I Pray the Tomb Is Shut Forever. I Pray the Rock Is Never Rolled Away.
August 24, 2022 3:45 PM   Subscribe

With the release of Nona the Ninth less than a month away, it's time to revisit Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. Given Muir's heady blend of mystery, lore, humor, teenage queerness, memes, horror, romance, oblique references to Homestuck, and baroque science fiction, you might need some help (note: many spoilers).

1. Podcasts

The Locked Tomb Podcast (16 episodes so far)
"A reread podcast where we simultaneously unpack wtf is going on in Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. We obsess over Gideon, Harrow, and every other beloved and dreadful character. BEWARE! THERE ARE SPOILERS ABOUND."

Amy and Mel do a chapter-by-chapter recap with lots of speculation and uncovering of pipe laid early in the series. Lots of humor, explanation of memes, gushing over favorite characters, and mulling of obscure comments and tidbits of lore. They are aiming to finish with Harrow the Ninth just in time for the release of Nona. Episodes tend to run 60-90 minutes.

One Flesh, One End Podcast (15 episodes so far)
"Thanks for joining us on this journey through 10,000 years of history! We can’t wait to discuss all the theories we’ve been obsessing over while we’re waiting for Nona the Ninth, and to spend more time with the characters putting the 🌹romance🌹 in necromancy."

Baily and Kabriya are also doing a chapter-by-chapter recap, but somewhat less in-depth. The rest of the time is spent on topics (often digging into what tumblr has to say about things), quizzes ("1 Star or 5 Star Goodreads reviews"), Bone of the Week ("where is this bone and how sexy is it?"), and also gushing over favorite characters and puzzling over bits of lore. Includes a bonus episode with Carl Engle-Laird, the editor of the series. Episodes tend to run 75 to 120 minutes. Transcripts available.

2. Extra Muir

An Excerpt from Nona the Ninth
Roughly the first chapter. The first six chapters can be found for free on Amazon.


"The Mysterious Study of Dr. Sex"

A stand-alone story about an even younger Palamedes and Camilla solving a locked room mystery in the Sixth House.


"As Yet Unsent"

Notes from Judith Deuteros after the events of Gideon the Ninth. This was published in the paperback version of Harrow the Ninth.

3. More things

A Handy Timeline from tumblr

Analysis of a Poem from Nona by one of the Hosts of OBOF

Quiz: Tamsyn Muir's "Which House are You?"
posted by GenjiandProust (114 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
I pre-ordered Nona so I could get the "One Flesh, One End" pin. I'm a huge dork for this series. I was thinking today about some Ninth House costume options for Halloween this year.
posted by curious nu at 4:08 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


There are so many options. I would consider going as Ortus, but I am not sure I can sweat enough.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:11 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Gideon the Ninth is excellent. Harrow the Ninth… hmmm, ‘needed a better editor’, is perhaps the polite way of saying it. I re-read it recently and I leant heavily on the Ninth wiki and a few other sources, because it wasn’t clear what was happening.
posted by The River Ivel at 4:19 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


I have a roommate at the moment who is tall, jacked, butch, red-headed, and frequently wanders around our yard swinging a mattock at the many giant weeds that keep popping up in the summer heat.

I am dying to see if I can convince her to try a Gideon costume for Halloween this year. Dying. It would be so easy! Many of our friends would be amazed! She would have a perfect photo to start conversations with for internet dating apps!

Maybe if I just start playing the audiobooks in the evenings...
posted by sciatrix at 4:19 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


I'd love to go as Gideon but I'm not tall enough and I don't know if my hair could handle the dye. I was thinking some kind of general NH cosplay, not necessarily a specific character. I'd probably yoink the aviators, though.
posted by curious nu at 4:21 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


UGH I have other new things to read and I just want to open these up again.
posted by curious nu at 4:23 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


(I bought one of those anatomy coloring books that nursing students use after reading Gideon. okay I'll stop commenting for a bit now)
posted by curious nu at 4:24 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Gideon the Ninth is excellent. Harrow the Ninth… hmmm, ‘needed a better editor’, is perhaps the polite way of saying it.

I see what you mean, but it's a series that bears rereading -- literally, I don't think you can work out all the details on the first read-through without immense work. Whether that is good or bad, I can't tell you, but I really love the series.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:24 PM on August 24 [10 favorites]


I bought one of those anatomy coloring books that nursing students use after reading Gideon. okay I'll stop commenting for a bit now

Then the "Bone of the Week" segments of One Flesh, One End, may be for you!
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:26 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


My one regret that a past relationship is over is this: I'm a tiny, disabled lesbian with a reasonably gothy aesthetic, and I've got a tall and abled redheaded ex-gf who was legit into historical swordfighting (though she's very feminine and would not have been up for cutting her hair). Both of us sew, and she also used to do historical costuming. We could have done such a great couples' costume.

Alas, it was not to be for reasons unrelated to necromancy.

Anyway - awesome post. I love both of these podcasts, I'm super impressed with the timeline - that's some supreme nerdery! - and I'm weirdly obsessed with the author's House sorting quiz. It's fantastic. I'm making up scenarios where I would be in a tiny boat hoping not to die and also having a bag of fresh human hands. I could make myself a large number of hands of glory and be extremely invisible as I die...
posted by bile and syntax at 5:03 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


For anyone who has the e-book of Harrow the Ninth, Judith Deuteros's notes had been added to it last time I opened it where I bought it (Google). Don't love that feature in general, but hey: more story! And "The Mysterious Study of Dr. Sex" was delightful too.
posted by mersen at 5:05 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Gideon the Ninth is excellent. Harrow the Ninth… hmmm, ‘needed a better editor’, is perhaps the polite way of saying it.

