Hello again, readers! It’s time for me to jump up and down and wave my arms about Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I’m your host, Ice Bear, and today we are diving deep into chapters thirty-three and thirty-four of this kick-ass Locus Award-winning novel. Because 1) It’s the bee’s knees, the snake’s hips, and the cat’s particulars and 2) It’s getting close to the release of Harrow the Ninth. There are only six more chapters of Gideon left for us to discuss, so let’s get right to it! These are teeny chapters but oh-so-important to the story. But remember, here be spoilers.
When we last left our motley crew of necromancers and cavaliers, a lot of bloodshed had just occurred. All three of the First House priests, including Teacher, were slain, and Captain Deuteros and Dyas of the First House were killed as well. But not before Captain Deuteros got an SOS message off to the closest ship, which happened to be the Emperor’s shuttle. So now Daddy’s on his way home, and the remaining nine players in the game are still no closer to understanding exactly what is going on in Canaan House. (I mistakenly forgot the Third House when I was counting remaining players last time. I blame 2020 brain.)
So, as Gideon, Harrow, Camilla, and Palamedes stand outside Teacher’s quarters, trying to make sense of what they’ve just seen, Silas and Colum of the Eight House roll up like the villainous dudebros in 80s films. He informs them that the Third House was seen leaving the morgue this morning, and have not been seen since. Which means they are most likely responsible for what he’s about to show them. Silas tells them something has been done to Lady Abigail’s body, and they all follow him to the morgue to check it out. Worst. Field trip. Ever.
At the morgue, they discover Abigail’s corpse where they left it, but now it has a big hole in her abdomen, and Palamedes uses his witchy talents and ascertains that something has been removed from her body cavity.
Something metal, to be exact. Let’s see, what in the house was made of metal and could be hidden in a body? If you guessed ‘key’, you got it in one!
And now it’s time for the ‘A-HA!’ moment! Palamedes spouts hindsight, realizing that Lady Abigail most likely had the key before she was killed that first night of the challenge. She may have hidden it herself, but it’s hard to perform surgery on yourself while you’re rushing to get back to your room, let alone when the conditions are perfect, even when immortality is on the line. No, most likely, the person or persons who killed her stuck the key in her side. This means there’s still a key out there, and the group pauses to count keys and doors again. (There’s a lot of counting in this book. And here you are thinking you’d never need math after school.)
Silas had taken a lot of keys from different houses, but hadn’t tried all the doors. Palamedes is sure he knows which door the missing key will open. Colum is the first to voice that the cremains they found in the incinerator must be those of Protesilaus the Seventh, just like they originally thought. Minus his head, of course, which ended up as the world’s most unfortunate handbag in Harrow’s closet. But they were only half the cremains found—the group still doesn’t know who the other set belonged to.
Palamedes is like, “If we got a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.” So now the six of them are now off to find the—they’re assuming—murderous little Third House teenagers, to learn what they’ve found before it’s lacy, gently wafting curtains for them all.
As the six of them make their way through the house, it’s beginning to look more and more like King’s Landing, post-dragon fire. There are little piles of skeleton servant ashes all over. Ten thousand years of bone constructs, now reduced to icky dust bunnies.
The group arrives at the intimidating Lyctor door they had tangled with once before. Remember in chapter twenty-seven, when they investigate a door hidden behind a picture and the keyhole is filled with regenerating ash? That door. But this time, they have no problem opening the door, because the key is literally in the lock. And quick as you can yell, “IT’S A TRAP,” they’re inside.
This isn’t a laboratory, like most of the rooms hidden behind doors in the First House. This room is another apartment-type lodging, with painted paneling and desks and pens and books, and a fridge and mattresses. But someone had painted ‘YOU LIED TO US’ on the wall in large letters. (Not Comic sans, thank gods.) They can hear someone weeping. And there, reclining in the middle of the room like a blood-splattered queen, is Ianthe. It’s some Event Horizon-type freakiness. But she is not the source of the weeping. That honor goes to her twin sister, Coronabeth, who is crying over the body of their cavalier, Naberius Tern.
Ianthe informs them that she killed him. And, oh yeah, bee tee dubs, she won. She’s not exactly keeping it together. Her teeth are chattering, and she moans in pain, and spits smoking blood onto the floor. But that doesn’t keep her from explaining how she defeated them, like a blood-soaked Bond villain. Harrow figures out that Ianthe is an occultist. She has been studying the place between life and death, but as she starts explaining how she figured out the secret of the house, the irises disappear from her eyeballs. (We’ve all been there, am I right?)
