Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1), by Leigh Bardugo

ninth house leigh bardugo

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Urban Fantasy, Dark Academia


Alex Stern has the opportunity of a lifetime to study at Yale if she accepts to work for Lethe. She is able to see ghosts, which is an ability unheard of by Lethe members, and this is why they want her. She knows the offer is too good to be true, but she just cannot refuse: after being the sole survivor of a brutal attack and almost dying from overdosing, she must find a way out. Lethe wants her to keep out the ghosts that threaten to disrupt the magic societies like Lethe itself work with on the underground of Yale. But the magic she witnesses is never lovely and beautiful like she dreamed – it’s brutal and bloody. And when a murdered girl shows up and nobody seems to want her to investigate, she knows what she must do, although she doesn’t know what it might cost her.

This was such an addictive book, and it flew by so quickly despite its size. It’s a perfect companion if you’re looking for a dark story with mystery, magic, ghosts and lots of murder. I actually miss reading it right now!

It is a rather gruesome story, with lots of drug abuse, murder, mentions of rape and other forms of abuse – the trigger warnings for this book go on and on. I did not find it too gruesome (for example, not grimdark), meaning, I never felt like I needed to stop and take a break from reading because it was just too much – the scenes come and go, mixed in with so many thrilling plot twists that they don’t linger in your mind too much, or too vividly. That of course was my personal experience, and I recommend potential readers be mindful of their own limits: if for example Jade City was okay for you, this is probably going to be okay too, and it’s not as gruesome as The Poppy War, for example.

Alex is a fantastic character, I loved how unreliable she was, how easily she lied her way out of things and how she was loyal to the bone, but also ready to do whatever it takes to stay alive. While the book itself did not feel entirely new (University with secret societies, dark magic being practiced, girl who is special but does not entirely belong), it gave a sense of familiarity that was actually nice, like reading a story you already read many years ago and loved, but don’t remember the details anymore. I found the plot really intriguing and addictive to read, even when it slowed down.

What I enjoyed a bit less was that the book starts with a teaser on what happens later on, if you pay enough attention to the beginning of the story you kind of imagine what will happen, because of the prologue, which I thought spoiled it a little. I just didn’t see the point of it. Otherwise, the book brings a lot of impact and plot twists, but sometimes they lose power if you’re familiar with the genre and kind of know where this is going. I wished the whole book had been a little bit more unpredictable.

I loved reading this and it made my otherwise hectic and stressful week much better. I highly recommend this book if you are okay with the trigger warnings! If you’re reading this because you loved Six of Crows, though, maybe check that this kind of urban fiction, with dark academia and lots of trigger warnings is okay for you! It’s a very different book from the Grisha series, and it is nice to see Leigh Bardugo write such different stories.

I cannot wait for 2021 and book two!

5 thoughts on “Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1), by Leigh Bardugo

  1. Ah, I hate when prologues spoil things! But otherwise this does sound good! I am planning to read it eventually, but want to catch up on a couple of other adult fantasies before I get to this one. And I’m fine with waiting for the drama over all the trigger warnings to die down… I’m definitely encouraged by the fact that you liked this one, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know if the prologue is a particular pet peeve of mine or if other people feel the same way, but most of the time I detest prologues! Oh gosh, the usual drama when a woman write Adult Fiction and everyone assumes it is a sweet, cuddly YA and are hit on the face with adult content. I hope it dies down soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t always mind prologues, but they do often flash ahead, which is when they don’t work for me as well. I don’t want to be spoiled in the first pages! I don’t even like having the synopsis fresh in my mind when I start a book anymore…

        The reactions to this one really have been ridiculous! And she was very upfront about it being an adult book, too. Ugh.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Sunday Snuggle W49/2019: Weekly Wrap Up | Naty's Bookshelf

  3. Pingback: Final Thoughts on the Women’s Prize Squad Longlist (Book Blogger Edition) | Naty's Bookshelf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s