Well I thought Gideon the Ninth was great fun and Harrow the Ninth was a work of avant-garde genius so there! The reader not knowing precisely what is going at at all times on the first read does not equal “bad book.”
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:07 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


I'm not a big book re-reader but right now I'm reading both Gideon and Harrow in parallel to see if any interesting juxtapositions pop out.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 5:14 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Gideon the Ninth is excellent. Harrow the Ninth… hmmm, ‘needed a better editor’, is perhaps the polite way of saying it

I totally get why it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I absolutely loved Harrow the Ninth, even (fine, especially) the wonky 2nd person chapters.

It probably helped that my sister loaned me both books at the same time, with a little word of warning how the 2nd book was a bit, controversial("I like it, but ...."). So the previous cast was firmly lodged in my brain.

I confess, a lot of the meme references are beyond me, so I'm not able to fully appreciate everything. I've still got the next one on pre-order.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:38 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I loved the first book, AND loved the second one, but I just couldn't get through it. It played "maybe later you'll know what's going on" for a little too long, and it just lost me. But maybe I'll be unscrupulous about it and give the third one a try...
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:49 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Ah, thank you for the reminder to read the second book.
posted by doctornemo at 5:55 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


My biggest problem with Harrow was that it didn't have Gideon's voice until very late in the game. Gideon had its own literary problems, but Gideon's voice is so fun to read that it papers over a multitude of sins. Harrow is an interesting character, but just not as compelling to read along with.
posted by rikschell at 5:58 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


I will confess, there is a third podcast, but it is A) very heterosexual and B) Misses the point, that I will leave it as an exercise for you to find.

Or not….
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:01 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Yay yay yay! This Sixth House denizen is eager to meet Nona. I read a ton of This Sort of Thing, but these books am still genuinely surprise and delight. I love being consistently unable to predict them— they are such wonderful puzzles but somehow are also deeply felt.
posted by SandCounty at 6:02 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


UGH Toronto Public Library doesn't have Nona in the system yet so I can't get in line for it. UGH
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:03 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


What? How can you have a heterosexual podcast about these books? How?
posted by Akhu at 6:03 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


I found Harrow to be deliberately misleading for most of the book. I enjoyed it, but I've warned people that it's a much harder read. My daughter's trying to get all of her friends to read Gideon, and has been more successful than not. She also has a friend who works at a local bookstore, so we've got Nona on order as well.
posted by Spike Glee at 6:04 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


What? How can you have a heterosexual podcast about these books? How?

I blame John Gaius, but it’s anyone’s guess.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:06 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


They are very DIFFERENT books, more different than two books in a series almost ever are, but that was one of the things I loved most about them. There are lots of straightforward SFF trilogies where I love the first one and then the next two feel like more of the same (or less of the same). I was THRILLED to open up Harrow and find a completely different book playing by completely different rules. Obviously everyone looks for something different out of the books they read and I’m not mad if anyone doesn’t LIKE Harrow, but please do at least be aware that there are people whose brains were sparking with delight the whole way through it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:06 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


The thing about Harrow, from a technical perspective, is that it's very much a middle book in a trilogy that's laying ground for the final chapter(s). I re-read last week, in preparation for Nona, and looking back on it almost nothing actually happens--we meet a lot of new characters, there's some sound and fury with the Lyctors, and there are stakes laid out for what's to come, but as far as "plot" goes, it's pretty thin. I think the second person perspective and the illusory retcon of the first book is in many ways a method to disguise that fact by keeping you off balance enough that the "well, as you know, Augustine" bits almost feel like a lifeline, the reader is all ah ha! some worldbuilding! I know what to do with that!

This is kind of brilliant, honestly, and Muir's a hell of a writer so I think she mostly pulls it off. But there's no getting around the fact that the twist of the second half, and the re-introduction of that distinctive character voice, is where it actually gets good, and lets it land on a strong enough note that you almost certainly won't notice how little occurred plot-wise until (like me) you read it for a second or third time.
posted by Four String Riot at 6:06 PM on August 24 [7 favorites]


I will just say that if you're dying to read Nona and you've already re-read Gideon and Harrow, you might want to check out A K Larkwood's The Unspoken Name and The Thousand Eyes. Same sassy queer vibe, a bit less gore. Still very well plotted with a deep lore. And lesbian / non-binary necromancers.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:12 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


That said, things that I unashamedly love about Harrow:
  • The way the prose voice absolutely summons Harrowhark's weary goth persona in a way that really shades our view of her from the first book, and is hilarious even without Gideon's lovable himbo energy.
  • When Harrow asks Ortus to read a page or prose that she's hallucinating during the flashback sequences, and he reveals that it actually contains the Cool S.
  • The implied history filling out the Warhammer 40K-filtered-through-Old-Man-Murray setting, with the whole resurrection thing 10,000 years ago that's kind of unclear and maybe better for it.
  • "Yes, well, jail for mother."
  • The two-handed sword, the way it's both magnetic and repulsive for Harrow in a way that captures this very messy, unhinged, teenage melodrama grief that is at the center of the whole book.
posted by Four String Riot at 6:14 PM on August 24 [7 favorites]


BtW, if you haven’t read the extended excerpt from Nona, it’s super worth it, since Muir has changed gears on us once again, and the universe has opened further, and it’s delightful.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:15 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Same sassy queer vibe, a bit less gore. Still very well plotted with a deep lore.

