Welcome back, my little gothballs. It’s time for another close read of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir! I’m your host, D.B. Cooper, and today I’ll be running down chapters twenty-five and twenty-six of this Hugo and Nebula-nominated book.
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 slip your face mask up over your eyes while you read this.
So last week, I totally botched the ending of my post, and wrote that Harrow gave Gideon the keys because she was going in the scary facility downstairs. I apologize. (Hey, the stress gets to all of us sometimes.) But what I meant was it had been decided that Gideon and the Fourth House teens (Gideon and The Fourth House Teens: name of my new band) were going to go downstairs to look for Protesilaus the Seventh instead, because Camilla was injured, and of no use to Harrow and Palamedes. So they were off to guard Lady Dulcinea.
All right, now that we’ve cleared up my snafu, let’s return to our adventure already in progress. Gideon, Jeannemary, and Isaac are now on their way downstairs to the facility where the trials have been held, keys have been found, and scary stuff has happened.
The teens are quite skittish about their trip, as anyone with half a brain would be. Ghosties, and monsters, and death, oh my! They’re also surprised that the once-silent Gideon talks like a high schooler in WoW chat while running around ganking and sharding purples, and not like a nun of the Ninth House.
Gideon lets them through the doors with the keys she now has in her possession, since Harrow didn’t need them to watch over Lady D. As they pass by the remaining goo from the death of Magnus and Abigail, Jeannemary thinks she hears a noise, and the teens are too terrified to move any further. Issac points out that it’s weird that there were pieces of bone found in the bodies of the Fifth House members, and Gideon agrees.
It takes her a bit to coax the teens forward. Isaac puts a ward on every doorway before they cross it, which is a slow and arduous process, but it’s the only way they agree to progress. They enter the room where Harrow had made herself a bone cocoon, and call for Protesilaus, but he’s not there. And then Isaac hears something.
And not only hears it, but feels it. He can sense there’s death around them, even though Jeannemary and Gideon cannot. As they move back out into the corridor, the motion-sensor lights all go off, and they’re plunged back into darkness. And when one comes back on for a few seconds, there’s words painted on the wall in fresh blood: DEATH TO THE FOURTH HOUSE. (It’s like that urban legend: “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights?”)
That’s enough to flip Isaac’s wig completely, and he takes off running, hands full of light, and runs into the room ahead of them. Which ends up being a terrible idea, because this room houses the Andre the Giant of bone constructs. There’s no conceivable way for it to have been made or to have appeared, and yet here it is. And for added funsies, its hulking mass has spider legs and jellyfish tentacles full of millions of teeth.
Isaac attempts to stop it with magic, while Jeannemary and Gideon thrash at it with swords. Isaac attempts a vortex to try and suck the monster out of the room, and it seems to be helping a bit here and there, but not all at once, which is what they really need. For this hulking Bonezilla to be gone from the room. And as valiantly as Isaac tried, he is soon turned to necromancer-kebab by fifty of the monster’s tentacles.
Gideon, realizing that this is the Hindenburg of monsters and they are not going to win this fight, charges from the room, grabbing Jeannemary along the way. She runs straight back down the way they came and up the hatch, carrying the kicking and screaming Fourth House cavalier the whole way. Jeannemary cries that they have to go back, that Isaac could still be alive. Gideon assures her that he most definitely could not. She runs the sobbing Jeannemary all the way to the (hopeful) safety of the abandoned living quarters she and Harrow found in chapter nineteen.
The bone construct is locked back down in the facility, behind the hatch, but the two young women are still a little worried it could follow them. Gideon’s plan is this: They will hide in there and rest until Jeannemary is feeling able to fight again, and then they’ll venture out. They discuss their backgrounds and family a bit, and then finally drift off to sleep.
Big mistake. Huge. When Gideon opens her eyes again, only fifteen minutes later, Jeannemary is dead, speared and spread out Sergeant Pembry-style, on the bed. And above the bed on the wall, written in Jeannemary’s blood are the words ‘SWEET DREAMS.’
