Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell
About two goth boneheads you know so well
It started way back in January
With Harrow, Gideon, and me (L-B).
Welcome back, disgrace fans! Can you tell I just watched the Beastie Boys documentary? So, two weeks went by SO FAST and now it’s time for another close read of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir! I’m your host, Beastie Books, and today I’ll be running down chapters twenty-seven and twenty-eight 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, get thee to your copy of Gideon pronto.
So in the last two chapters, I think we are all in agreement that bananapants WTF-ery occurred. The teens from the Fourth House were killed: Isaac by a bone construct and Jeannemary by…we don’t know, someone (or something) that wanted to frighten Gideon (and succeeded.)
And both Silas and Lady Dulcinea tell Gideon they know things about her and how she doesn’t really belong at the Ninth House, but we don’t know what those things are yet. Don’t forget, no one knows how Gideon’s mom suddenly appeared in the shaft of the Ninth House with a newborn baby, and then died almost immediately. (I originally wrote that Gideon was a magic shaft baby, but as soon as I typed it, I giggled so hard that I snorted. Because I am really eight years old.)
So chapter twenty-seven opens with Harrow and Gideon hanging out in the Sixth House’s rooms, after Gideon finally got some much-needed sleep. Palamedes’s rooms look like they belong on the set of Se7en, with scribbles on paper stuck up everywhere. Harrow and Palamedes are negotiating a partnership, since Harrow holds the keys he wants. They’re discussing swapping keys (which is different from a key party, where you swap partners).
Gideon and Camilla, the Sixth House cavalier, are sitting nearby. Camilla is wounded from her duel a few chapters back, and is kinda zoned out, like she’s a few razorblades short of a Halloween apple. Harrow and Palamedes are spouting all kinds of science words and theorems about neural amalgamation, energy transference, and a bunch of other stuff I would never understand on my own.
Harrow thinks she can replicate the theorems they’ve been shown. Palamedes tells her that her idea is wrong, and he will show her how she is wrong, if she will help him pick a lock. Specifically, the lock that requires the only key they don’t have between them, because it is in the possession of the Eighth House. And as we know, Silas doesn’t play nice with the other kids.
Harrow also hates playing nice, but at this stage in the game, she can’t afford not to take his deal, so she agrees. Palamedes tells them to follow him, and they all head off down the hall. Gideon and Camilla talk swords. Gideon explains that she can tell from the way Camilla fights that the rapier is not the sword she favors in a fight. And Camilla concedes that she prefers fighting with double short blades.
Camilla asks Gideon why she and Palamedes are acting weird around each other now, and assumes it’s over Lady Dulcinea. Gideon says he’s the one being a baby, and that she’ll introduce Palamedes to Dulcinea if he really wants. Camilla says the last thing he needs is an introduction to Lady Dulcinea. (SPOILER ALERT: Foreshadowing, ho!)
And now they’ve arrived at their destination. Palamedes removes a picture from the wall to reveal a door that Harrow has already explored. But here’s the kicker: the lock is now filled in with a grey substance like cement, and it’s obvious someone has already tried chipping it out and failed.
Harrow touches the stuff and discerns that it’s actually regenerating ash, the same stuff that the scary bone constructs are made from. Harrow thinks she can remove it, but she tries and tries and it just stretches and snaps back into place until Harrow’s forehead breaks out in blood-sweats.
Gideon, realizing that getting behind this door is important to their victory, offers herself up as a human battery again. So Harrow siphons some of her energy, and it sucks (haha) just as bad as the first time she did, but at least it doesn’t last as long. Harrow finally manages to gather the ash up in a clump in her palm, and now the lock is clear again.
Now it is time to talk keys again, because that’s all they seem to talk about these days. Harrow and Palamedes work out that between them, they have four, and that the Eighth has three, which means there’s still a key missing. Button, button, who’s got the button? Palamedes tells Harrow to meet him tomorrow night to exchange ideas about the theorem, because he needs time to figure out who has the last key. And then he and Camilla take their leave.
