In 1978, author Ellen Raskin published The Westing Game, a mystery-puzzle book aimed at middle grade readers. In this Newbery medal-winning novel, 16 people are moved into an apartment building and paired up to solve the death of a reclusive millionaire. According to the dead millionaire’s will, whichever team solves the puzzle first gets all the millionaire’s money. It is my opinion that this book was the invention of reality television before reality television knew what it wanted to be when it grew up. The Westing Game was very important to me in my formative years, and more than once I wished I was the main character, Turtle Wexler. (Spoiler: I still wish I was Turtle Wexler.)
Now imagine that The Westing Game has died. It has died, and its agency has been buried in a pit of psychedelic-laced dirt along with some broad swords, a few dirty magazines, and a fifty-gallon drum of sarcasm. And after being interred for three dozen years, it’s dug up in the middle of the night by a group of circus geeks with sharpened spoons while they sing “Black Rider” by Tom Waits, and then dropped in a fish aquarium full of Red Bull and black licorice jelly beans. That’s kind of how I imagine Tamsyn Muir got Gideon the Ninth.
Or perhaps it came from her brain. One of these things is true, I don’t know. What I do know is that this is a locked room mystery of sorts, set in a spooky space house, and I LOVE it. From the very first page, Gideon the Ninth grabbed me with its bony fingers, rifled through my pockets, and then stole one of my kidneys. AND I THANKED IT. Given my love of The Westing Game, it is easy to see how I could fall so hard for Gideon the Ninth.
Reading this book was a singular experience. Space lesbians, sword fights, and bones, oh my! Here’s the elevator pitch: Swordwoman Gideon Nav joins her nemesis, necromancer Harrowhark Nonagesimus, on a journey from the Ninth House to compete in the Emperor’s challenge, which has been issued to the heirs of all the houses. The winning House gets immortality, and if Gideon and Harrow win, Gideon gets her freedom from the Ninth House. But first they have to solve the mystery of the House before the other heirs, and try to keep from dying, and try to keep from murdering each other. (That was a long elevator pitch, so pretend we were in an elevator in a really tall building.)
Think Clue in a haunted-ass space mansion with monsters, ghosts, goo, and more sarcasm than a high school lunch period. Gideon Nav is one of the snarkiest, lovable characters to come along in years. AND THE FEELINGS. There is as much emotion in this book as there is swordplay—and there is a LOT of swordplay. I was knocked flat on my tuchus by the ending. STEP ON MY NECK, GIDEON THE NINTH.
This book is my new OBSESSION. I have read it eight times now. And it’s soon to be nine—for a good reason. We’re doing a Gideon the Ninth reread here on Tor.com, leading up to the release of Harrow the Ninth, the second book in the Locked Tomb trilogy! Well, paint my face and call me Griddle! I could not be more excited if I swallowed a cat and broke out in kittens.
Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to be peeling back Gideon’s skin and taking a closer look at its bones. I will be dissecting each chapter and serving up thoughts and enthusiasm, as well as bad puns, gifs, and probably a cheesy song parody or two. And all you bone-kitties are invited to join me! Won’t you please, won’t you please, please won’t you be my goth neighbor?
Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor, co-host of All the Books, a Book of the Month judge, and a ravenous reader. She resides in Maine with her cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon. You can see pictures of her cats and her books on Instagram @franzencomesalive.