Full of high fuelled action, quippy dialogue, ridiculously over the top sci fi babble and mysteriously restrained worldbuilding, it’s hard to conceive of a sci fi fantasy fan who wouldn’t get something out of Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel Gideon the Ninth.
On the surface, Gideon the Ninth acts as an easy entry point to the sort of bonkers science fantasy worlds that Warhammer 40k imagines. Packed with ancient fantastical orders, bleakly cynical characters and mysterious lore, it feels like it exists in the same tradition as the tabletop strategy game. Where Gideon the Ninth manages to impressively diverge from the science fantasy grimdark genre is in Muir’s extraordinarily nuanced character work.
Taking place in a galactic empire of nine planets, each home to a great house that has mastered a particular kind of Necromancy. We focus on Necromancer Harrow and her bodyguard Gideon; they belong to the Ninth House, a death cult with the task of guarding The Locked Tomb, an ancient sarcophagus home to the Emperor’s greatest enemy. Muir focuses on the relationship between Gideon and Harrow, displaying a complicated and abusively toxic relationship that appears to be built on an unknowable layer of trust. Muir uses this relationship to develop themes of insecurity, stockholm syndrome and desperation within the two. This dynamic forms the backbone of the story; giving Muir the emotional investment from her reader to deliver some brilliant moments in the third act.
Despite this, Muir doesn’t allow her story to be bogged down with relationship drama, keeping the humour afloat consistently throughout the novel and offsetting the sentimental moments with a gripping cynicism that manifests in the actions of her characters. I can highly recommend Gideon the Ninth for fans of both high fantasy and relationship fiction looking for something with a more adult hard edge.
Gideon the Ninth is one of the best debut fantasy novels in recent memory and I’m extremely excited to get my hands on the sequel and see what crazy Necromantic story Tamsyn Muir throws me into next.