SO MANY EMOTIONS. It’s time for another deep dive into Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and it’s so close to the end that I am having all the feels. I’m your host, Yosaffbridge, and today we are rooting around in chapters thirty-five and thirty-six of this kick-ass Locus Award-winning novel. Which is out in paperback, so your book group has no excuse not to read it now.
There are only four more chapters of Gideon left, so grab your blankie and some tissues, because this shit’s about to get feels. And, remember, there’s no party like a Gideon the Ninth discussion party, because a Gideon the Ninth discussion party has spoilers.
So in the last chapters, things really came to a head. Several heads, actually. Silas, Colum, and Naberius all went to the great body farm in the sky, and Ianthe turned to goo and is presumed missing, possibly forever. I bet none of you had “responsible party turns into a puddle at the end” on your bingo card, did you???
But wait, we still have four! more! chapters! Don’t forget, the Emperor’s shuttle is now on its way to the First House, having been the closest vessel to receive the S.O.S. sent by Captain Deuteros before she (presumably) died in chapter thirty-two.
And the action and reveals are going to keep steamrolling your brain in this chapter. After Ianthe pulls a Wicked Witch of the West, Gideon, Harrow, and Camilla leave Coronabeth in the room with her puddle-sister. That’s when they realize Palamedes is not among them. Gideon speculates that he went to make cow eyes at Lady Dulcinea, and that’s when Camilla, his cavalier, drops a surprising truth bomb: Palamedes is gaga for Lady Dulcinea. They’ve been pen pals for a dozen years, and he even pursued his work in science for her benefit.
Gideon is quite embarrassed. Here she was, making cow eyes at Lady Dulcinea, and Palamedes never mentioned that he was enamored with her. Nay, he even proposed, but she refused. Gideon handles all this information in the best way she can think of: she plops down face-first on the floor and lies there. And then after a bit of a hissy fit, and driven by a sense of guilt, she runs to find Palamedes and make sure he doesn’t hate her for trying to mack on his love.
Gideon finds Palamedes standing in the hallway outside Lady Dulcinea’s room, but when she attempts to approach him, he moves his hands and magicks her into a statue. He then enters Dulcinea’s room and Gideon overhears their conversation. At first they discuss their correspondence, but then Palamedes tells her he wants to ask her two questions. And it is clear from her answers that it was never Ianthe who killed the Fifth and hid the key in Abigail: it was Lady Dulcinea.
Or not Lady Dulcinea. Because it turns out, she’s an impostor. A sickly person from Seventh House who looks a lot like Lady Dulcinea, but is not actually her. The imposter killed Protesilaus, and the actual Lady Dulcinea: that’s the mystery body that the group found cremated on the terrace. Because no one had ever seen Lady Dulcinea in person before, Palamedes included, it was easy for the impostor to assume her role.
And as the villain is wont to do, she—let’s call her Not-Dulcinea—goes on about her nefarious plan: this isn’t about the heirs, or the Lyctorhood. It was a ploy to get the Emperor to come to her—for she is one of his Lyctors, from ten thousand years before. (I hope I look that good when I’m 10,000 years old.) Not-Dulcinea’s going to kill the remaining people in Canaan House to teach him a lesson, and she also tells Palamedes that he and the others should be grateful, because, to paraphrase, being a Lyctor sucks.
Palamedes is not afraid. In fact, he explains that while Not-Dulcinea was talking, he scanned her and figured out how to kill her. While Not-Dulcinea was revealing her master plan, Palamedes located the cancer in her blood and pushed along its inevitable conclusion, which ends in her death. Not-Dulcinea is all, “Nuh-uh, you can’t kill me just with that.” And Palamedes is all “KABLOOEY!” and uses his whole reserve of thanergy on her at once. Gideon is thrown free of her invisible bonds, and she hightails it out of there as Palamedes brings the room down around him and the Milli Vanilli Dulcinea.
Now, you’d think that blood cancer AND a building collapsing would be enough to kill you. But you’d be wrong. Because as Gideon tries to wrap her head around what just happened, a woman walks out of the ashes. Demented and sad, but still a woman. She’s approaching Gideon and she’s all burned and scraped. She’s wrapped in a bloody sheet and literally coughing up a lung, but she’s still alive and holding a rapier. And Not-Dulcinea explains there is no Dulcinea, only Zuul. She declares herself to be Cytherea the First, “Lyctor of the Great Resurrection, the seventh saint to serve the King Undying” and both a necromancer and a cavalier. (Oh, yeah, because I forgot to mention that she slurped up her cavalier’s soul to stay alive.) And she’s come home to kill the Emperor, but while she waits, she’s going to kill Gideon now.
And then…that’s the end of the chapter!
And now I’ll give you a moment to silence your cellphones and brace yourself mentally for the next chapter, because it’s a doozy. I’ll also take this time to point out that Cytherea is another name for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess associated with love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. Wild, right???
Okay, ready? Here we go…
And then BOOM goes Camilla! She hits Cytherea from the side, which should have knocked her down, but instead just kind of makes her stagger, and Camilla is immediately back on her, hitting at her with two knives, which Cytherea deflects with a shield of bone on her hand. Camilla is fighting with everything she has, but it’s no use, because Cytherea has started to envelope her in a bone-shard casing.
