Sunday, September 18, 2022

Book Review: Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is the third book in The Locked Tomb series. This has been highly anticipated by fans all around. The series merges science fiction, fantasy, horror, with a splash of comedy and romance. It is weird and engaging in so many odd ways. The blurb for this one is pretty unusual as well, though it gets the point across:

Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona's not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger's body, and she's afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face...

Read on for my spoiler-free review; spoilers for the prior books (Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth) may be present, though.

Overall Impression

This was a pretty neat book and a good follow up to the series. While I missed having Gideon and Harrow, Nona is an interesting mystery and trying to figure her out is part of the fun of this book. It does start off a bit slow, but towards the end it is rushing and almost too much is going on to fully follow it all. This is one I will have to re-read when the next (yes there is a fourth) book comes out.


Unlike the other books in this series, this one starts of a bit slow, going through Nona's basic life. Nona goes to school, Nona goes to the beach, Nona has breakfast. Little by little the story opens up and while we only see it from Nona's limited point of view, you can still make the connections to all the other characters we know.

In between the Nona parts there are some very short chapters of a dream sequence with John, the Emperor. In these we get to see brief snippets of life before the Resurrection leading up to how necromancy was discovered and how John became God. It is very fascinating, though I may need a re-read before I fully understand how it all went down.


Nona is absolutely central to this story and the whole story resolves around her. Despite being in the body of Harrow with Gideon's eyes, and thus about 18 or 19 years old, she is incredibly young and innocent. She is only 6 months old with a mixed bag of skills; for example, she can't read or write but can understand and speak any language; her lack of knowledge at one thing leads to a revelation of deep insights in another. Is she Harrow? Gideon? Someone else? Figuring out what and who she is is the whole point of the book. In addition to this, we get to various necromancers, cavaliers, Lyctors, and members of the revolutionary group Blood of Eden, all of them through Nona's eyes. 

Setting / World Building

This book was full of neat information about the world in this series, though not as much about the magic. We get to see how people live outside the Houses and the Empire. There are cars and cities and guns and overall looks a bit apocalyptic, but otherwise recognizable. This, however, is in another planet somewhere in the galaxy, with some hot temperatures and an unusual blue light that has people using blackout curtains and avoiding it. There is also a lot of fear and prejudice against the "zombies", or anyone from the Nine Houses. A lot of the characters surrounding Nona are from the Houses and such are essentially in hiding.

The brief bits with John in the dream are even more illuminating. They start off in a research group on Earth in the midst of some kind of ecological disaster that is prompting preparations to leave it. Cue in the inevitable bureaucracy and capitalisms and we get tensions between scientists trying to figure things out and policy makers trying to get an advantage. It's a little depressing until the magic really kicks in, though even then, we're left with more questions than when we started.

Final Thoughts

This was a great addition to The Locked Tomb series, offering some interesting views into both civilian life outside the necromantic Houses as well as brief glimpses as the Resurrection. Nona is a fun character, but there were a lot of mysteries still unresolved by the end of the book. Maybe I read it too fast, but I didn't fully understand many aspects both to Nona and to the pre-Resurrection details. That would be my only drawback to this- while the characters and story are fun, there is a lot of magic and mystery that is somewhat hard to follow. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to Alecto the Ninth to see all hell break loose!

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