By Crystal Olague || Contributing Writer
For this week’s book review, I wanted to talk about Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. This book is a dark academia fantasy fiction novel that takes place in Yale University and the nine hidden magical houses there. The first chapter starts off with the main character, Alex Stern, being alone in a room after all the events that occur in the book have already happened. This leaves readers confused for a bit and curious about what has occurred, as they try to understand this new world. As we move on through the beginning of the book, we learn that Alex is a part of the Lethe House, which oversees the other eight houses to ensure that they do not abuse their power for the wrong reasons.
The reason why Alex is at Yale is because she has a unique ability to see ghosts without the use of a medication, unlike all the other members of houses, which makes her very useful for watching over dangerous procedures that result in the appearance of ghosts, or grays as they are known in the book. It is revealed to us that Alex had a bad childhood and was the sole survivor of a mass murder where everyone was brutally murdered or overdosed except for her, despite her having large amounts of drugs in her system. This drew Yale to Alex, causing them to look into her background and realize her importance to the university. They give her a mentor, Darlington, to help educate her on the history of Yale and its houses since she is now an important part of Lethe. Unfortunately, Darlington ends up going missing and no one is able to find him, leaving Alex in a new position with no one to help her.
This book revolves around a murder that takes place near the university, but despite the university and police stating that the girl who was murdered, Tara, was killed by her boyfriend, Alex believes that the houses were involved somehow. We watch as Alex takes matters into her own hands, investigating with one of the police officers, to uncover the truth and bring justice to Tara’s name. Alex puts herself into a dangerous position where she has to go against some of the most powerful and important people at Yale, putting her safety at risk for an answer she isn’t sure she can get.
Now I won’t spoil the whole book, but I do believe that this is a well-written novel that draws the reader in to figure out what is really going on behind the scenes at Yale. Although it has an interesting plot, the book is very slow in the beginning, due to the fact that readers are thrown into a world they do not understand, with very little explanation to what was happening. At times, it was hard to truly comprehend what was happening because we would learn things at the same time as Alex, who virtually knows nothing, and would have to rely on her understanding of that information because she is our narrator. This made things especially difficult in the beginning of the book because we weren’t ever given a real explanation for certain things in the book or a clear description because Alex was never given one or she understood what was happening and never clarified.
This brings me to another point. There are moments where readers can feel very disconnected from Alex because she can be an unreliable narrator at times and has a very pessimistic view on life because of her past. This didn’t stop me from supporting most of her decisions while reading this book because I was rooting for her to figure out what actually happened to Tara and to see who around her was living a double life.
Despite this, I did genuinely enjoy the book as it progressed and by the end I was in love with the amount of plot twists and just the overall ending. I would rate this book 4 stars out of 5 and recommend it, especially if you enjoy dark academia.
Junior Crystal Olague is a Contributing Writer for The College Reporter. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.