fear, that there are greater powers than what we see and experience every day. There could be another world or realm that we cannot see, or it could be powerful societies that manipulate things like finance and politics to maintain wealth and powerful positions, or it could be deals made behind closed doors that affect things like college admission, job placement, etc.
When I started this book, I thought that I would be able to find a way to make this story shorter, but I was wrong. In fact, the story is not complete and needs to continue. When Leigh Bardugo publishes the next book in the Alex Stern story, I will be one of the first to purchase it and clear my schedule to read it!