• Well Red

Hollow Harrow




Title: Harrow the Ninth

Author: Tamsyn Muir

Published: 2020

Publisher: Tor.com


Rating: ****.5


Genre: Sci-fi/High fantasy/Science Fantasy

Setting: Space

Difficulty: Medium – hard

Pages: 512

Series: Yes. Second in The Locked Tombs Trilogy


Always spoiler free


I concluded my review of Gideon the Ninth with – ‘all nit-picking put aside, I’m excited for the rest of the series’. And I was. And wasn’t.


Because it took me three months to buy Harrow the Ninth (herein called HtN). The sheer effort of reading Gideon the Ninth (GtN) made me crave a break, and I have a long TBR list. I wasn’t sure I would ever get around to HtN, but then I bought it as a pay day gift to myself.


Harrow the Ninth…look it’s pretty hard to give you a short summary because for about 450 pages I was screaming at the book in frustration. I. Had. No. Idea. What. Was. Going. On.


I mean…that was the intention of Muir. Doesn’t make it any less frustrating.


One of my chief annoyances with a lot of High Fantasy novels is the sheer scope of the worldbuilding that needs to be done. It can bog down a plot. Lead to very long descriptive passages. All of that is usually very necessary but doesn’t mean that it doesn’t drag slightly. In the Locked Tombs Trilogy, Muir has the same issue (world building) but she also goes fast and deep, assuming you have a general knowledge of necromancy (of course!) and then in HtN, that you can follow the complex layers of different necromancy skills, human biology and Lyctorship with little explanation. Well, no, she gives you an explanation, but it’s always complex explanations based on a system you don’t understand.


GtN had too many characters for me to follow. HtN has less (yay!), but also brings back characters that I had forgotten about from GtN. Even while I was read GtN I couldn’t remember all the character’s names, so I had very little hope of keeping all of that track three months later with HtN. This did nothing to help me with my complete and utter confusion around the plot. Of course, not everyone has the same problem with names as I do!


GtN felt like a thesaurus had been thrown at it. The writing style has matured somewhat in HtN. It has settled down somewhat (or I had got used to her writing) and flowed slightly better. Also, Muir does great fantastical prose (especially around bones!). Deliciously descriptive. And probably one of the only high fantasy/sci-fi books that I’ve read that feels like someone my age has written. There’s lots of pop culture references, if you go looking for them.


For all that I felt that GtN had too much plot…actually almost nothing actually happens for most of HtN. But it actually works. Really works. Then again, the plot crams into the end, fast and furious, and I was still lost, even when plot lines got finished up. I guessed some of the Big Plot Points before they were revealed at the end, but even working that out early didn’t make everything else happening around it make any more sense.


Here’s a little secret. I much prefer Gideon as a character. She’s a badass and is super funny. Harrow isn’t. I therefore don’t enjoy her point of view (especially a fractured Harrow’s PoV) nearly as much as Gideon’s in GtN. That is possible why I didn’t like this book as much. I’ve actually given it more stars then GtN, but I think I enjoyed it less. Harrow doesn’t have as much pizzazz as Gideon. Especially given her current situation in HtN.


Oh yeah, I enjoyed Ianthe. And John. The relationship between the Lyctors. But gosh, isn’t Muir great at writing characters and their interactions! And their emotions! And everything!


I was so lost in this book. I constantly wanted to stop reading because I couldn’t figure out what was happening. The characters kept me going. You are as lost as Harrow in this book (which, of course, is the point!), and its complex nothingness, is just…look it’s worth it. Definitely worth it. I just had to fight my way through it to get to the satisfaction.


You know.


Curiosity killed the cat.


But satisfaction brought it back.


Well Red Reviews


Would I recommend this book? Yes


Favourite quote(s):


‘“I would rather have my tendons peeled from my body, one by one, and flossed to shreds over my broken bones,” you said. “I would rather be flayed alive and wrapped in salt. I would rather have my own digestive acid dripped into my eyes.”

“So what I’m hearing is … maybe,” said Ianthe. “Help me out here. Don’t be coy.”’


‘“I admit completely that this was my bad, but these motherfuckers had a hunger that only thumbs could satisfy.”’


‘“Unexpectedly, this did not kill her; and what did not kill her made her curious.”’


‘“The Emperor of the Nine Houses said, “I ate peanuts, discreetly, the once.”’


‘“What’s the meat in here flavouring the broth? If there’s chunks, it’s all rendered down.”

You closed your eyes and tried to think. It was so difficult. You so badly wanted to sleep. You were doing so many things at once—your sole remaining powers of concentration were given over to this moment. For a second or two you forgot the word that you were looking for—it was on the tip of your tongue—while you were building, minutely, stromal cell by stromal cell.

“Marrow,” you said.’


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