And that’s the end of chapter twenty-five, and Act Three. It would be a great place to stop for the day, but that’s not how math works, and so we move forward!
ACT FOUR: CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
Gideon is kinda hazy on what happened next. Eventually, someone or someones had found them, and taken Jeannemary’s body from Gideon’s arms. Harrow yelled at her a lot, but Gideon wasn’t sure why, and didn’t pay attention. The two dead teens were put in the morgue next to the Fifth House bodies, and Gideon ended up in the makeshift hospital room with Lady Dulcinea.
Dulcinea, herself made of more coughing than muscle and blood at this point, holds Gideon’s hand while she cries and blames herself for what happened. Dulcinea explains why she shouldn’t blame herself, and how life sucks and then you die. (I’m paraphrasing.) She also wishes she knew what happened to Protesilaus, and explains that she knows that she is going to die here at the First House. Gideon tells her she doesn’t want her to die.
Dulcinea tells Gideon she doesn’t think Gideon is really of the Ninth House. (Remember way, way back to the first chapter when we learned that Gideon’s mom appeared out of nowhere and died, leaving newborn Gideon behind to be raised by the nuns?) Gideon says she’s somewhat right, and also, she’s not the real Ninth House cavalier, and they make eyes at each other and share a moment.
But no time for love, Dr. Bones! Palamedes enters the room to check on them. Gideon decides it’s time for her to leave, even though she feels like death warmed over, and still has a lot of bone splinters in her skin. She immediately bumps into the detestable Silas of the Eight House, who wishes to talk to her. He says he knows something of her life in the Ninth House.
Gideon is all, “What’s that now?” Silas invites her and her alone to tea, to hear about how he knows she has been wronged by the Ninth House and how she can free herself. She tells him to get bent, and storms off.
Back in her bed, she has nightmare after nightmare about the now-dead members of the Fourth and Fifth House. And also about her mother, calling for her before the Ninth House nuns pull her head off her neck. Fun stuff. And in between all this, she remembers Harrow telling her to wake up, and then watching over her as she slipped in and out of consciousness, her sword clutched to her chest.
Annnnnd that’s the end of the short twenty-sixth chapter. It’s quite a sad chapter! Poor Lady Dulcinea, doomed to die, but wishing to become a Lyctor anyway. Poor Gideon and her survivor’s guilt and hideous nightmares. And poor Fourth House teens.
With the new increased body count and a missing cavalier, there are now eleven house members left, plus the three priests. Do you think one of them is behind these spooky shenanigans? I mean, I have read a LOT of mystery books, including And Then There Were None, so I was working on this mystery from all angles. I’m not going to share them until the end, though, because one was sorta correct and I want you to brainstorm solutions for yourself!
Where are these monsters coming from? Who is responsible? Where the &%$# is Protesilaus the Seventh? (I’m going to say, “Dude, where’s my cav?” again, because I thought it quite clever last time.) Who killed Jeannemary? Was Gideon possessed by something and committed the crime herself? SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Also, as I mentioned at the beginning, Gideon the Ninth has now been nominated for both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award! I’m crossing all my finger bones in the hopes that it wins both! The awards ceremonies will be different, of course, since no one can gather for the banquet right now, but it will still be exciting to hear all the winners.
And in more Gideon-related news, because of *waves hands all around at the world*, the release date for Harrow the Ninth has been pushed back to August 4, 2020. So we’re going to start doing recaps every other week, to help keep it fresh in our minds. Which means I have every other week free now to work on my Disney Emoji game obsession. (HELP ME.)
It’s time for me to bounce, but I hope to see you all back here in two weeks. Tune in for a breakdown of chapters twenty-seven and twenty-eight. We only have 12×12 pages to go! (And I thought I would never use sixth grade math multiplication skills in the real world. Joke’s on me.) Stay safe, everyone!
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.