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

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Well, this was a colossal waste of time. It pains me to say that, but Ninth House was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not even come close to meeting my expectations. I’m going to go the list route for the rest of this review.

-Let’s talk about those expectations. Ninth House is Bardugo’s first adult novel. However, it pretty much read exactly like all of her YA novels. Plus, it’s set in a college, so the main character is a freshman (though she’s 20 instead of 18, so I guess that’s supposed to make her more adult?) and it still follows a basic YA formula – the dumb adult doesn’t listen to the young main character’s concerns, so she goes behind their backs to figure things out on her own.

-Almost every review I’ve read described this book as DARK, but it wasn’t really. Maybe slightly darker than her YA novels, but if we’re comparing to similar adult novels, I wouldn’t describe it that way. It wasn’t even very creepy, which was disappointing.

-If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen some trigger warnings and debates about a rape scene. I was really preparing myself for something graphic and horrible and don’t get me wrong, it’s a sensitive subject and is always awful to read. But the scene was very brief and not graphic and didn’t leave much of a lasting impact. I don’t think there needed to be that much of a fuss kicked up over it. I also don’t think it was necessary to include in the story since there were other traumatic things that happened to her that had a bigger impact on the overall story.

-This book was several hundred pages longer than it needed to be. It took over 300 pages for the plot to actually move forward. Before that, the book is mostly made up with descriptions of Yale, New Haven, magic, and the secret societies. It was really a chore to get through and I almost DNF-ed it so many times, but I pressed on because it was Leigh Bardugo and I thought she would pull through in the end. I wish I would’ve DNF-ed it.

-I was really interested in the whole secret society subject. When I first started reading, it reminded me a little bit of the movie The Skulls which was one of my favorite movies as a teenager. However, the societies never really lived up to their potential. They ended up coming across as nothing more than boring covens.

-The characters weren’t really that likable. I don’t know how the author that brought us characters like Kaz Brekker and Sturmhond/Nikolai could fill this book with such flat, forgettable characters. I feel like all of her energy and attention went into creating the atmosphere and the magic and the characters were left as afterthoughts. While Darlington was my favorite character of the book, I found myself wanting to like him, more than I actually liked him.

-The story did start to pick up for me towards the end, where there was actual plot that focused on the murder mystery and I even started to enjoy it a little bit. However, the ending made me really not want to read the next book. It’s something straight out of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and was such a lame way to end the story.

Overall, Ninth House left me incredibly disappointed. It focused way too much on the “let me show off the research I did for this book” descriptions and not enough on plot or on creating credible, likable characters. I am obviously in the minority here, though, so fans of Bardugo might find it much more enjoyable than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

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

  1. OH. MY. GOODNESS. THANK YOU! My blog partner loved this book and I couldn’t even get half way through it. I wanted to love it, but it really fell flat! Great review!

  2. To be honest, I hadn’t read the blurb of this book until I read your review. I just saw Leigh Bardugo and thought Grisha universe. After reading the blurb I thought it might be one I would read…Then I read your review. I’m sorry it was a waste of your time. Reading your points I get why it was. It sounds like it was a YA trying to be adult and maybe the people who thought it was dark were YA readers who haven’t read dark thrillers? I don’t think I would be able to handle the slowness and descriptions, so I will have to pass. Great review, though!

    • Thanks! I think you are fine skipping it. I can’t really recommend it at all. I think you’re right that a lot of the people that read it are YA readers that don’t read a lot of actually dark books. I have seen a few reviews though from people who read a lot of the same genres I do and still called it dark (I don’t get it!).

  3. This is one of my top anticipated reads! I’m sorry it was a disappointment for you! I haven’t read it yet but I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed reviews about it. I’ll try to lower my expectations when I finally get around to it. Hope you’re enjoying your current read! Great honest review, though!

  4. Whoa…. 2 stars?! I’m not even going to bother trying. I’ve seen Very mixed reviews. At first, I was curious, but not so much any more. My computer recently crashed and I’ve just replaced it!

  5. I am definitely going to pass on this. I was very disappointed in her Wonder Woman book and was hoping this would make up for that. Hopefully she writes more in the Grisha world.

    • I remember being super excited for Wonder Woman and then reading like 2 chapters and never going back to it. I definitely don’t recommend Ninth House at all. I think you’re find skipping it. She is supposed to write more to the Six of Crows series some day, though. So maybe we’ll enjoy those.

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