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Stars: 4 our of 5.
This was a very bizarre book set in a weird world, and I loved every minute of it! A one sentence summary for this story would be – Necromancers in Space, but that doesn’t do this book justice.
I came into this book with no small amount of trepidation, because opinions were very divided about it amongst my Goodreads friends. Some adored it, some couldn’t stand it, some DNFed it halfway through. I now can proudly admit that I am in the “adored it” camp.
I think the biggest surprise for me was just how attached I grew to all the characters. I grew to love all of the necromancers of various houses and their cavaliers. It was interesting to observe their interactions as well as ties that kept the different pairs together. And some of the characters I even enjoyed hating, like the unbending militaristic Second house, or the scheming Eight.
The slower pace of the book in the first half helped create that effect – the author takes her time first showing us the abysmal life that Gideon lived in the Ninth house, and the decrepitude it was slowly falling into. That way I clearly understood why Harrow was so desperate to answer the summons, or why Gideon would agree to come along, even though she hated her guts.
By taking time to introduce us to the different characters and explore the strange palace they find themselves in, the author makes us care for everyone. Even Teacher with his perpetual good humor. So when the horrors start happening and the first deaths occur, it hits the reader like a punch in the gut. Especially since it happens to the characters that are the most sympathetic of them all.
The ending is also heartbreaking. I wanted so badly for Gideon to finally break free from the clutches of the Ninth house. I’m glad that her and Harrow finally aired all their grievances and made piece before the final confrontation with the big bad of the book. So Gideon’s sacrifice came as a natural conclusion of that story. It made sense. It was the only way Gideon could act at that time. It was still heartbreaking.
I wish we got a few more answers by the end of this book. Where did Gideon come from? Why was there mentions of her name in this palace? Why can’t the Emperor set foot on the planet again? What was the force lurking beneath the place that Teacher was so afraid of? I doubt we will ever get the answers to these questions now, since this story seems over.
I will however continue with this series because I want to know what force in the galaxy is more terrifying than a whole empire of necromancers.