Timothy Rice


Book Review: Nona the Ninth

Can one person even be two people? I feel like I’ve only got enough room inside for me.

Rating: 5/5 – GO READ THIS! RIGHT NOW!!
Read The Locked Tomb series if you like: Character driven speculative fiction

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If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already read Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, and Harrow the Ninth. I strongly encourage you to re-read those novels before starting Nona, and to keep them close at hand so you can refer back to them as necessary. This will greatly enrich your reading experience. I also recommend reading the short story As Yet Unsent, which was originally published at the end of the paperback release of Harrow the Ninth. You can find it online on the Tor website.

Nona the Ninth was a surprise insertion into what was supposed to be the Locked Tomb Trilogy; the series was intended to conclude with Alecto the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth ends with a message that “The Tomb will open in ALECTO THE NINTH” which is now due sometime in 2023. After reading Nona, I think I understand why Tamsyn felt this book was needed. Nona continues to move the series’ plot forward, but it also expands it – filling outwards and backwards – providing the context that will be necessary for Alecto to properly close the story. There is so much necessary information presented in Nona the Ninth that it required its own volume in the series.

Once more showcasing Tamsyn’s superb abilities as a writer, Nona is another stylistic departure from the previous entries in the series. Gideon is a rollicking romp through a haunted gothic palace carried by one of my all-time favorite narrators. Harrow is a masterfully coherent fever-dream that allocates roughly half its pages towards gaslighting the reader. Nona is a childlike perspective on a 10,000 year long struggle for the fate of humanity.

While Nona has a brand new setting, with a (mostly new) cast of characters, the thematic overtones of the series still resonate deeply from start to finish. The Locked Tomb is ultimately an examination of human relationships and the myriad of forms they can take. Nona expands on this thesis through an exploration of the adept/cavalier bond and what it means to be profoundly, truly devoted to another soul.

As with Harrow the Ninth, Nona places a lot of faith in the reader to pay close attention to all the details and intricacies of the prose. While not as layered as Harrow, every sentence is still important and if you’re not used to close reading, you might find this book confusing. To really get the most out of Nona, be prepared to stop and look up references it makes to other works of literature. If haven’t already, start by looking up the etymology of “Alecto". It all matters. Everything is important.

Nona the Ninth is another spectacular entry into the Locked Tomb series (Tetralogy?). It reveals many outstanding mysteries of the story, but still manages to leave behind a new question for every answer. I cannot recommend this series highly enough and I cannot wait to read the final volume.