Gideon gets up to fight and at the same time, Harrow appears and starts working bone magic on Cytherea, attacking her with skeletons. They pile on one after another after another, burying Cytherea in a pile of bone. Harrow gets Gideon’s prized broadsword to her (“At last, my arm is complete again.” Which turns out to be just in time for Cytherea to explode from her bone prison and reemerge in the room. Man, this chick will not die! And this time, she’s brought an old friend out of the pile. It’s the giant spider-legged bone construct that killed Isaac. It’s looking to chew gum and kick ass, and it’s all out of gum. (Shut up, spider bone constructs could chew gum, you don’t know for sure.)
Harrow joins Gideon in front of the monster, and they hypothesize that they’re all about to die, but not before they really eff things up for Cytherea. Gideon grips her trusty broadsword, and together, she and Harrow begin to hack away at the construct with steel and magic. There are so many chips of bone flying now, it’s hard to see, but somewhere in there, Camilla is also attacking. And then Cytherea ambushes Gideon, who easily knocks her rapier out of her hands and flings her to the floor. But Cytherea is tricky, and shields herself again under bone before Gideon can finish her off.
The bone construct is starting to falter like an AT-AT wrapped in cable, and it tumbles to the floor, while still attempting to snag Harrow with its legs and tentacles. It’s obvious that they aren’t going to win by just banging away on it, so Harrow enters Gideon’s mind. Together, they move faster and smarter, and Gideon swings away, smashing legs and bones to pieces as Harrow’s skeletons jump all over the bone construct like undead helper monkeys. But then a piece of the construct grabs Gideon and whips her into the air like a clay pigeon. And as Gideon flies through the air like a surly baseball, she looks down on the fight and prepares to splat down on the floor. But then Harrow saves her by catching her with essentially a giant bone construct baseball glove.
With Gideon saved and the monster trapped under regenerating ash, Harrow faints dead away. Gideons sees that things are not going well for Cytherea, as Camilla stands behind her with a knife to her throat. But before she kills her, Gideon sees a tentacle headed straight for Camilla’s back and saves her spine when she yells. The bone-spear punctures her shoulder instead, but now she’s on the ground, being held in place by more and more bone. Cytherea picks up her rapier to kill Camilla, but as she raises it, a sword emerges from her belly.
Surprise! Puddle-Ianthe is back and she is pissed. She uses some of Cytherea’s blood to form a blood-shield around her and the old Lyctor. The spider-construct attacks, trying to get its master free, but every time it touches the shield, a bit of it dissolves. Cytherea frees herself of Ianthe’s sword, and now they’re going to fight. Gideon is wildly interested in seeing the two of them beat each other to a pulp, but her concern for Harrow and Camilla is greater, so she pulls the bone out of Camilla’s shoulder and drags her and an unconscious Harrow to safety.
Gideon tells Camilla her necromancer’s final words, and then they watch as Ianthe and Cytherea’s fight begins to bring the atrium down around them. Their battle is causing the very floor beneath them to crack, so Gideon is forced to move herself and her friends once again, this time outside the house. Cytherea is starting to literally fall apart, thanks to Palamedes and his cancer-advancing magic, which is still coursing through her. Ianthe takes this as a sign of weakness. Big mistake. HUGE.
As Ianthe approaches Cytherea for a final strike, the old Lyctor grabs Ianthe by the throat and begins to suck the life force out of her. Gideon attempts to attack Cytherea again, but Camilla beats her to it, by throwing a knife in Cytherea’s back. AND YET SHE STILL STANDS.
Cytherea is ready to fight Gideon again now, and Gideon welcomes it. She charges at Cytherea, but wouldn’t you know, the blows she lands that should cut her in half simply bounce off. She sticks Gideon in the arm and gets ready to finish her off, when up pops Harrow and her skeleton army again. Because no one gets to torment Griddle but her.
But Cytherea beckons her spider pet out of the rubble, and it’s looking like the battle is going to start over fresh. But just as the spider descends upon them, Harrow throws up a shield of bone to protect them. Harrow’s strength is failing, and Gideon tells her to siphon her soul. Harrow refuses and tells Gideon and Camilla to make a break for it by jumping into the sea. But Gideon refuses.
While the spider is chipping away at their shield, Harrow and Gideon share a mushy moment, because Gideon knows that there’s really nothing else for her to do except what she is about to do. She shares more tender words with Harrow, and then she runs and throws herself on iron spikes in the garden.
Yep. You read that right.
And the chapter ends.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. *SOB* What did Gideon just do?!? Is she alive? What the hell was she thinking??? MY FEELINGS. You have to read the last two chapters to find out if she’s alive. But just that part, with her and Harrow making all nice right before Gideon sacrifices herself, is such a kick in the heart.
What happens now? Where the hell is the Emperor? Cytherea’s still outside their shield somewhere. Who’s going to deal with her? Get yourself ready for the end of Gideon the Ninth when I return.