Book Reviews

{Review} NINTH HOUSE, by Leigh Bardugo

Published by Flatiron Books Genres: Crime, Dark Fantasy, Dark Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Ghost, Horror, Mystery, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Psychological Horror, Supernatural, Suspense, Thriller
Format: Hardcover

The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

5 Stars.

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Horror After Dark Review

NINTH HOUSE is the first book I have read by author Leigh Bardugo, and I have already purchased several other novels by her, based on the writing style alone. She captured my attention from the first page, and managed to give enough “new” information for me to process all throughout this story. The result was a novel that I hated to put down at any place.

“Rich or poor, all are equal in death . . . “ 

Alex (Galaxy) Stern is a young woman that spent her life trying to hide away from the fact that she was very . . . different. She was able to see ghosts (“Grays”) from the day she was born. A curse that kept her from blending in and living a “normal” life, until the day she got an offer from Yale.

Alex would get a free ride, contingent upon her joining their secretive Lethe House, where she would help monitor supernatural events and experiments in private societies on campus.

“The greatest gift Lethe had given Alex . . . was the knowledge, the certainty that the things she saw were real and always had been . . . “ 

Bardugo has constructed a complex and thrilling novel involving dynamic characters, supernatural phenomena, mysterious histories, secret societies, and danger threaded all throughout. The societies and their “origins” were so well detailed that each and every event felt entirely plausible in the setting.

“. . . This town is a peculiar one. The Veil is thinner here . . . “ 

There wasn’t just one main character that stood out here. I found that many of them were so individual in their behaviors and beliefs that they were equally as important to me as Alex was.

“. . . He didn’t know how precious a normal life could be, how easy it was to drift away from average . . . “ 

As the events began, I felt as if I were learning along with Alex–a student, myself–permitted entrance into possibly THE most exclusive and wondrous of societies. The stark change from the world she left behind, to the one she now sought to integrate into, was astronomical. Her character’s sarcastic wit and ability to make quick decisions helped blend this transition into something the reader could go along with.

“Maybe good things were the same as the bad things. Sometimes you just had to let them happen.” 

I really enjoyed how Bardugo painted the demeanor of the privileged college students, verses those that lived in the towns just outside of Yale’s domain. The differences were illustrated in casual comments, the clothing worn, professors who had students working as hired help–all to create the sense of inequality better than words alone ever could.

“. . . there was a big difference between things being fair and things being set right.” 

Then, there was the magical “world” that was Lethe–where they were tasked with overseeing the elaborate rituals involving the supernatural, mixed with the needs and desires of the rich and powerful–all done in secrecy from the main body of the common population. THIS is the area that had me hooked on every sentence penned.

“. . . That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible . . . “ 

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with my first novel from Leigh Bardugo. Her writing style kept my attention from first to last page, giving just enough information at a time to keep you begging for more. The world she created was complex, and yet believable–with the elite of Yale in contrast to the world surrounding the University, you could believe that some of these people were able to pierce the “barrier” for their own gain.

“. . . needed to believe that there was something more to the world than living and dying . . . “ 

Add in some dynamic, three dimensional characters, and you have a book that covers all the major bases. I plan on reading some of the author’s earlier novels, and will eagerly be awaiting her next.

Highly recommended!

About The Author

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over three million copies sold worldwide, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars–with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, and graduated from Yale University. These days she lives and writes in Los Angeles. For information on new releases and appearances, sign up for Leigh’s newsletter:


I am an avid reader/reviewer and collector of books--primarily horror, supernatural, and supernatural-themed thrillers.

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