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Review copy provided by the publisher—Tor.com—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover illustrated by: Tommy Arnold
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Locked Tomb (Book #2 of 3)
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Space Opera
Pages: 512 pages (Hardback)
Published: 4th August 2020 by Tor.com
Harrow the Ninth was insanely confusing, and I am both annoyed and impressed at the same time.
I had an odd experience with Gideon the Ninth; in my review of it, I mentioned that I DNFed Gideon the Ninth the first time I read through it. It wasn’t until a few trusted reviewers of mine said that the second half of the book redeemed the first half so much that I decided to push myself through it one more time. And they were right, the second half of Gideon the Ninth did make me love the book, and it made me excited to read the second book in The Locked Tomb trilogy by Tamsyn Muir: Harrow the Ninth. However, I have an immensely conflicting experience with this sequel.
“You hating me always meant more than anyone else in this hot and stupid universe loving me. At least I’d had your full attention.”
Harrow the Ninth is the kind of book that will test its reader’s patience to its limit. Gideon and Harrow are characters loved by many readers, and the level of their investment for these two characters may ultimately determine whether they will be patient enough to read through 70% of deliberate confusing insanity before reaching the big payoff in the final 100 pages of the book. If you think Gideon the Ninth was already bizarre or difficult to follow, trust me when I say that it gets so much worse in Harrow the Ninth. Harrow the Ninth is purposely designed and structured to confuse the heck out of its readers; the narrative wants us to truly witness how things are seen from Harrow’s perspective. The narrative switches timelines constantly, and to make things even worse, almost all the characters behaved differently from the way they were in Gideon the Ninth, and the narrative also juggles second-person and third-person narration non-stop. In other words: almost nothing is believable, and almost everything doesn’t make any sense for the majority of the book.
It was clear that Muir refused to give any crucial hints or information to make the first 70% more accessible, and the final 30% will quite likely decide whether it’s worth all the struggle. Did this method work or not? Well, looking at the incredibly high rating and sales for this book, seems like it did for many readers; it goes to show that readers are willing to be confused for hundreds of pages if they’re in love with the story and characters already. Personally speaking, there were indeed some stunning and mind-blowing scenes in the last quarter; I assume that if you’re super invested in the characters of the series, Harrow the Ninth will overall be a very rewarding reading experience. However, I don’t think the revelations and the amazing pay-off were worth the 350 pages of struggles I forced upon myself. I’m actually not even sure whether this novel will actually works better on reread or not.
This is my final book review of 2020, and thinking about it, it’s probably the most fitting book to end this bizarre year. To sum up my thoughts on Harrow the Ninth, I’ll rate the first 70% of this book with a 1-star rating, the final 30% with a 4 stars rating. There’s a chance I might enjoy this more on reread, whether that will happen, that still remains to be seen when Alecto the Ninth comes out.
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