Nona—unexpected but already wildly beloved star of Tamsyn Muir’s Nona the Ninth—has justified an entire new book between Harrow the Ninth and Alecto the Ninth. She seems to be posed like the Virgin Mary?! She has perhaps the most eclectic birthday party invite list known to man… Who is she?
No, seriously: Who. Is. She!? Every tidbit that Tordotcom Publishing and Tor.com have revealed—from Tommy Arnold’s cover to the Dramatis Personae to an excerpt of the first chapter—creates more questions than answers (though thank Jod we know where Gideon’s aviators wound up). So we’ve sifted through the fine bone dust of fan speculation, across Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit, in order to collect the most compelling theories as to Nona’s identity (identities?) and what to expect in the third Locked Tomb installment.
Potential spoilers for Harrow the Ninth, but let’s be real, this book is going to blow our minds regardless of what we go in thinking.
Nona Is Harrow (But Also Gideon?!)
Let’s get what seems to be the most prevalent theory out of the way first: Loads of readers, upon first glimpsing Nona’s smiley face, think that this sweet soon-to-be birthday girl is inhabiting Harrowhark’s body, or even might be amnesiac!Harrow. The Nona/Nonagesimus connection seems too obvious so as to be a red herring, and yet there were immediately tweets comparing the book covers, trying to discern if the bone structure matches once you take away the skull face-paint, ditto the build when you trade in the bone corset for a hamburger T-shirt.
Then cover artist Tommy Arnold confirmed that Nona has golden eyes…! Once the excerpt was released, it strengthened the Harrowbod theory: The hair that won’t stop growing seems a reference to Ianthe’s curse on Harrow’s hair in the last book; the food aversions also seem to point to Nonagesimus. Further intrigue comes from a Reddit post on r/TheNinthHouse, in which user Sea_Tune points out that Nona is a title within the Ninth House—the most recent (and eighty-seventh in history) Nona being our dear Harrowhark.
Yet Tumblr user oh-jesus-in-the-air suggests that Nona is a jumble of both Gideon and Harrow (Giddow? Harreon?), citing Nona’s food issues but also love of butt jokes. Especially in contrast to how Camilla and Palamedes are handling their own corporeal timeshare (more below), it would make a lot of sense that we’re witnessing two souls that can’t be separated out from one another.
One detail from the excerpt that seems to play into this theory is Nona’s dream that she dutifully recounts for Camilla:
“The painted face is on top of me. I’m in the safe water—I’m lying down, I think. Something’s pushing at me. The water goes over my head and it’s in my mouth. It goes up my nose.”
“Does it hurt?”
“How do you feel?”
“I like it. I like the water, I like her hands.”
“They’re the things around me—maybe they’re my hands.”
It sounds an awful lot like the pool scene from Gideon the Ninth, though it seems to be retold vaguely enough that Nona could have been seeing it through either Harrow or Gideon’s perspective. I’d say Gideon’s, owing to her initially thinking Harrow is drowning her, when instead she’s hugging her; but then again, it’s Harrow who can only tell the Ninth House’s secrets when immersed in saltwater…
Nona Is Alecto
Honorarycassowary on Tumblr throws a femur-shaped wrench into things with the notion that Nona’s body and/or mind could be Alecto, a.k.a. the Body, in Nona’s head. What if, they say, the “safe water” is the ice in which the Body is encased? And the painted face is child!Harrow looking down at her?
Relatedly, the Redditors at r/TheNinthHouse think that the poem snippet shared by Tordotcom Publishing on World Poetry Day is from Alecto’s POV, with Mighty_Hobo interpreting it as Alecto recalling what Jod (a.k.a. John) said upon putting her in the tomb:
You told me, Sleep, I’ll wake you in the morning.
I asked, What is morning? and you said,
When everyone who fucked with me is dead.
When everyone we loved has gone or fled,
That’s morning. Empty’s the same as clean.
Let’s put this first-draft dream of mine to bed.
There’s also the matter of Nona the Ninth becoming its own book when it was originally going to be the first act of Alecto the Ninth. So… Alectobod?
Nona Is Anastasia
But just because readers believe Nona is inhabiting one of the Ninth House scions doesn’t necessarily mean she’s them. One theory from terezis posits that she could be another mind entirely: Anastasia the First, failed Lyctor and founder of the Ninth House… but stricken with amnesia!
