It’s time for another close read of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir! I’m your host, Mr. Bob Dobalina. How is everyone doing out there? Not much has changed in the world since last week, but a lot has changed this week in Gideon the Ninth. I can’t believe we’re more than halfway through the book now! Today I’ll be running down chapters twenty-three and twenty-four for your amusement. And although these chapters be but little, they are fierce.
And like every time I reread books, I find that I have a new favorite minor character. This time around, which is my ninth reading, it’s Camilla. She’s so sensible and brave. I am neither of those things, so I admire her. (I had a different favorite minor character the first time I read the book, but they turned out to be rotten. Which also explains a lot about my dating life.)
Before we start, just a quick reminder that I’m going to spoil these chapters, so if you haven’t read this far in the book yet, you’ll want to read this post with your eyes closed.
Does everyone remember what happened last week? There was a lot of arguing; they found a cremated body in a furnace; there were confessions; the big duel never happened; and a house member fainted in the rain. Basically, it was Real World: Spooky-Ass First House.
In the last few moments of chapter twenty-two, it was determined that Protesilaus the Seventh didn’t show up to his duel with the Eighth House cavalier because he is missing. Lady Dulcinea says as much before she faints in Gideon’s arms.
Dulcinea is determined to be critically ill after her fall outside in the rain, and is now resting in a small comfy room in the priest wing, being looked after by Teacher’s two colleagues. The remaining members of the Houses have gathered to examine the ashes in the incinerator again. The necromancers are picking them over for parts to examine—what a party game!—and have collectively determined that they are actually old. Like, several months old. And even weirder: Harrow figures out that they are the remains of TWO people.
So they can’t be the remains of Protesilaus the Seventh, which means where the heck is he??? Teacher tells them all the skeletons are looking over every bit of the house to find him, except for their rooms, because privacy, and the trial facility downstairs, because monsters.
They also discover that Silas the snot-nosed Eighth House necromancer is now in possession of Lady Dulcinea’s key. He says she gave it to him for safekeeping. He refuses to relinquish them to anyone, even when commanded, as he says no one there is trustworthy.
Captain Deuteros of the Second restates the fact that they should have come together and called in the military earlier when she suggested it. She tries to get the Sixth to hand over his keys, and when he tells her to take a long walk off a short pier, her cavalier challenges the Sixth to a duel. Picking a fight in the middle of a murder investigation when people are in fear for their lives is like, oh, pursuing an investigation of your political rival when you’re supposed to be helping the nation you govern through a pandemic. It’s not reasonable or helpful at all.
More arguing ensues, more swords are almost drawn, more tempers flare. Teacher flees the scene as he has no necro-dog in this fight. Palamedes finally says, fine, let’s go. And by “let’s go” he means “my cavalier will fight you while I watch.” Which is the best way to survive a swordfight. Gideon notices that Lieutenant Dyas, cavalier of the Second House, looks very rigid and militant as she readies for battle, while Camilla looks totally chill.
The Second necromancer states the rules, calling for anything allowed below the neck, until one of their necromancers calls for mercy. Everyone agrees to terms, and the duel begins.
Annnnnnnnd it’s immediately evident that the Sixth House never had to worry, not even with Camilla’s crude swords. She is by far a superior fighter, and Lieutenant Dyas realizes it right away. In no time, Camilla has sliced down the front of her opponent’s shirt, battered her in the knuckles, and kicked her in the knee for funsies.
But the threat to her life brings Dyas around, and she manages to slice Camilla, before Camila wrenches her arm out of the socket, knocks her to the floor, and steps on her neck. The Second House captain has no choice but to call for mercy. Well, she could have waited longer, but Dyas wasn’t getting up any time soon, so it would be pointless. (Not a sword pun.)
Palamedes sets the Second House cavalier’s arm for her, then rounds on the Captain like a rabid dog, insisting she now give up her keys, and what a stupid waste of time that was for everyone. She refuses to hand over the keys, but that’s no biggy, because her cavalier gives them up. I guess when you get beat up because your boss is a bully, you’re not feeling so loyal after.
And just when everyone is ready to disperse, another duel challenge to the Sixth House rings out…
It’s from Naberius Tern, cavalier to the Third House. Although he is a meathead, he’s thinking straight right now, because why fight someone healthy and rested, when they are already tired and stabbed? He’s challenging the Sixth to a duel for their keys, which now include the Second’s key. Remember, it has been established that all the keys are needed to win, so it had to get medieval at some point.
The twins are at odds about what to do. Coronabeth thinks he’s being ridiculous, while Ianthe thinks he is being smart. And Coronabeth is outnumbered, so a duel it is! Camilla is getting her wound taken care of, and is like, okay, round two, bitches.
And that’s when things get really interesting. Gideon is trying to send a message to Harrow telepathically—and it works! Harrow says that Gideon will stand in for Camilla, which is what Gideon wants. She’s sick of everyone’s shit and spoiling for a fight. She puts on her best “Voted Most Likely To Eat Your Face in High School” smile, and suddenly Naberius isn’t feeling so cocky anymore. (Remember, she technically beat his butt earlier.)
Jeannemary of the Fourth House gets in on the action, challenging the Third to a fight after his duel with Gideon. He’s not amused. The Eighth House is tired of all their theatrics, and takes his leave in his usually snotty fashion, telling everyone they’re going to go look for Protesilaus the Seventh. The Second also decides to split.
The remaining houses return their attention to the keys. It is established that all the keys have been found. So the trials can be run again, but you’ll get diddly-squat now when you beat them. Palamedes is sure that they are in possession of all the keys except for one, and through the power of deduction, arrives at the fact that Lady Dulcinea had it. HAD it. Because Protesilaus the Seventh went off without her, and since she turned over one key to the Eighth, it stands to reason that Protesilaus the Seventh had gone off with a different one, since he didn’t come back. See? Easy. (I would never have thought of that on my own.)
Palamedes thinks more treachery will be afoot over keys. They decide Lady Dulcinea will be guarded by the Fourth House and Gideon, since the unnamed priests are no protection. He will go down in the facility with Harrow and Camilla to look for Protesilaus the Seventh. Harrow points out that she could kill them both and take their keys, and he counters that he trusts her the most out of all the people he doesn’t trust, so please don’t.
He also apologizes to Gideon for not asking her first if she would go with the Fourth House and ask what she thinks, and in response, she points out that the first three letters in his first and last name make ‘Sex Pal.’ Hey, he asked.
Harrow gives Gideon their keys for safekeeping, since she’s going into the big scary basement with the Sixth House. And maybe it’s because she almost died the day before, but Gideon is suddenly overcome with warm fuzzies, and she gives Harrow a big hug. Harrow responds to this by going limp like a toddler who doesn’t want to leave. And for once, she doesn’t have something smart to say, so she scuttles off.
Jeannemary asks Gideon if she and Harrow have been paired up for a long time, and Gideon says wistfully, “It feels like forever.” And off they go.
Awwwwwwwww. Gideon is having feels! It must be the pretty-much-dead condition she was in that has rattled her brain around and made her sentimental. Because Harrow is her nemesis! Maybe it’s Opposite Day.
So, we learned more about keys, and that there were two bodies in the incinerator. We saw Camilla kick some butt. And more than one remaining House member acted like a petulant brat. But there are still questions: WHO is in the incinerator? And where the heckin heck is Protesilaus the Seventh?
What do you think? Tune in next week for a breakdown of chapters twenty-five and twenty-six, when Lady Dulcinea asks, “Dude, where’s my cav?” Until then, be safe, stay inside, wash your bones, and rock on!
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.