Hello again, readers! It’s time once again for me to make word salad over Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. We are getting sooooo close to the end—I hope you are prepared. I’m your host, Princess Dragomiroff, and today we are diving deep into chapters thirty-one and thirty-two of this kick-ass Hugo and Nebula-nominated novel. So gird your longswords, because it’s a lengthy one today!
The last time we chatted, things were decidedly still un-good. Gideon was in the middle of betraying Harrow and found Protesilaus the Seventh’s head in the bottom of Harrow’s closet; Lady Dulcinea admitted that he was already dead before they even got there, and she also had a terrible coughing fit and is close to death; we found out that Gideon had a role in the deaths of Harrow’s parents; and Teacher tells them it is impossible for them to call off the challenge and leave the First House, even if it might mean certain death for all of them.
So now we start this chapter with a bunch of people, some in possession of swords, some in possession of magic, and all of them nervous. Harrow asks Gideon to come with her, and even says “please,” so you know Hell has frozen over. Harrow leads Gideon to the atrium with the pool, and then conjures several skeletons to keep anyone from getting in the room and interrupting them. (Or is she trying to keep Gideon from leaving? Hmmmm.)
Harrow tells Gideon that the time has come for her to tell her everything. Everything. So she starts: “In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max’s toupee and I glued it on my face…”
Just kidding. Those are Chunk’s confessions. No, Harrow tells Gideon she’s going to explain everything, but first insists they get in the pool. Gideon is like “ummmmmm” but when she sees Harrow getting ready to walk in fully dressed, Gideon goes for it, and jumps in too. Is this a trick? No, it’s for a good reason: No one can discuss the Ninth House secret without first being submerged in salt water. Although that reason is still—wait for it—cloudy.
Harrow tells Gideon she knew Protesilaus the Seventh was an undead puppet from the start, because she has a lot of experience maneuvering dead meat bags, what with her manipulating her parents’ corpses for so long. Gideon is all, “Mmmkay, but why let us go look for him and risk the lives of the Fourth if you already knew he was dead?”
To which Harrow explains that at that time, she thought Sextus and Septimus were the danger, so she was trying to be noble and get them away so she herself could take on the danger. But as we know, that plan failed, because Issac ended up as a bone construct kebab, and Jeannemary was murdered in the bed of the hidden apartment while Gideon slept. Oops.
Harrow also thought that Gideon’s heart was already lost to Lady Dulcinea, what with her making puppy dog eyes at her all the time, and Harrow worried that if she told Gideon that she knew Protesilaus the Seventh was dead, Gideon would tell the Seventh necromancer immediately.
Gideon says that’s all fine and dandy, but when she found the head in the closet, she thought Harrow was responsible for all the killings and came very close to just attempting to do away with Harrow with her sword. So she dodged that bullet. Er, blade.
So, the question remains: If Harrow isn’t the killer, who is responsible for all the deaths? Harrow goes through the logical conclusions about the House: if the killer or killers are not something supernatural or something to do with the game, and are in fact one of the adepts, the evidence would point to Palamedes and Camilla. Or Teacher. But the motives are missing.
Gideon realizes that they’re in truth-telling mode, and asks Harrow an unrelated question: What killed all those Ninth House kids all those years ago? (Remember how we learned early on that all the children in the Ninth House were dead except Gideon and Harrow?) Harrow gives Gideon—and us, finally!—the answer, and wow, is it so. much. worse. than I expected. The 200 children died because a sacrifice was needed in order for Harrow’s mother to conceive a necromancer, aka, Harrow. TL;DR: the Ninth House did away with 200 kids so the royal family would birth a fancy-ass baby.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Here’s Gideon, wondering why she was the only one who wasn’t subjected to the poison that killed all the other children, but in fact, she wasn’t left out—it just didn’t kill her. And that’s why Harrow’s parents behaved strangely around her, which resulted in the whole Ninth House behaving strangely around her: because she survived.