WhatEVER, Ortus!
posted by curious nu at 6:16 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Tamsyn Muir published a review of a friend of mine's book which I am going to link to here because it is actual Muir words which are entertaining in themselves, and also because I am a shameless shill for queer books about pirates and fungi. A Homecoming for New Zealand Fantasy: Tamsyn Muir reviews The Dawnhounds.
posted by Sparx at 6:26 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


I’d love Harrow just for the scene of her making soup.
posted by Eddie Mars at 6:38 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


queer books about pirates and fungi.

aw yiss
posted by away for regrooving at 7:15 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


note that you almost certainly won't notice how little occurred plot-wise until (like me) you read it for a second or third time.

I think this is where tastes differ. Middle books/movies don't generally bother me. The plot isn't what pulls me in for Harrow (or even necessarily Gideon), so I don't find it problematic. But I'm generally fluid in what I want out of a book: can be plot, can be character driven, or sometimes it's the prose.

The disorientation was the point for me, I liked it. And I still like Harrow's voice. It's obviously not quite the same on re-read, especially the return of the character (which prompted some 2 am texting to my sister). But some things also clicked into place, and the big return was still awesome even knowing the when and where.

since Muir has changed gears on us once again,

I want to wait until the book is out, and read it all at once, but yay!!
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:39 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


yes, yes, yes, the SOUP
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:12 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


I haven't gotten around to reading Harrow the Ninth yet. I read Gideon the Ninth on the hook of "lesbian necromancers in space." I got both less space and less necromancy than I was hoping for. I did get the lesbian content I was promised, though!

Not really the author's fault; I think it was mismarketed. I think "gothic murder mystery from the POV of the detective's dumb sidekick, but she's a buff lesbian" would have been much more accurate and oh hey I think I want to reread it from that perspective now.
posted by brook horse at 8:22 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


I keep recommending it as "Gormenghast as told by dirtbag mystery solving teens", which also doesn't help.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:40 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


I was quite surprised to find myself the first in the hold queue at my local library, given multiple staff members are fans of the series
posted by one for the books at 8:54 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I still haven't forgiven Tamsyn for "none house with left grief".
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:07 PM on August 24 [20 favorites]


I loved both books. The audiobooks are stellar, highly highly recommend them.
posted by Emily's Fist at 9:31 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


I'm totally bonkers for this series. I read the books on Kindle earlier this year and they engaged the fangirl portion of my brain which has been dormant since Wynonna Earp.

I'd seen the audiobooks recommended so I'm just now 3/4 of the way through Gideon, and looking forward to listening to Harrow and trying to be less confused than the first time through.

I suggested the books to my mom and she said she was reminded of Gormenghast as well.

I think it was mismarketed.

I dunno, "lesbian necromancers in space" worked really well for me.

Thanks for the podcast recs - looking forward to checking those out!
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 9:34 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Ah, you are my people!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:02 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna have to re-read them both to read the 3rd, probably, but looking forward to it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:05 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I read these books for the first time while massively sleep-deprived with a new baby. I found them absolutely impenetrable and also disturbing. Too gory! But I kinda admired the author's chutzpah!

I picked them up again last month and was like, ohhh, I was VERY sleepy when I read these, they are occasionally a little confusing but not THAT confusing. Very much looking forward to the next installment!
posted by potrzebie at 10:09 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


I think this is where tastes differ. Middle books/movies don't generally bother me. The plot isn't what pulls me in for Harrow (or even necessarily Gideon), so I don't find it problematic.

I don't really disagree--the strength of Muir's writing and voice is the real appeal of these books for me, I don't need it to be a romp a minute. I've mostly just been trying to understand why the second book hits so different besides the obvious "the perspective character has changed/is absent" and some comments here helped crystallize it for me.

I still haven't forgiven Tamsyn for "none house with left grief".

Surely it's "nun house"?

Edit: this was a bad joke, sorry, I did google and of course the actual quote is "none house," carry on.
posted by Four String Riot at 10:11 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Just wanted to mention that I never appreciated how disgusting a fight between necromancers could be until this series.
posted by elizabot at 11:07 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


it's a series that bears rereading -- literally, I don't think you can work out all the details on the first read-through without immense work

After really enjoying the first book, the second book didn't catch me at first. I got about half way through, but it was during a busy period where I was reading it in little chunks here and there, so I wasn't feeling it and was a bit lost with the unreliable narration. But then I restarted the book from the beginning at time when I could read through more consistently. With the better understanding from it being a partial re-reading, I had a much better grasp of what was going on, and really enjoyed it.

I might re-read the first two in anticipation of the release of the third, and it'll be interesting to see what new things I see during a full re-read.
posted by JiBB at 11:07 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Heh, I just gifted the first book to a 40 yo woman, going "I know this is technically YA fiction, but the teenage characters are just excellently written and you'll have a blast". I hope she'll enjoy it. I only discovered that we shared literary tastes after dropping off one of the kids there, and one of her kids mentioned that their roomba was called "Murderbot".
posted by Harald74 at 12:09 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


I... am not sure I would classify Gideon as YA. Many of the characters are teens or very young adults, and there's certainly a ton of emotional drama, but the concerns of the story, the narrative choices, a lot of the imagery and even the often antiquated memes kid of work against the classification in my mind.

I also take issue with people saying Gideon is dumb. Gideon isn't booksmart (unless you count dirty books, I guess), but she is observant and curious and puts two and two together pretty often. She figures things out before Harrow does, and she's sometimes right behind Palamedes (which, come on). She also displays a really strong technical knowledge of things that are important to her. For a dirtbag teen raised in a skeleton factory with only a guilty angry enemy as a peer, she's got a pretty agile mind.

Lastly, who would take Double Bones with Dr. Skelebone? Sounds fascinating.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:21 AM on August 25 [16 favorites]


I (attempted to) read this around the same time I happened to be reading Piranesi. Both books drop you in an uncertain situation and unfold from there. It was impossible to avoid comparison. Piranesi grabs you immediately by being beautifully written and presenting a character one can immediately relate to. Harrow was endless chapters written in gimmicky second person. I got about a third of the way before I decided life is too short.