It’s obvious something wild is happening to Ianthe. Her whole orbs turn blue and brown and purple. The others start spreading out around the room as Ianthe talks of soul preservation and the megatheorem that Palamedes had disregarded as ‘ghastly and obvious.’ Ianthe goes on: if once there were sixteen Lyctors and then suddenly, there were eight, what happened to the other eight? It’s simple, she explains, it’s the same thing that happened to Naberius: they were eaten. She has stabbed him with a sword to pin his soul in place, and she will now be able to feast on it like an all-you-can-eat soul buffet.
Ianthe begins to get annoyed with the others, and starts to glow like a lightbulb. Sila asks Coronabeth to confirm that what Ianthe is saying is true, but Ianthe interrupts him to tell him he’s wasting his breath. Because Coronabeth has a secret: she’s not a necromancer. She’s Ianthe’s twin, but without any power, so they told their father they both had the gift to keep from being separated. And now it’s come back to bite Naberius on the soul.
Silas is all, “Well, if this is Lyctorhood, eating the dead indefinitely, I am sorry I tried to pledge this undead frat. And you are a naughty monkey, Ianthe, so now you must die.” I’m paraphrasing a bit. But you get the idea. Silas is super-embarrassed to have been a part of the heresy of First House, and he’s going to have Colum kill Ianthe to keep their ordeal from getting out.
No one else thinks this is a good idea, except for Colum, who is upon Ianthe and strikes her with his sword. But they are forgetting that she is now magically delicious, strung out on the soul of her cavalier, and she is easily able to grab a sword and defend herself, using Naberius’s moves. But the sword is too heavy for Ianthe’s small arms, and Colum manages to kick it out of her hands. So instead, she magicks herself behind a bubbling layer of flesh and fat that deflects the blows of Colum’s sword.
Harrow tells Gideon not to get near the flesh-shield thingy, which is holding under Colum’s attack. Silas realizes Colum’s sword will never get through, so decides to siphon his soul to fight Ianthe instead. Colum is pissed but Silas does it anyway. He lays his hands upon the flesh-mass guarding Ianthe, and it sizzles and pops like bacon, and suddenly she is before them again, screaming with many voices. And she immediately jumps into another melted flesh puddle, disappearing like an undead fox down a hole.
Silas leans down and sticks his hand in the Ianthe puddle. Say it with me now: “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT, SILAS?!?” Sure enough, Ianthe reaches a hand back out, Jason Voorhees-style, and pulls Silas into the flesh-stain with her. The ceiling immediately opens up and spits them back into the room, all gore-covered and knocked about.
Silas continues to try and drain her of power while Colum again tries to strike her down with his sword, but Ianthe keeps shaking off their efforts. The blood all over the room evaporates, like some self-cleaning oven in Hell, but as soon as it disappears, they draw more from her. Ianthe is starting to wear down and age before them, but so is Colum. Silas’ soul-sucking has taken a deathly toll on him. His eyes turn black and his head turns on his neck, Exorcist-style. The Colum that was in there is gone, and though Silas pleads for him to return to himself, Colum instead chooses to stab Silas through the throat. (Really, who didn’t want to do that?)
Now, up until this point, everyone else has been hanging back. But you know how much Gideon loves a fight, even if it’s the end times. She draws her rapier and attacks the Artist Formerly Known as Colum. It swats her off like a fly. Its eyeballs are gone and there are lots of teeth and tongues sprouting up and they wrap around Gideon’s throat and –
Ianthe snaps its neck. And with a quick quip about not being the worst thing in the building, she steps into another puddle of gore and disappears. Gideon moves to Coronabeth, who collapses in her arms and cries and cries and cries.
Annnnnnnnnd scene! Chapter thirty-five is INTENSE. Mood-changing eyeballs and gore portals (goretals?) and more deaths, oh my! Three more characters joined the dead in this chapter: pour one out for Silas, Colum, and Naberius. That leaves—and I double-checked my work this time
around—Gideon, Harrow, Camila, Palamedes, Coronabeth, Lady Dulcinea, and Ianthe the Wonder Puddle.
There are a million reasons that I love this book. One of the big ones is how easily Tamsyn Muir conjures up these action scenes with words. This is stuff you watch in video games and horror films, and as I read this novel, it was all being projected so brilliantly onto my brain screen. I had no trouble following along as the characters slashed and bubbled and screamed around the room.
There are four chapters left. The Emperor’s arrival is imminent, and Ianthe is on the loose in the house, presumably. Plus, we didn’t get to see Lady Dulcinea in these two chapters, so we still need the end of her story. And the remaining adepts need to get off the First House planet. (Don’t forget, their shuttles were pushed off the landing the night of their arrival.) Will any of this happen in the next two chapters? Ice Bear is not going to tell. You’ll have to tune into the next necro-adventures. Until then, stay cool and safe!
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.