Hello again, readers! Can you believe that we’re getting so close to the end of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir?! I want it to go on forever. I’m your host, Mabel Pines and today we are going to roll around in chapters twenty-nine and thirty 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 can rip the pages out and eat them, and you’ll absorb the text directly to your brain if you need a fast way to catch up.*
*No, no you cannot.
Related: I finally watched the recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, and I enjoyed it so much. I really am a sucker for a locked room mystery, whether it involves poorly behaved British citizens or sword-wielding lesbians and bone constructs. I love the whole “the call is coming from inside the house” idea, where the person responsible has to be one of the people in the building claiming innocence. Unless someone else unknown is hiding there too…
So at the end of chapter twenty-eight, Silas was all like, “Gimme your keys or I’ll have Colum pound you into a pulp.” (I’m paraphrasing.) And Gideon was like, “Nuh-uh.” And Colum was like, “Yeah, what she said.” And then Colum let her leave the Eighth House quarters, even though he’s prolly in hella-trouble with his bratty uncle now.
So at the beginning of this new chapter, which is very teeny, Gideon is stunned by what just transpired, so she wanders around the halls of Canaan House. She comes upon Teacher by the empty fountain in the atrium. He tells her how much he hates water, and wishes they hadn’t filled the pool downstairs because water is a sign of ominous things to come. (Like people being made into pulp and fresh cremains isn’t?!? “Several people are dead.” “That’s fine.” “Here, have a glass of water.” “NOOOOOOOOOOO.”)
Gideon moves on in her travels and soon comes upon Coronabeth in the training room. Gideon is intrigued, because she’s never seen a necromancer wield a sword before. Coronabeth seems to have gone a little wild, because she draws on Gideon in a playful but also totally gonna fight way, and forces Gideon to draw and defend herself. Luckily, Naberius comes in and stops the stab-happy necromancer from getting any further into a fight.
Again, Gideon moves on from circumstances she doesn’t seem to be a part of or quite understand. This time, she heads back to the Ninth quarters. Harrow is not in the room, and Gideon uses this time alone to rifle through Harrow’s things. After all, she’s never really had the chance to do it before. And while she’s not as compelled to be destructive as she once was, Gideon is still interested enough to poke through them.
And that is how Gideon came to find a hidden box (“Awwwwwww, what’s in the box????”), in the bottom of the closet, containing the head of Protesilaus the Seventh.
(I mean, finding a head in a box is definitely a chapter ender, if I’ve ever read one. A literary golf clap, really.)
Didn’t see the end of the last chapter coming, did you? I must admit, the idea that Harrow could be the murderer never occurred to me the first time I read the book. I’m not saying now whether she is or isn’t, just that I hadn’t even considered it until Gideon found the unhappiest of Happy Meal toys in the box in the closet.
So now Gideon is not only sure about betraying Harrow, but starting to think she may be a rabid dog she’ll have to put down. She takes the head to the quarters of the Sixth House, where they invite her in and give her tea. (I’m pretty sure tea is the customary gift in space when someone presents you with a severed head.)
While Camilla goes off somewhere, Gideon and Palamedes discuss Harrow and the likeliness of her being a homicidal maniac. Palamedes says she shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but also, so what if she is? If Camilla was a murderer, he would help her hide the body. Gideon explains to him that she and Harrow have always had a tempestuous relationship, but does she think Harrow would murder other people besides her? She’s not sure. And why would Harrow have reason to murder Gideon. Oh, just because she killed Harrow’s parents, nbd.
Yep, Gideon claims she killed Harrow’s parents. She goes on to tell Palamedes their whole fraught history, how Harrow has tormented her from the get-go, for reasons Gideon doesn’t understand. And even though it was awful, Gideon craved her attention, as they were the only two children in the whole decrepit house. They fought and fought and fought, Harrow for sport and Gideon because she wanted to grow up to be a soldier.
By the time Harrow was ten, she had grown tired of playing with Gideon and became obsessed with what was behind the Locked Door of the Ninth House. Stories said that to even crack the door the slightest bit would kill the trespasser instantly, so no one could say what was beyond it. And Harrow wouldn’t rest until she found out.
Gideon, seeing a chance to finally get Harrow in trouble, ran to her parents and tattled out of some sense of loyalty and also because she wanted Harrow to get punished for once. They listened to Gideon, and then sent her away and called for Harrow. Gideon expected yelling and screaming to be coming from the room, but there was no sound. Not being able to stand it a second longer, Gideon opened the door to the royal chambers and found Harrow’s parents dead, hanging from the rafters, and Harrow standing by, holding a length of unused rope.
So Gideon didn’t technically kill Harrow’s parents, but she feels responsible for their deaths, because she tattled. Palamedes explains to her that isn’t how it works, that she couldn’t have known the outcome as an eleven-year-old, or even now. Cue Good Will Hunting Moment: It isn’t her fault.
Feeling emotional and grateful for Palamedes at the moment, Gideon chooses to show him the note she’s been carrying around in her pocket. (Remember, the one she found in that empty study-slash-living quarters?) He asks to keep it for a bit and swears not to tell anyone, and just at that moment, Camilla arrives back at the Sixth House quarters. With Harrow.
Harrow sees that the head of Protesilaus the Seventh is also in the room, and she tells Palamedes that she didn’t mean to, that his head simply fell off when she pushed. Whatever that means. They decide that they must gather whoever remains, and go and confront Lady Dulcinea. Gideon is quite confused about why, but off they go!
When everyone is gathered in Dulcinea’s hospital room, they present her with the head. (She doesn’t give them tea.) Dulcinea doesn’t seem the least bit surprised that his head has come off. Palamedes declares that Protesilaus the Seventh was dead when they arrived, and had been being kept alive “through deep flesh magic” and Dulcinea doesn’t deny it. She said that she wanted to represent her house, even if she was dying, and her cavalier had an unfortunate accident before they could make the journey. Silas the Eighth condemns her dark magic, and Dulcinea in turn tells him to suck an egg, she knows the Emperor doesn’t approve of soul siphoning, either.
Silas wants to leave, but Colum speaks up and asks about the rest of Protesilaus the Seventh’s body. Harrow confesses to finding Protesilaus dead and taking his head, but said she left the body, which has subsequently disappeared. Silas goes off to try and work out who was turned into ashes. Gideon notices Palamedes kiss Dulcinea’s hand as she has a coughing fit, and Judith tells Teacher they need to send her home. He tells her it isn’t possible. Everyone has to stay until the end. Miffed, the Second take their leave of the room.
Palamedes explains that Dulcinea does not have very much time left. Teacher volunteers to stay with her, as he doesn’t have much going on, but tells the remaining adepts that they still have work to do. So off they all go.
Well, that ending is not nearly as exciting as the last one, but no ending can top a head in a box, amirite? So we learned that not only did Dulcinea arrive deathly ill, but her cavalier was in even worse condition. No one knows still who killed the Fifth, or Jeannemary, or where Protesilaus’s body went, but more mysteries will be solved soon. Harrow being responsible still isn’t off the table. And like an Agatha Christie novel, you should never rule anyone out.
Only eight chapters left! As always, thanks for reading. It is immense fun to type these. Tune in next in two weeks for a close read of chapters thirty-one and thirty-two, where all will be revealed.*
*No, no it won’t.
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.