It sounds like the book improves and it clearly has its partisans.
posted by jeoc at 5:31 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I loved Gideon but couldn’t finish Harrow - an unusual thing for me, since I never don’t finish books. I got 3/4 way through earlier this year and just lost interest, honestly. Love the world and the characters and the writing, so I’ll likely re-read and re-start, because I really want to read Nona.
posted by gemmy at 6:29 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I've taken a look at Gideon and I'm not sure I'm up for anything that complex, but I got a strong impression of a cross between Wolfe (_Shadow of the Torturer_) little hints and Delany (something about the prose). Does this seem reasonable?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:35 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I... am not sure I would classify Gideon as YA.

I did a double take and had to think why I assumed it was YA. I think it's mostly about the characters, but a quick googling reveals it seems most people agree with you.

Muir herself have literally said "your mileage may vary" on this question, though.
posted by Harald74 at 6:58 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


There's actually a great interview with the editor in an episode of One Flesh, One Pod. I absolutely love these books - I'm doing a full re-read and making some notes and it's really helping me get some of the parallels between the first two books and catch some of the pop culture references. I'm really impressed with the structure of the second book, and the way the River bubbles are used as this kind of record scratch moment where something tests the systems Harrow set up to not remember Gideon - someone says her name, or makes a reference that can only be to her, and Harrow starts bleeding from an orifice and then we get her trying to make it make sense to herself. Where Gideon had to explore Canaan House and interacted with the - I don't want to say living, so - corporeal, Harrow has to explore her memory of it and interact with the dead. Where Gideon was overwhelmed and constantly in a danger she didn't understand in the first, Harrow is now in that position in the second; where Gideon was dealing with a bunch of inter-House drama and history she didn't understand, Harrow has to deal with 10,000 years of Lyctoral drama that she doesn't understand. There are a bunch of little moments that relate back and forth, and it's cool to see some of the elements she borrowed from Homestuck and reinterpreted here. It's really a series that rewards re-reading because there's just so much going on and the characters we meet are coming into something that's been going on for 10,000 years, and each book is kind of zooming us out to the next level: we start in a pit on the Ninth in ignorance and go to the Necro-Vatican and see the Dominicus system; Harrow ascends to Lyctorhood and goes to join God and we get to see the Mithraeum and the River; and in Nona we're going to get to see the larger universe outside God's domain - there's a bunch of little stuff mentioned in Harrow about the Cohort's ongoing war of expansion and the nuclear strike from Blood of Eden that we don't really get much on yet, and I'm wondering if we're going to see some of the allegedly-deceased Lyctors return - specifically I'm wondering about Ulysses because of his name and Cassiopeia because Mercy was obviously lying when she described Cassiopeia's death.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:34 AM on August 25 [7 favorites]


Would it be possible to film this series? There's a whole lot of internal narrative. But god damn it would be sexy sassy violent fun.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:58 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Would it be possible to film this series?

I have no idea! But if they try, I want Matt Frewer to play Teacher.
posted by thedward at 8:18 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I'm another one that liked Giddeon all right but couldn't get through Harrow at all.

My biggest problem with Harrow was that it didn't have Gideon's voice until very late in the game. Gideon had its own literary problems, but Gideon's voice is so fun to read that it papers over a multitude of sins.

And this is why the section of Giddeon the Ninth where Giddeon has taken the vow of silence is also the weakest part of that book.
posted by subdee at 8:21 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Would it be possible to film this series?

It's so gloriously visual, I want someone with a large budget to try, if only for the soup scene.

I love Harrow to bits (much more than the already excellent Gideon) but I'd need someone clever to explain why. All I can do is gesture vaguely at the good sentences I highlighted.
posted by Hermione Dies at 8:50 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


I keep recommending it as "Gormenghast as told by dirtbag mystery solving teens", which also doesn't help.

You found your audience! I've been fence-sitting on reading Gideon for a while, but now it's top of my list.
posted by gurple at 8:52 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I never got to Harrow because as I was reading Gideon I started to see what the ultimate conclusion was going to be for Gideon and I got mad because I liked the character that much.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:56 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


drewbage1847, same! I was so angry at the end of Gideon that I never picked up Harrow. What a raw deal!
posted by epj at 8:58 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


drewbage1847, same! I was so angry at the end of Gideon that I never picked up Harrow. What a raw deal!

You should try Harrow anyway! I think you'll find it rewarding.

Without spoiling anything, this is a universe with damn necromancers; they do death differently there.
posted by Gadarene at 9:10 AM on August 25 [8 favorites]


I really want to know what specific tropes Muir was pulling on for Gideon-in-the-sword. It struck me very firmly as a Soul Reaver thing, and Muir's got the right background for that. Also a very wild fleshy-mecha-pilot vibe.

Also, the Fanfare links! Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth.
posted by curious nu at 9:13 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I never got to Harrow because as I was reading Gideon I started to see what the ultimate conclusion was going to be for Gideon and I got mad because I liked the character that much.

I totally get this feeling, and I admit I shared it at the end of Gideon, too. But, avoidung spoilers, you have to keep reading to find out.

Unlike subdee, I have come to really like Gideon's "vow of silence," because a) it is so hilariously frustrating and she does it so poorly, b) it takes away her usual defense against the world, and that helps her slow down and really look at the people she is interacting with (and, somewhat against her will, she discovers she likes some of them, and she's not sure how to deal with liking a person), and c) it allows Muir to display the specific reactions the other Houses have to the Ninth. Plus it causes some very funny scenes. But that's me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:18 AM on August 25 [8 favorites]


I'm an Old (50-something) who has looked sideways at Homestuck and realized it's hopeless for me to even start on that, and I probably missed 95% of the meme-ish references in these books. Despite that, I plowed through both, finding them wildly entertaining, and then immediately went back and re-read both, which I very, very rarely do. I will likely do a third read before picking up the new one.