Does Harrow think she is worth the lives of 200 children? Nope, not at all. She is an abomination. But because of her parents’ horrific crime, only Harrow herself is able to roll away the stone and learn the secrets of the Locked Tomb. And that’s what she did, when she was ten, and it horrified her parents so badly that they could no longer stand to live.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Just when you think it wasn’t horrible enough for Harrow to know she lived at the expense of 200 hundred other children, AND that walking into the Locked Tomb not only didn’t kill her like her parents said it would but instead frightened them so much that that they chose to die by suicide, but—and holy cats—we also learn she was supposed to die with them and changed her mind at the last minute.
So that is why Harrow has been angry at Gideon for all these years. Not because she tattled on Harrow for going into the Locked Tomb, but that Gideon entered the room and saw that Harrow didn’t go through with her parents’ pact. When Gideon tells Harrow she’s sorry that it happened, she gets to see a glimpse of the Harrow she has known her whole life. Harrow is furious that Gideon apologizes and shows her pity when Harrow has spent the last ten years making Gideon miserable. She’s all, “HOW DARE.” Harrow says Gideon should kill her and instead, Gideon gives her a hug. And not like a “Jon Snow in the last episode of Game of Thrones” hug that ends with a stab. (Spoiler?) No, Gideon doesn’t put this mad dog down. Sure, Harrow thrashes around a bit because “ew, hug,” but in the end, they wind up cuddled together in the pool.
After a while, Harrow asks Gideon to promise her that if she dies, Gideon will go back to the Ninth House and protect the Locked Tomb. Now, here’s what we know about the Locked Tomb: it supposedly houses the true enemy of the King Undying, who he had defeated twice, and then locked the beast’s corpse away in the tomb. The king’s servants who built the tomb were supposed to brick themselves up inside the tomb with the beast, but they were all “Nuh-uh” when the time came, and that is how the Ninth House was started.
Over time, it was said that anyone who went into the tomb would unleash the apocalypse, but then ten-year-old Harrow was like, “Yo, I’m really happy for you, and I’mma let you finish, but first I want to say that I had the greatest Locked Tomb experience of all time.” So there went that theory.
But Harrow explains that it is indeed very difficult to traverse, and a lesser mortal could certainly trip the apocalyptic booby traps. But Harrow, being made of the souls of 200 children, managed to get past them all, and what she found behind all the doors and wards of the Locked Tomb was… a girl.
Yep, behind all the lore and the magic, is the corpse of a young girl, encased in ice. I mean, children are beasts, but this is certainly not the beast Harrow was expecting. She went in thinking she’d find Zuul and instead found this ice pop. And something about icy Elsa’s face made Harrow want to live forever. Hence, here they are now, fighting to gain immortality at the side of the Emperor.
Fast forward to the Ninth’s quarters in the Canaan House: Harrow and Gideon are now in their beds, getting ready to sleep, and Gideon decides to try and get more truth out of Harrow, so she asks her if the bomb in the shuttle that killed Ortus and his mother was intended for her. And Harrow explains that it was the vengeful Crux—remember him, the marshal of the Ninth House?—who blew up the shuttle rather than allow anyone to escape and have the rest of the Houses hear a whisper of insurrection.
And with that question answered, Gideon sleeps.
So now Gideon and Harrow are standing in front of a locked Lyctoral door with Palamedes and Camilla. The Sixth wants to go in, but Harrow says they don’t have permission. Palamedes politely disagrees, and explains that he has completed this challenge, but that Lady Dulcinea had the key which now is in the possession of the Eighth House, who isn’t going to hand it over.
So they do what any normal person would do: Harrow read’s Palamedes’ mind and conjures up a new key from the image she finds there. Simple, right? That’s totally what I would have done. Palamedes acts like this is the easiest option in the world, but when the key actually unlocks the door, he confesses he didn’t actually think it would work.
