So, I didn’t like Gideon the Ninth. It feels kind of sacrilegious to say because the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. But here I am, saying I did not enjoy Gideon the Ninth.
I’ll be honest, I did not go into this book expecting to enjoy it, so that may have impacted my opinion, but I still held out hope that I would. I usually read adult science-fiction and fantasy, and while Gideon the Ninth was marketed and sold as adult fiction, it is a young adult novel. Apparently YA sci-fi doesn’t sell, so a lot of YA sci-fi authors are querying their books as AF.
There are several reasons I don’t read YA, but they mostly break down to the fact that I don’t vibe well with the voice or the characters. Gideon the Ninth was not an exception to that rule.I let myself be drawn in by lesbian necromancers in space with an enemies to lovers arc, even though I knew better.
I realized early on that I did not like the voice. I don’t know how to describe it beyond being cringey. Why did “salty” actually have to show up in the narration? The voice consistently pulled me out of the story. It was like Gideon was supposed to be cool and edgy, but came off like a dumb jock combined with a grumpy teen who spends a lot of time on Tumblr and thinks they are super witty. I used to be on Tumblr, I’m not unfamiliar with this type of language, but it made me uncomfortable to read in a published book. If we read the voice separately from Gideon as a character, it has a “hello fellow youths” vibe. Oh look at me, I say fuck and use the world salty, aren’t I cool and relatable? And don’t get me started on the sporadic bursts of nonsensical purple prose. What does “she held her long and hard, like a scream” even mean???
Ok, so I don’t like the voice. And maybe because the voice is, essentially, Gideon as a character, I don’t like Gideon either. But surely there are other interesting and developed characters? Nope.
Most of the characters felt like stereotypical caricatures. High strung fantasy military officers, embarrassed/embarrassing teens, religious zealots; you name it. None of the characters were very interesting or original. They were all one dimensional. I don’t feel like any of the characters, including Harrow and Gideon, were very thoroughly developed. They all fell flat for me.
Despite all of her proclaimed sass and sword-wielding, Gideon is not very active in the story. This is classic debut writer. Gideon does stuff, but she doesn’t drive the plot. The situation unfolds around her and things happen to her that she reacts to, but she isn’t proactive. Gideon’s actions don’t decide where the plot goes, the plot decides her actions.
Now remember how I was drawn to this book because everyone kept talk about the enemies to lovers arc? Well shit, that disappointed me too. Since I already found the characters to be very flat, it wasn’t surprising that I found Harrow and Gideon’s relationship arc to be bland and unbelievable. Their “I hate you, I just wish you were dead” relationship was very melodramatic teen.
Already, the enemies part of the equation didn’t have enough draw for me. Then, to go from Gideon giving a huge speech about how much she hates Harrow and all of the reasons why to the pool scene felt incredibly inorganic. Gideon has years of trauma and abuse at the hands of Harrow and her family, and she just gets over that with one conversation that doesn’t solve anything???? No. Do better. I feel like to have that enemies to lovers arc work well, you need to have a barrier between the couple that is surmountable, and what Gideon faced in the Ninth House shouldn’t be so easily left behind.
On top of everything, the world building left a lot to be desired. I mean, maybe I just don’t like science-fiction fantasy as a genre, but I kept being pulled out of the story when there would suddenly be a sci-fi element in a setting that otherwise feels completely fantasy. It was only necromancers in space the same way that I’m a book review writer in space because I write reviews from a planet that exists in a solar system.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews mention being confused because the story throws us into the world with no background information. But I think that’s typical of a lot of speculative fiction, so I didn’t have any problems with that. However, I would have liked to see the world be further developed as the story progressed.
Also, the whole different magical houses who are at each other’s throats and are all totally different thing is so tired.
Anyway, I would not recommend Gideon the Ninth to anyone who predominantly reads adult sci-fi and fantasy. If you read young adult, the voice and story might sit better with you.