I will admit to a false start on Harrow before it really clicked for me. Tough to get going for sure after the wild ride of Gideon. Still, I enjoyed that it wasn't easy, and the whole unreliable-narrator thing.
posted by dragstroke at 9:24 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


re: vow of silence: this has to be Silent Protagonist, common video game trope for a couple of decades. It's too perfect for it to not be.
posted by curious nu at 9:32 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I thought it was a set up for Palamedes (?) to say something like “you have a suspiciously variable vow of silence” and Gideon snaps back something like “it turns out I’m variably pious.” Which always makes me laugh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:36 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


The unreliable narrator thing WAS TOTALLY AWESOME! At first I was saying to myself "Well hold on here, that's not what happened." Then I started saying things like "Hmmm, how is Muir going to resolve this?" and "Whoa, brilliant! I didn't see that coming!" I finished off with "More! I need more pages, more chapters, more books, more stories! Gahhhhh!!!!"

and maybe I also needed a wiki to help put it all together in my head. 😁
posted by ashbury at 9:38 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


I have come to really like Gideon's "vow of silence," because a) it is so hilariously frustrating and she does it so poorly,

It's also the subject of perhaps my favorite Tumblr tag shitpost of all time:

# ‘you talk!?’ moment for a silent looming bodyguard POV-holding protagonist # arranged by respectability on a scale from murderbot to gideon

Just wanted to mention that I never appreciated how disgusting a fight between necromancers could be until this series.

No lie, the visceral bodily combat sequences are one of my very favorite parts of both books--maybe even moreso in Harrow, since Harrow is more attuned to the possibilities of necromantic energy than Gideon herself is. Ianthe's use of fat in particular as a structural tool is so delightful: usually, when you see writing that uses bodies in magic or superpowers or horror or whatever, writers focus on bones, blood, and occasionally skin and muscle. It's worth remembering that shield fat exists, that fat can come in all sorts of shapes, and that it can be conveniently found in the middle of human skeletal muscle and nestled around organs--plus, wow, the energy potential in fat!
posted by sciatrix at 9:48 AM on August 25 [6 favorites]


Someone mentioned a wiki in passing. I searched and found The Locked Tomb Wiki, not sure if that's what they were indicating since they called it "the Ninth Wiki".
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:55 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


I loved the vow of silence because it showcases something Muir does beautifully: the delicious dramatic irony when characters project incorrect assumptions onto each other. I love how in that section everyone thinks Gideon is an intense serious battle nun. It makes it SO funny and satisfying when she drops the act and makes that "sex pal" comment.
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:06 AM on August 25 [9 favorites]


I thought Harrow was great. The new plot was fun. But especially the way the book circled back to characters who had previously gotten short shrift or been disposed of offscreen. Usually the victims in a murder mystery stay dead and gone, but... hey, necromancy.
posted by mersen at 10:35 AM on August 25 [7 favorites]


I've never been as bonkers about books as I have been bonkers about TLT. One thing that the Nona excerpt has made clear so far is exactly how sterile the Nine Houses are! Like, dogs! No mention of animals or litter or "the public" in Gideon or Harrow. The two books so far have been so claustrophobic, especially when you include the mental illness aspect in HTN.

Since this is a multimedia post, I'd love to share of my fave fanart!

This depiction of the Ninth House pair is ldksjdslk so funny to me, because it leans on the "traditional" catholic nun habit silhouette, which is underrepresented in fanart imo.

Absolutely ridiculously cool fanart for HTN (spoilers), with absolutely jaw dropping composition my GOD.

Abigail Pent in THAT SCENE in HTN.

I absolutely agree that both book improve on reread. Muir does a really great job of having characters echo each other, and discovering each one is so exciting! One I noticed while rereading is that in the climax of HTN, (spoilers) Gideon gets to witness a badass necromancer fight, and Harrow gets to witness a badass sword fight, and neither of them are equipped to describe what they're seeing properly. LOL. And then of course there's the level of references that's fun to look at. I nearly burst into tears when Harrow comments about it being the third day, for her, since Gideon died. Like, Tamsyn Muir is really out here making cakes (for me specifically) and using TNT instead of birthday candles.
posted by snerson at 11:09 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


Harrow took a while to get into - part of it is the way that it drops the reader into two different complicated places in a timeline and two different narrative styles, so I at least spent a lot of the first part of the book trying to figure out what the FUCK I was reading. Bunch of stuff I really liked in it, though. Npghnyyl vapyhqvat n pbssrr-fubc NH snasvp was a hilarious choice. The end of one particular chapter made me quite literally yelp out loud when I read it. And I have to partly agree with a friend who described Harrow as "like Gideon but backwards, in heels." And, honestly, I alternate between thinking I have a handle on everything and then swinging back to "wait, what the fuck does this fit in and what does it even mean", but I'm enjoying the ride. Looking forward to Nona.

I may wait til it's out in paperback, though, since Tor is now 2-for-2 for having additional content in the paperback version that is not easily available for a long time to folks who bought the hardcover. (I mean, if you don't *want* me to buy the hardcover, I guess this is one way to discourage me from doing so. After being burned by this for Gideon, I held out til Harrow was out in paperback and I'm pretty sure even at that time the bonus Gideon content wasn't available unless I wanted to buy it again.)
posted by rmd1023 at 11:13 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Uggggh, now I want to do is run away and read Gideon and Harrow over and over until Nona is released and then just keep it up with all three of them until I can be a space necromancer myself.
posted by minsies at 11:36 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


Would it be possible to film this series?

