Cons: slow pacing at start, hard to keep characters straight
I’m using the book’s back cover synopsis as I can’t come up with a better one:
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
It took me a while to get into this book. I really enjoyed the characters and there’s conflict immediately, but there’s so much to take in with regards to their history and the setting that it just felt kind of slow. The main plot takes a fair bit to get underway which contributed to the feeling that the pacing was on the slow side, even though there was a lot of action.
The worldbuilding is rather neat, with different houses (each on their own planet) having their own style of necromancy. You really get to see the powers on display towards the end of the book. You only learn as much as you need to in order to understand this story, so there are no info dumps and a lot of unanswered questions regarding the larger universe.
The characters were highly varied and interesting. I did have some trouble keeping the various house members apart so I’m glad there was a list of characters by house at the front of the book. You’re introduced to everyone all at once which made it hard for me to remember who was who.
The book is told from Gideon’s point of view and she’s a cool character. There’s a fair bit of profanity and sarcasm. I really enjoyed seeing her develop as the story went on. I’m not entirely sure I believe how quickly she adjusted to a few revelations, but there was some emotional punch to the story.
The mystery of how to obtain Lyctorhood (immortality) was interesting and the story really kept me guessing regarding the murders.
It’s a unique book and worth picking up.