Now that Harrow and Gideon are alone, Harrow tells her that she officially forbids her from visiting Lady Dulcinea. Gideon is all foot-stampy and pouty about it, but Harrow tells her that Dulcinea is dangerous. Gideon counters that she has the strength of a tissue, and Harrow points out that she still managed to get a key somehow. Gideon counters that Harrow is being a jealous creep, and Harrow apologizes and says she should have been spending more time with Gideon while they’ve been in the Canaan House. She makes it a priority to do so, going forward.
Gideon says that Lady Dulcinea is defenseless without her cavalier, and insists she will still protect her. The two get into an argument over what Gideon owes Harrow, and if she is required to listen to Harrow’s commands and also if she signed up to act as Harrow’s bodyguard, with Harrow saying yes and Gideon saying no. There is a lot more squabbling, and the word ‘hate’ is thrown around a lot, but the gist of it is this: Harrow doesn’t actually need Gideon to get the Lyctorhood, and she would do well to remember that. Gideon tells Harrow that if she doesn’t need her, then release her into the service of the Seventh, so she can protect Dulcinea. But Harrow refuses, and walks off, so Gideon decides it’s time to go full Iago.
So what does betraying Harrow entail? Gideon decides to pay a visit to Silas of the Eighth House. He did, after all, invite her for tea to discuss her place in the Ninth House. And now she’s totally cheesed off at Harrow, so why not? Colum, his cavalier, tells her she has to give up her weapons before she can come into their rooms. Gideon is less than thrilled by this idea, but agrees, and hands over her rapier and Wolverine glove. (That’s how I see her glove in my head. Anyone else? No, just me then?)
The Eighth House keeps meticulously clean and ordered quarters. Silas tells Gideon he would never allow a Ninth House shadow cultist into his rooms if it wasn’t also useful to him. He asks Gideon to remove her hood, and she does. He tells her that her hair is an unusual color, like her mother’s, and that she is more likely from the Third House.
Gideon thinks he is blowing smoke. How could Silas know about her mother? Turns out, he was visited by the ghost of Sister Glaurica. Remember her? She’s the mother of Ortus, Harrow’s original cavalier. Together they stole the shuttle that Gideon had intended to escape in, leaving Gideon to make the deal with Harrow to accompany her to the First House. It’s a good thing, too, because the shuttle exploded, which is how Galurica ended up a spirit talking to Silas for a short time. He’s very curious why Harrow and Gideon are the only members of their generation on the Ninth House Planet. (Think way back: Something happened to 200 children but not the two of them. However, what that was, we still don’t know.)
Gideon says it had been explained to her as a flu that claimed the children. (First a character named Coronabeth and now a deadly pandemic. How current, lolsob.) Silas tells her it was an impossible explanation, and that the Ninth House is an abomination that did not fulfill its duties to the Emperor, so he thinks they would have no problem killing scores of children. He does not think Harrow should be allowed to be a Lyctor, and that is why Gideon must hand over the keys. Wait, what’s that now?
Gideon is all “Come again?” Silas demands she turn over her keys, and Gideon refuses. He tells her he can take them by force, since she has nothing with which to defend herself. This upsets Colum, who swore on his honor that nothing would happen to Gideon when she relinquished her weapons. He refuses his uncle’s order that he get the keys from her, and Silas becomes angry by Colum’s mutiny. But Colum won’t budge. He gives Gideon back her weapons, and tells her to skedaddle. He also says that the next time they meet, one of them will probably die. Then she leaves the room to let the two angry men sort out their new problems.
WOWOWOWOW! Betrayals all over! Did you get the part where Gideon’s intended shuttle blew up? Does that mean it would have blown up with her on it? Who would want that? And we also learn that Colum and Silas are not really uncle and nephew, more like father and son. Serious daddy issues need to be attended to in the Eighth House.
What is Harrow going to do if she finds out Silas tried to steal their keys? Or worse, that Gideon went to him in the first place? And let’s not forget, what’s behind the door they unsealed, and who tried to keep them from it? Also, I have red hair – does that mean I’m from the Third House, too?
Tune in next time, when Gideon says, “What a long strange trip it’s bone.” 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.