I was thinking it would be an amazing anime, personally. Muir has also said that she imagines Taika Waititi as God, which could be pretty great.

For anyone concerned about where the first book was going, please keep in mind: this is a series about necromancers - people who deal with death and ghosts. Muir really makes it work to keep people who have died in the story, because death isn't the end in this universe.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:54 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


... now I want to name our roomba Murderbot.

(Except, I'm the only one in the house who's actually read Murderbot.)
posted by Quasirandom at 12:08 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


Ooh ooh ooh I've got it

Necronemancer Island!!!
posted by minsies at 12:19 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]


I forgot to include this in the body of the FPP (slight spoilers if you haven’t read Harrow): Mercymorn Art Critique
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:28 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


I've taken a look at Gideon and I'm not sure I'm up for anything that complex, but I got a strong impression of a cross between Wolfe (_Shadow of the Torturer_) little hints and Delany (something about the prose). Does this seem reasonable?

I wouldn't make that comparison myself. I don't really care for Delany, and Wolfe has a certain exotic inaccessibility to his language or style or something. With these books a little tiny smidgen of Latin that you might have picked up from random reading over time will do.

The first book is pretty straightforward in a lot of ways (while not being "simple"). The second reflects the protagonist's extremely unfamiliar situation and damaged mental state. On first reading I enjoyed it a lot but was slightly put off by the weirdness; on a reread of both books I understood a lot more and enjoyed it even more than the first time.
posted by Foosnark at 12:43 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]


Personally, I'm just glad to know the books were good. I read them both when our newborn was still in the waking every two hours phase, so my reading was often when I was barely conscious. I thought they were great, but I knew my own judgment was pretty suspect, and at this point about all i remember is that in combination with my fugue state they gave me some really weird and intense dreams.
posted by solotoro at 2:42 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


I wildly enjoyed these both, I am ham for Gideon, but Harrow’s a bamf too. I have veeeeery little clue of what happened in the second book, I’m hoping a reread will help, but I could absolutely use a one-page of “this seems to be the take away here”.

sciatrix, roommate tax?
posted by Iteki at 12:42 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I was a little sad since I don't really have a budget for more books until after New Year, but after going through this thread I just want to re-read Gideon and Harrow.
posted by Harald74 at 2:17 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Foosnark, for whatever reason, I didn't have a problem with Wolfe's use of archaic words, but he drops little bitty details that the reader has to pick up to get the whole story.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 4:01 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


> What? How can you have a heterosexual podcast about these books? How?

As a cishet guy who loved the books, I wonder too. I got a lot of it, but it wasn't until my queer friends unpacked it that I went oh, that makes sense.

Also, it takes 2-3 reads of Gideon and Harrow before you get all the cross-connections. The group I'm in is still uncovering weird connections none of us got.

I can see why people don't like it — it's not a simple, linear, single narrator story. But it rewards multiple reads with a diverse group of people.
posted by dw at 11:01 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Okay…so…I’ve never so much as heard of either this author or this series, but, if the books are anywhere nearly as delightfully unhinged as this thread is, then I definitely am gonna see if my local library has them available.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:35 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Thorzdad: please come back and tell us what you think!!

The Mercymorn art critique animatic makes me laugh every time, thanks for adding it GenjiandProust!

Speaking of unhinged and animatics, (spoilers) here's a delicious animatic for the iconic WE DO BONES scene in GTN. Gideon and Harrow are at their unquestionable best when enabling each other's batshittery (see also: when the 2nd challenges the 6th).

I'm afraid I would be incredibly disappointed if it TLT got picked up as a live action show. The books are so tangibly anime-influenced that I don't think a live performer could capture the wham-bam-thank you ma'am complicated tone shifts that Muir borrows from animation. And it would be a travesty to portray Gideon with anything less than the 110% ham she's made of.
posted by snerson at 1:20 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I will just say that if you're dying to read Nona and you've already re-read Gideon and Harrow, you might want to check out A K Larkwood's The Unspoken Name and The Thousand Eyes. Same sassy queer vibe, a bit less gore. Still very well plotted with a deep lore. And lesbian / non-binary necromancers.

Just finished The Unspoken Name, and it was a hell of a lot of fun; looking forward to reading the sequel.

Thanks for the recommendation, seanmpuckett!
posted by Gadarene at 6:33 AM on August 30 [4 favorites]


The first book is pretty straightforward in a lot of ways (while not being "simple"). The second reflects the protagonist's extremely unfamiliar situation and damaged mental state.

I'd say that both books involve a protagonist who thinks they've got a grip on things being dropped into a wholly unfamiliar and extremely dangerous environment where they are extremely isolated and have to put together what's going on without having all the puzzle pieces and while dealing with significant mental and emotional issues - Gideon's self-hate and the ways she's learned to devalue herself are not the same as Harrow's psychosis and paranoia, but they're certainly not nothing - and Nona is amnestic, so we'll get to see another iteration there. I like the way she's building the stories as kind of iterations on various themes, this is definitely something Homestuck did well too and for people who've read that it's obvious some of the things she lifted.

