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. In fact, by age twenty, 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 prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.
Amazon Link: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Dark Academia
Rating: 3/5 stars
This is Leigh Bardugo’s first novel for adults and it is NOT meant for younger readers. There are some dark things in the Grishaverse novels, but this book goes beyond anything the author has written before.
Content warnings: child sexual abuse, rape, graphic violence, murder, drug addiction, overdosing, death, suicide, blackmail, self-harm, and forced consumption of human waste.
I was glad to read that list of trigger warnings before I got into this book, but some things were still shocking and gross. It’s very dark and violent, even compared to the author’s other books. The element of secret societies at Yale sounded cool at first, but since it was about giving even more power to entitled rich white kids, it was less fun as it went on. It reminded me a little of later seasons of Gilmore Girls, when Rory is dating Logan at Yale (and joins his secret society). I hated Logan for never taking anything seriously, and there are a lot of people like Logan in this book. That made it hard to read.
It also dragged a little once it became obvious where things were going, but there was a lot of back and forth in the timeline. Kind of like The Magician King or The Basic Eight where I knew something horrible was going to happen and I just wanted the horrible thing to happen so I could get past it.
The end actually gave me more hope than I was expecting, so I want to read the next book if it has more Darlington. He ended up being the more likeable character. Alex was too bleak even though I wanted to sympathetic for everything she’d been through.
Recommended for adult fans of dark academia and gothic literature. Not recommended for teens.
Here is the book in my reading journal: