There’s no shortage of things to love about Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth—and its upcoming sequel, Harrow the Ninth—but if we had to pick just two: (1) it is full of necromancers, and (2) there are nine separate Houses dedicated to their Undead Emperor, each with a purpose, and necromantic talents all their own.
Want to know where you’d belong? Here is a glorious breakdown, complete with rhyme scheme…
The First House belongs to the Emperor, so we’ll skip him. Which brings us to…
The Second House
Two is for discipline, heedless of trial
The Emperor’s Strength
The House of the Crimson Shield
The Centurion’s House
The Second House is the militant strength of the Emperor. Deeply interwoven with the Cohort, they comport themselves with military rigor in all situations. Their fervent devotion to rank and order makes them prone to taking charge, often over the protestations of other houses.
Necromantic Scion: Judith Deuteros, Ranked Captain of the Cohort
Cavalier Primary: Marta Dyas, Ranked First Lieutenant of the Cohort
House Colors: Red primary, white secondary
Strengths: Excellent, brave, disciplined soldiers, capable on the field and in the general’s tent.
Weaknesses: Hidebound, hierarchical, and inflexible.
Necromantic Specialty: Absorption of life energy from the living. A Second necromancer can drain thalergy from any living source, then use it to bolster the strength of their soldiers.
The Third House
Three for the gleam of a jewel or a smile
The Mouth of the Emperor
The House of the Shining Dead
The Third House is the vanguard of trend in the Empire, setting fashion and sparking gossip with their every move. Not only do they spark rumors, they also diligently collect intelligence, both personal and political.
Necromantic Scions: Coronabeth Tridentarius, Crown Princess of Ida, and Ianthe Tridentarius, Princess of Ida
Cavalier Primary: Naberius Tern, Prince of Ida
House Colors: Gold primary, purple secondary
Strengths: Rich, fashionable, beautiful, and more than all that, fun. The Third make themselves the life of every party.
Weaknesses: Profoundly untrustworthy, even among themselves. Third dominance is held back by internecine squabbles.
Necromantic Specialty: Cannibalization of thanergy from corpses, no matter how old. They surpass other houses’ limits for drawing power from dead bodies.
The Fourth House
Four for fidelity, facing ahead
The Hope of the Emperor
The Emperor’s Sword
The Fourth House is the vanguard of the Empire, first over the line on every battlefield as the Emperor wages war across the galaxy. Noble scions of the Fourth often find themselves in the field well before their sixteenth birthdays.
Necromantic Scion: Isaac Tettares, Baron of Tisis
Cavalier Primary: Jeannemary Chatur, Knight of Tisis
House Colors: Navy primary, white secondary
Strengths: Bravery unfettered by common sense.
Weaknesses: Bravery unfettered by common sense.
Necromantic Specialty: Exciting thanergy into a state of fission, thereby turning corpses into bombs.
The Fifth House
Five for tradition and debts to the dead
The Heart of the Emperor
The Watchers over the River
The Fifth House is the core of the Empire, especially if you listen to them tell it. With myriad years of tradition behind them, they have become a superpower whose gravity threatens to subsume any house that falters.
Necromantic Scion: Lady Abigail Pent, of Koniortos Court
Cavalier Primary: Sir Magnus Quinn, of Koniortos Court
House Colors: Brown primary, gold secondary
Strengths: Tradition, history, and cohesion make the Fifth House an unshakeable monolith.
Weaknesses: Fifth culture has become stagnant and complacent after centuries of dominance. They can no longer adapt nimbly to new threats.
Necromantic Specialty: Fifth necromancers are the foremost spirit magicians, unparalleled when it comes to speaking to the dead.
The Sixth House
Six for the truth over solace in lies
The Emperor’s Reason
The Master Wardens
In their orbital Library, the Sixth House preserves and investigates the collective knowledge of the Empire. Masters of a thousand esoteric fields of study, they are often considered bookish, but are never to be underestimated.
Necromantic Scion: Palamedes Sextus, Master Warden of the Library
Cavalier Primary: Camilla Hect, the Warden’s Hand
House Colors: Grey, silver secondary
Strengths: The Sixth have read the book on most subjects, and wrote the book on the rest. They are flexible and adaptive, always ready to change their approach.
Weaknesses: A sprawling organization of erratic loners, the Sixth are chaotic by nature and terrible at collective action.
Necromantic Specialty: Psychometry, by which they can read the history that echoes of life and death leave on objects.
The Seventh House
Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies
The Joy of the Emperor
The Rose Unblown
The Seventh House embody the particular beauty only found in dying things. They are the rose hanging lush with decay, the vines that pull down walls of stone, the bloom of color in a terminal patient’s cheeks. They draw out moments of beauty, preserving people, places, and times in amber for later dissection and delectation.
Necromantic Scion: Dulcinea Septimus, Duchess of Rhodes
Cavalier Primary: Protesilaus Ebdoma, Knight of Rhodes
House Colors: Pale green, silver secondary
Strengths: Stoic, artistic, dutiful, and artistic
Weaknesses: Often overcome by a fatal longing for the picturesque; incapable of half-measures.
Necromantic Specialty: The preservation of the corpse and the stasis of soul, prolonging the space between life and death and between death and decay.
The Eighth House
Eight for salvation no matter the cost
The Keepers of the Tome
The Forgiving House
Though all the Houses speak words of worship for their divine Emperor, the Eighth reach depths of devotion that approach zealotry. As the font of mortal forgiveness for sin, they take great pleasure in withholding mercy and pronouncing judgment.
Necromantic Scion: Silas Octakiseron, Master Templar of the White Glass
Cavalier Primary: Colum Asht, Templar of the White Glass
House Colors: White primary, silver secondary
Strengths: Purity, determination, certainty, and self-denial
Weaknesses: A tendency to martyrdom and an incapacity for self-doubt.
Necromantic Specialty: Soul siphoning. An Eighth necromancer can wedge a soul into the breach between life and the afterlife, and use it as a conduit for spirit magic.
The Ninth House
(The house of our beloved Gideon and Harrow)
Nine for the Tomb, and for all that was lost
The Keepers of the Locked Tomb
The House of the Sewn Tongue
The Black Vestals
The Ninth House is a house of secrets, a cloistered tomb tended by silent nuns and skeletal thralls. Tasked with a dreadful duty by the Emperor, the Ninth are treated with fear and suspicion, but command respect. It is rare indeed to meet a scion of the Ninth in polite society.
Necromantic Scion: Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of Drearburh
Cavalier Primary: Ortus Nigenad
House Colors: Black, and only black.
Strengths: Terrifying. Enigmatic. Heretical. Devout. None may discount the power and grandeur of the Ninth.
Weaknesses: The Ninth House is a ruined shell, peopled by the dead and dying. Few know how deep the rot has set in.
Necromantic Specialty: The raising and crafting of skeletons. Though a staple of all necromancy, none master the art of skeletons like a Ninth necromancer.
Tag yourself—and your friends/enemies/lovers—in the comments!
Originally published in September 2019.