I'm thinking about doing a little zine about this, working title is Let Me Tell You About Homestuck's Influence on Gideon the Ninth, but we'll see if I ever get that together.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:52 AM on August 30 [8 favorites]


Sketch comment for me to remember to come back to more later: there's almost no alcohol use in these books, which feels pretty rare these days in lots of scifi and fantasy (and fiction in general).
posted by curious nu at 9:48 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]


RE: Alcohol... there's only one scene, I think, unless Magnus and Abigail served it as a dinner. One thing I noticed in my latest reread is how amazed Gideon is to have hot drinks (and hot food seems surprising as well).
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:34 PM on August 30


I was honestly struck by that we don't see any recreational substance use other than alcohol and tobacco cigarettes. I get Muir not wanting to turn that into the focus, but at the same time - all of the necromancers and many non-necromancers are dealing with chronic disability, pain, weakness, etc., and we see prosthetics - various people have glasses, Dulcie has a wheelchair, necromantic prosthetics like Aiglamene's leg and Ianthe's arm, but not much in the way of medications and then Canaan House sounds like an absolute nightmare in terms of accessibility, even before it decayed into being a deathtrap - there's a giant long ladder down into the facility and stairs everywhere else, it sounds genuinely difficult to navigate if you don't walk well.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:11 PM on August 30 [3 favorites]


GenjiandProust: RE: Alcohol... there's only one scene, I think, unless Magnus and Abigail served it as a dinner. One thing I noticed in my latest reread is how amazed Gideon is to have hot drinks (and hot food seems surprising as well).

Yeah, seems like the Ninth mostly runs on protein sludge and vitamins. And construct-farmed-fresh organic snow leeks. It's another thing where we're getting an interesting flipside as we go through the books, like bile and syntax is saying, because in GTN we see someone very excited to try new foods, and in HTN, we see that Harrow has significant issues with eating, food AND flavors, and seems to prefer to eat bland things (or tries to avoid eating at all). Which is a fun neuroatypical thing that I've never seen discussed in this kind of book before, food sensory hell.
posted by snerson at 10:30 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


Also, you have to imagine, after the scene GenjiandProust is referencing... when the alarm goes off... you have to imagine they did some sort of Good Omens-esque miraclizing to sober up quickly. :)
posted by snerson at 10:33 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: please come back and tell us what you think!!

Well, the hold I put on the book finally came in a couple of days ago. I have to admit, I was pretty intimidated by lengthy and detailed dramatis personae at the beginning. But, no matter. I’m only up to the part where Gideon and Harrow have left the Ninth to take Harrow to be made a Lyctor, and I’m digging this quite a lot.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:58 PM on September 3 [6 favorites]


re: alcohol: there is a little served at the Fifth dinner in GtN, but it's just absolutely in passing (Silas sipping at wine, I think). The kind-of "whatever" attitude towards food is interesting in general -- there are so many books I've read where the details of the meals go on for pages. And I like those! But this goes in the opposite direction a lot of the time. Gideon's thrilled about new flavors and then, yeah, Harrow is absolutely not. Muir instead spends a lot of pages on describing anatomy instead of food.

Also, you have to imagine, after the scene GenjiandProust is referencing... when the alarm goes off... you have to imagine they did some sort of Good Omens-esque miraclizing to sober up quickly. :)

There's a passage where Harrow is doing.. something to draw it out faster - maybe literally sweating it out? I wasn't totally clear from the text - as she's headed to the training room. Also, holy shit, I'd totally forgotten about the soup. Harrow you horrible wonderful person.

Anyway, these are still amazing and good and every time I read them I think, "I should start doing more push-ups and get back to my anatomy textbooks," so that's some extra fun.
posted by curious nu at 7:15 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Dammit people, now you've got me reading The Locked Tomb fan fiction on Ao3. And it's DELIGHTFUL.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:37 PM on September 5 [5 favorites]


I haven't read fanfic in years, and yet, here I am. Christmas mall AU and art inspired by the story.

I just finished the Harrow audiobook and I had to listen to the "Harrow goes to a ball" and "Harrow is in the Cohort" AUs twice. Jeannemary and Isaac! And the BARI star pun. Ugh! So good!

Also ran across this: Meet the Real-World Rude Lesbian Swordfighter Behind Gideon the Ninth
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 8:34 PM on September 5 [6 favorites]


Checking back in. I’m now roughly half way into the book, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. I do get a bit confused sometimes when there’s a scene with multiple characters, each of whom can be referred to by different names/titles, but I manage to work-out who’s talking to/about who.

Gideon is a really interesting and attractive character, and I keep imagining who might be able to play her in a series, but keep coming up empty. I definitely dig that she’s a ginger. I’m hoping something comes of her budding friendship with Camilla, though Camilla’s utter ass-kicking of Dyas makes me fear she and Gideon may have to face each other at some point. I’ll keep hoping for a team-up instead.

I’m somewhat struck with how little (so far) the story actually involves arcane knowledge/powers/spells/whatever. Yeah, there are important moments, mostly of investigation, but they’re really just that, moments (well, okay, using Gideon as a battery to get across the barrier was pretty major.) Take away the skeletons, and this could be simply a fun mystery story. Even the fact that these are space-faring peoples seems to be irrelevant save for how they all got to the place.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on September 6 [4 favorites]


That particular ass-kicking is such a delight.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:23 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


This thread reminded me to see if my library was planning on ordering Nona for ebook, and apparently they weren't so I recommended it - and I just got an email saying they are indeed ordering it, and I'm #1 on the waitlist once it arrives. Hot diggedy!
posted by DingoMutt at 8:39 PM on September 6 [5 favorites]


Okay. I finished Gideon a few days ago, and have been trying to organize my thoughts about it. I’ve started a post here about three times before this one.

First off, I need to say categorically that I really liked the book. I’d love to continue on to Harrow, but Libby tells me my library’s e-license for the book has expired and they have not renewed it.

Random thoughts...
~ I was really hoping Gideon would have some kind epiphany and solve the problems because she was the only person listening and watching everything and everyone. Sadly, she remained to the end what she appeared to be all along...a somewhat thick sword-brawler. Which, is cool. But, I really was hoping for more.