(I’ll confess that I briefly forgot who Anastasia was, and when I saw this being bandied about on Tumblr I thought people were joking about Nona being Anastasia Romanov—which, listen, John could have pulled any soul from humanity’s past, right? Plus, “nov”…!)
Nona Is the Rest of the Ninth House
If you want to read Nona not as a shortening of Nonagesimus but still referring to the Ninth House, reader abigail-pent suggests that Nona could be one of the 200 baby souls sacrificed to infuse Harrow with necromantic thanergy… or all 200 of them! Compared to the myriad (heh) of other single- or double-souled options it’s a long shot, and yet I could still easily see all that chaos existing in one body.
This is an intriguing detail I totally missed in the excerpt, that cannivalisms noted on Tumblr: At least four times in a short span, Nona’s third-person observations include lines that could be read as second-person:
She could not even make out a letter, not of any alphabet she’d ever been shown, which interested everyone except herself. But you could always trust Cam.
Ditto this, with technically two perspectives in the same sentence, if you’re (:wink emoji:) reading it that way:
You were allowed to put as much thin, fiery red sauce on them as you liked, but it wasn’t the taste Nona minded.
And so forth. While these could just be Nona speaking in the informal “you” about general statements (the other two lines are about best practices with showering and walking quietly), after the mind-blowing use of second-person in Harrow, readers are primed to read deeper meaning into these yous. Take the Cam comment—could that be Harrow reminding Gideon about how the fellow cavaliers, despite their drastically different fighting styles, wound up teaming up at Canaan House?
Who’s Who in Blood of Eden
The Blood of Eden folks listed in Nona’s Dramatis Personae, a.k.a. birthday party invite list, inspired some Redditors at r/Fantasy to try and guess their identities based on their titles. Phyrkraker suggests that “Cell Commander We Suffer and We Suffer” might be named for a line from Aeschylus’ tragedy Agamemnon, though the sentiment could apply to anyone over the last myriad: Justice turns the balance scales, sees that we and we suffer and we learn. And we will know the future when it comes.
Then there’s “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” who would seem to draw their moniker from an interdenominational hymn from 1851, which self-described “part-time church accompanist” curiouscat86 chimed in that the lyrics would make this BoE person sound like they were spouting pro-Emperor propaganda: hail him as thy matchless King / through all eternity…
I’ve also seen reader abigailpent suggest that Crown Him with Many Crowns might be Coronabeth Tridentarius, for the Crown/Corona connection. Though last we saw her and some of the other Canaan House scions they were certainly allied with BoE, it would be fascinating to see if they had actually attained titles within the organization.
Camilla and Palamedes Are Going to Get Tortured
Camillades? Pamilla? Tumblr user compelledduel makes a great argument that the Seventh House duo, currently sharing her body on a carefully calibrated timer system, are the most likely to be broken down in potential Blood of Eden torture. Pyrrha keeps talking in the excerpt about how BoE’s interrogation methods are like nothing else (requiring five years of training to withstand), so as compelledduel points out, it would be thematically gut-wrenching to watch Cam and Pal, who are working so hard to establish the divides between their minds and souls—unlike the absolute chaos of Gideon and Harrow trading off in the last book—have those barriers forcibly shattered.
And perhaps the most crucial theory out there…
Noodle Is Named for (No) Bones Day
Could Redditor karmicbias be right? Did Tamsyn Muir christen the six-legged dog that we would all die for after the TikTok pug whose Bones Day and No Bones Day pronouncements have become fitting moods for our pandemic lives? If it were just a matter of paying tribute to a beloved Internet animal, it’d be fifty/fifty odds—let’s not forget the amazing Miette homage in Harrow—but you can’t ignore the bones!
Whew, that’s a lot of assorted theory bones that may or may not add up to one or more plot skeletons! Which of these fan theories sound most believable to you? What do you think is going to happen in Nona that hasn’t been mentioned yet?
Nona the Ninth is available September 13th from Tordotcom Publishing.
Read an excerpt and peep the Dramatis Personae.
Natalie Zutter has delighted in comparing Gideon the Ninth to The Westing Game and in the fanfiction language of Harrow the Ninth, so she cannot wait to see what’s really going on in Nona. Talk Locked Tomb with her here and on Twitter!