The four of them enter the room behind the door, which appears to be another laboratory, but this one is a huge mess. Everything is a wreck, either moldy or rusty, and papers are strewn all around. Palamedes tells them the last time he was here, there was a locked box with a molar beside it. Because that’s not creepy at all. He learned everything he could about the tooth, including the fact that its owner died in that very tower.
Using good old-fashioned detective work, Palamedes soon located the skeleton with the missing molar, and long story short, the skeleton’s clavicle unlocked the box. Three guesses what was in it. That’s right—nothing. What he did learn from all this is that the skeleton’s in Canaan House are not reanimated, they’re inhabited by ghosts. Which is way creepier. And they are currently standing in the laboratory of the Lyctor who created these self-automated ghost skeletons. And the theorem that brought them about is there on a stone tablet for them to see, along with another creepy tooth, and lots and lots of notes.
Now here comes a kicker! In looking through the pages of notes on these haunted bone puppets, they find a photo of someone they recognize: Teacher. But before they have time to theorize on they how and why of him, an alarm goes off, indicating that there is a fire in the First House. Fire is no joke, so the four of them sprint for the exits.
But as they run, they smell no smoke and see no flames. But what does happen is the sprinklers turn on and melt all the house skeletons to ash. All those helpful bone servants are now reduced to an ashy mess all over the house.
Welp. Did someone realize they were getting close to the truth and decide to make bone soup? If so, who did it? Whatever just happened, they realize the danger and rush to Lady Dulcinea’s room, where they find her feeble but alive, and one of the priests dead in the chair next to her bed. She doesn’t know what happened to the priest but tells them Teacher left her room an hour ago.
They leave her alone (well, alone + one corpse) and head to the wing where Teacher lives, tripping over the other dead priest on the way. There’s a pile of bones in the entryway to the priests’ quarters, and when they kick open the door, they find even more carnage. Captain Deuteros is in a chair with a bone shard in her guts, and Teacher is dead beside her, stuck through with a rapier and a dagger. Dyas, the captain’s cavalier, is also dead. The captain explains that she disobeyed Teacher and sent an SOS. So the priest killed her cavalier and attacked her for her insubordination.
Palamedes explains that Teacher was filled with the souls of a hundred people and was probably created to protect the House. He also doesn’t think he killed the Fourth and Fifth House members. Captain Deuteros knows that she has little time left to live, and tells them that the only ship she was able to flag for help was the Emperor’s ship, which is now on its way to the Canaan House.
Yep, Daddy’s on his way home.
And that’s the end of chapter thirty-two! It is assumed that Captain Deuteros dies shortly after this, next to the body of her beloved cavalier. There was so much carnage in this one! Really, it’s amazing there are still people left to kill. So let’s tally up the living at this point: There’s Gideon and Harrow of the Ninth House, Camilla and Palamedes of the Sixth House, Lady Dulcinea of the Seventh House, and Silas and Colum of the Eight House.
Only seven people left. Is one or more of them responsible for the murders of the Fourth and Fifth House, or do you think someone else is hiding in the house? Do you think Teacher is really dead? And forgetting all the stuff at the house, who do you think is in the ice block in the Locked Tomb, and is SHE really dead? You can’t be too sure in this book. Also: WTF is up with Gideon surviving the poisoning? WHERE DID SHE REALLY COME FROM??! If you haven’t considered it yet, think about this: we only have Gideon’s story about her mother to go by, but what if the woman they found in the shaft with baby Gideon wasn’t her mother. Let your brain chew on that for a while!
Well, that’s all the time I have for blood and death today. We still have six chapters to go! I’ll be back in two weeks with (maybe) more answers for you as we count down the weeks until the release of Harrow the Ninth! It’s only two-ish months away now. (Yes, I have read it and yes, omfg, it’s so good!) Until then, be sure to eat your cereal with a bone fork and do your homework in the abyss.
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.