~ We never know what was written on the crumpled bit of paper Gideon found in the lyctor lab, do we? It seemed to be important, though.

~ The back-and-forth emotions between her and Harrow worked okay. It felt really Moonlighting-esque. But with a necromancer. The consummation in the pool ended up being handled in a kind of classic Hollywood iris-out/iris-in way.

~ The reveal of Gideon’s seeming imperviousness (at least to poison gas) as being the reason everyone in the 9th feared her and, so, mistreated her seemed lame. I mean, if you suddenly have someone in your kingdom who shows an invincibility, why wouldn’t you study them, rather than beat them? The fear just doesn’t ring true to me.

~ And, speaking of that same invincibility reveal...why reveal this if you aren’t going to explicitly use it?

~ As other have noted, the ending went on way too long, in typical super-hero-action-movie style. I would have liked fewer “Is she dead? No! Not yet!” moments.

~ Good characters and wonderful environments. It kept my attention all the way through.

I’m not sure what else to say. It was a fun read that seemed to crack right along. Oddly, I felt it wasn’t nearly as bonkers as I expected. Once you bought-in, nothing felt out-of-place or out-of-left-field to me.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:39 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Thorzdad, I know I keep saying this, but Harrow will answer at least some of these questions, at least some of the way. And it's somewhat infuriating when you start, but it's well worth the trip.

As far as Gideon being a thick sword-brawler, she is really observant but way under-informed. She and Harrow work really well together as a team, but it takes a long time for them to get there, since trust is in really short supply between them. A friend and I were discussing a bit that, in as far as Harrow and Gideon get to have romantic scenes (I think I may be a "Kiss Truther," as the kids are calling it), they mostly serve to remind us how toxic the Nine Houses and the Empire have made everything. G&H are really young; they deserve to have some space to find out who they are, who they want to be, and who they want to be with, but circumstances conspire to force them into terrible choices. Ditto for Cam and Pal, btw. It's kind of heartbreaking, and, honestly, it gets more so in Harrow. But, I can promise you with about 90% assurance, it's worth the trip.

Sorry to keep going on, but I have never been this invested into digging into a series before. (We will delicately shade the eyes of Genji and Marcel).
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:37 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


And, speaking of that same invincibility reveal...why reveal this if you aren’t going to explicitly use it?

Well, again the advice to read Harrow comes into play.

But also, Gideon is kinda dramatic so I missed it the first time, but at the end of chapter 20, when Harrow uses Gideon to solve the trial that Palamedes refused to do because would harm Camilla, Gideon dies. It's a little ambiguous because no one in the narrative has any idea she's capable of that, including herself.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 4:33 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I was afraid a lot my answers would be found in Harrow. Sadly, unless my library renews its e-license for the book, it will be quite some time before I get to read it and find out. :(
posted by Thorzdad at 8:13 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


...but at the end of chapter 20, when Harrow uses Gideon to solve the trial that Palamedes refused to do because would harm Camilla, Gideon dies. It's a little ambiguous because no one in the narrative has any idea she's capable of that, including herself.

Hmmm...I’ll have to go back and re-read that section (I haven’t returned it yet). I thought that was one of the best scenes in the whole book.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:15 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


>I reread that bit, and it’s certainly vague. I believe Gideon sees death quickly approaching (the black shape), and she definitely was teetering on the edge, but I don’t think she quite died (“It would have been peaceful, only it sucked”) Maybe merely mostly died?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:28 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


As GenjiandProust points out, the main characters are basically uninformed (not sheltered) high schoolers. They're at that weird age where they see a lot, more than adults will realize, but can't always piece it together. There are some things that I look back at when I was that age where I think to myself "Oh my god, that's so obvious," but at the time I didn't have the life experience to fully understand what was going on.

Part of why I like these books is that I was able to really just stay in the moment and not pick out the endings/twists right away. I suspect that maybe due to the fact that I just loved Gideon's (and Harrow's in the sequel) voices so much, leaving me content to be along for the ride. I also imagine if part of the appeal for someone was the Agatha-Christie-like mystery, then Gideon's naivety would be more of a negative than a positive. It'd be like if Sherlock or Poirot didn't have a boost to their wisdom/intelligence stats.

Fingers crossed your library renews! Maybe with the new release they'll get enough requests to add it to their list.
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:28 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


That scene is quite the mystery. Not only is there the question of whether Gideon dies (I think she does, for her version of "dies"), but I go back and forth on whether Cytherea us actually offering Gideon support and succor or trying to encourage her to die, and kill Harrow in the process. I tend to lean on the second interpretation, because Cytherea is a nasty piece of work even by the standards of the Lyctors we've met, but I may be a bit hostile to her.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:12 PM on September 11


...but I go back and forth on whether Cytherea us actually offering Gideon support and succor or trying to encourage her to die, and kill Harrow in the process. I tend to lean on the second interpretation...

I lean in agreement. Certainly, her entreaties to Gideon leap back and forth over the line constantly. When I first read her words, I was “WTF are you trying to do???”
posted by Thorzdad at 7:16 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Nona is out today!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:57 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


I got confirmation last night from the bookstores (one copy for me, one for my sister, wanted to spread independent bookstore love around) I'd ordered from that they were packaged and ready to go. So now it's a bit of a race to see who gets their first.

I was regretting my decision to have it shipped, but my week got swamped and I really can't sacrifice the sleep to reading a new book, so I guess it's better this way.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:26 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


Get it and read it, folks. It's really good.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:11 PM on September 14 [2 favorites]




I’m about halfway through it, this is amazing.
posted by curious nu at 7:09 PM on September 14 [3 favorites]


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