A Hella Dark Book, But Such an Exciting Ride! Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

Today I’d like to discuss the gem that is Ninth House – it’s dark, it’s mysterious, and it’s very addicting. Please enjoy my thoughts below, and let’s see how much I really enjoyed it.

“Have power on this dark land to lighten it, and power on this dead world to make it live.”

Information and Trigger Warnings

Original Title: Ninth House
Edition: Hardcover, 459 pages
Publication Date: October 8th, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 1250313074 (ISBN13: 9781250313072)
Language: English
SeriesAlex Stern #1
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy, Horror

Blurb: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Trigger Warnings (from She’s Full of Lit):

violence, rape and sexual assault, murder, gore, drug addiction, overdosing, death, suicide, blackmail, self-harm, and forced consumption of human waste.

“I am a daughter of Lethe, and the wolves are at the door.”

General Thoughts

This was an excellent book, though at times difficult to read. You need to have a bit of a hard stomach to read some of these sensitive scenes, but they tackle several serious issues that are happening today. It was very intriguing, and I ate up the second half of the book. I was hooked, and I needed to know how it ended. There were twists that I did not see coming and I am eager to see how this series continues. You are never sure about the intentions of the characters and in what way the story will develop. The characters are either lovable, tolerable, or despicable, but they are incredibly layered and three-dimensional. It is such an experiencing reading about their journeys and adventures. Darlington is the best!

The idea of Yale secret societies and their effects on the outside world was definitely new to me, and an interesting experience, but what I enjoyed reading about the most was Darlington’s and Alex’s different connections towards ‘the Greys’, or ghosts, and the consequences of deepening those connections. I loved the suspense of the big murder mystery, and the twists it revealed, and the jumps between past and present. The representation of real-life issues through the lens of fantasy and horror was also illuminating, as well as disillusioning about the actions of others. The world is dangerous, and you must watch your back – but you also cannot be scared to fight back too. And Alex is not, which puts her in a lot of danger, but it also frees her by the end of the story. Highly recommended!

“I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.”

The Plot, Characters, & other devices

A murder, and several mysteries involving ghosts, secret societies, potions and a series of unfortunate events? Count me IN! The book starts off with a murdered drug dealer on campus, which seems pretty open-and-shut, but Alex Stern, our MC, believes there is more to story; which sends her on a dangerous journey that leads to many other dealings and happenings between the major houses, and outside them. There were so many excitements and twists, and the characters and story keep you guessing. There is no direct line between good and evil, and that was the best thing about it.

Alex Stern has been transformed from a junkie to a Yale scholarship student, and is thrust into an almost alien environment due to her talents, which has been trying to run away from for many years; being able to see ghosts, or Greys, as they are called in the secret society of Lethe, the Ninth House, which oversees the occult activities of the other Eight Houses of Yale. She is apprenticing with the current overseer of Lethe and or other MC, Darlington, the gentleman of Lethe, who is simultaneously intrigued and in disbelief of Alex. At some point he disappears, and the happenings of this are hinted at, and we are left to wonder what role Alex played in it.

The young members of Lethe – Alex, Darlington, and Dawes – are my favourite characters by far, but a lot of the other students who are members of the secret societies, and those who deal with them are caught in a game of cat and mouse; it’s either dominate or be dominated. There is a strong allusion of entitlement. But I loved seeing Darlington and Alex do their bit to fight against it. Their experiences together and their strengthening relationship was also very endearing, and exciting. They make an incredible pairing, and I love them together, as well as how they are individually.

I also liked how the story was split between past and present, which added to the suspense of the mysteries.

“There were always excuses for why girls died”

Discussion and Controversy

Like I said earlier, I think that this book touches on a lot of serious issues. There’s assault, rape, drug abuse, murder, manipulation, discrimination…. there is a lengthy list. What makes this book look controversial, to me, is the clear break among people who loved it, and people who simply did not care for it. I can understand why some did not like it, but I have to say that there is more to this book than meets the eye. It is a book about a survivor and recovering addict in a world where she is only a small cog in the machine, but she fights and survives as she ruthlessly searches for the truth, and I loved all those things about her. I also loved how Alex fought for her friends, especially her roommate who was taken advantage of. It shows a different side to women which is honestly empowering. Women can be vengeful, and women can take things into their own hands and play the game. There is a recurrent theme of manipulation and domination, which works well with the college setting and the numerous anti-heroes and villains.

The fact that one of the main villains was a woman, who tried to hide behind feminism when explaining her motives for her wrongdoings was also thought-provoking, and is an excellent example of how abusers tend to hide behind bigger movements to justify their actions. The villain took advantage of the abilities of immigrant women, and she killed them to maintain her own immorality. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman; if you use your position or talents to abuse or harm others, it is wrong, and the villains of the story thankfully get what they deserve. But Alex is not completely a hero either; should she be worthy of redemption too? Should she be condemned for the transgressions of her past? All the characters of this story are capable of great heroics and disturbing tragedies, like the controversial, “eat shit” scene, which was nothing like what I expected.

I went into this book aware of the controversy but had no expectations, and I was thoroughly surprised. Leigh Bardugo is a writer that delves into difficult topics and her writing is not for everyone, but this book was such a wild ride. I am thoroughly impressed!

“Alex felt something dark inside her uncoil. “You’re a flat beast,” Hellie had once said to her. “Got a little viper lurking in there, ready to strike. A rattler probably.” She’d said it with a grin, but she’d been right.”

My Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Do you have an interest you’d like to tell others about? Or an opinion you’d like to share with the world? From politics to culture and sports, message us if you would like your articles published!

Thanks for reading. Have you read Ninth House yet? What did you think of it? And can you recommend any other dark fantasy novels? Let me know in the comments below!


Do you have an interest you’d like to tell others about? Or an opinion you’d like to share with the world? From politics to culture and sports, message us if you would like your articles published!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s