Nona the Ninth is Too A lot and Too Little

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Nona the Ninth book cover

Picture: Tordotcom

Attempting to explain the Locked Tomb sequence is an train in asking your self the place to begin. Tamsyn Muir’s breakout books are brutally absurd and lyrical, surprisingly evading these sorts of explanations, however I’ll give it a go.

The primary e-book—Gideon the Ninth—is a haunted home homicide royale the place God is testing out the capabilities of physique alchemists and swords masters within the hope of making the uber-Saint: able to miracles and nonetheless capable of swing a sword very well. Ebook two—Harrow the Ninth—is about assembly God (whose identify is John), touring via house to discover a metaphysical lifeless particular person river in an effort to practice Saints to destroy large, planet-eating monsters. It’s half chamber play, half cleaning soap opera amnesia storyline, and plenty of the e-book is spent retelling the primary e-book, however now with reminiscence fuckery.

The third e-book is about ready for one thing else to occur. Nona the Ninth is an intermission. A breath of lifeless air that stagnates and smells faintly of mildew. Some individuals are going to find it irresistible. Some folks, like me, are going to slog via it, hoping that there’s some sort of payoff on the 300-page mark (like Harrow the Ninth’s large reveal, which helped ease the painful tempo of the primary three-quarters of the novel) the place issues come collectively. For me, at the very least, this payoff by no means occurred.

Nona the Ninth follows a personality named Nona, who has woken up within the physique of Harrowhark Nonagesimus, and who is aware of and remembers nothing. She acts and thinks like a toddler, and displays few, to none, of the magical necromantic powers of Harrow. A lot of the e-book is spent with Nona as she goes to highschool with a bunch of precise youngsters, or with Nona as she sits in numerous rooms and listens to different folks speak. She is a personality with out company and with out a lot characterization past her childlike naivete. Her biggest redeeming high quality is that she tells folks she loves them, however even then it feels hole. It’s love like a toddler loves a toy, like a canine loves its proprietor. The love Nona expresses is that of comfort and immaturity, and is given out to anybody who reveals her an oz of kindness. It feels, like a lot of Nona the Ninth, like a placeholder for improvement which can occur within the subsequent e-book.

With none data of the world round her, Nona’s sit-and-stare modus operandi will get increasingly irritating to learn because the e-book goes on, particularly for a sequence just like the Locked Tomb, which rewrites its worldbuilding each couple of chapters. (That is, after all, by design. I can learn nonlinear restoration narratives into this e-book the entire day lengthy, however with none sense of progress and even primary company, I couldn’t convey myself to take care of Nona.) There have been factors the place I used to be so bored by the conversations on the web page that I went again and checked how lengthy it had been since Nona spoke. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that there are a number of interactions between characters that final for 10, 15, 20 pages with out Nona doing, and even saying, something.

All through the e-book there are additionally brief asides as John (God), the primary necromancer, explains how he invented necromancy, and what occurred to Earth. These sections of the e-book are offered as a confession, as the reality, or, as correct as a subjective recollection of reality will be. The issue for me is that for the whole sequence, one of many themes has been that each one reality is only a lie that somebody has believed. These sections really feel like handy lies, offered as truth. Past feeling sort of pointless within the grand scheme of worldbuilding, these chapters end in no actual emotional payoff or plot improvement past a imprecise handwave in direction of the subsequent e-book. We get an encyclopedic historical past of necromancy that feels unhappy, scientific, and indifferent. I failed to hook up with any of the characters as a result of the model right here is so distant and confessional, and John is a somewhat sanctimonious ass.

Nona realizing nothing and John realizing every part creates an attention-grabbing pressure between these sections. However nothing ever occurs. Nothing connects. Harrow by no means makes an look past offhanded mentions in John’s confession, and Gideon reveals up for perhaps 100 pages, isn’t a spotlight, delivers some cute quips, after which we’re performed. Anybody hoping for a reunion, sapphic romance, or necromantic house lesbians will possible be dissatisfied. The issues I liked about Gideon the Ninth—the irreverent voice, the absurd motion, the magnificently queer pining—have by no means returned. This time, we don’t even get to examine God and his Saints having a threesome on a dinner desk. There’s no self-cannibalizing soup both. Inside this complete e-book there are not any standout scenes or remarkably disgusting bits of necromancy. The funniest line is (after all) delivered by Gideon actually within the epilogue.

I simply needed a lot extra, and I do know Muir has the flexibility to provide it to me. For the previous two books—each Harrow and Nona—it feels as if Muir has regarded again on the characters, lore, and voice of the earlier e-book and determined that she’s merely not desirous about repeating herself. This lack of sequence consistency, paired with the truth that each Harrow and Nona’s plots boil right down to “a woman with untapped energy has reminiscence issues and vaguely remembers her ex,” is, to place it mildly, irritating.

One of many issues I like about Muir’s writing is her capability to swing for the fences, solely with none hint of self-consciousness or restraint, and infrequently flying within the face of standard narratives. Harrow the Ninth, you could keep in mind, has an extremely experimental second particular person POV. Nonetheless, Nona the Ninth is an train in over-developing what ought to have been a single arc right into a novel-length apart. The issue I’m working into with this sequence is that each e-book has not solely had a brand new character perspective, however has basically featured characters that know nothing, every e-book basically beginning the sequence over. Gideon is a himbo, and for the primary e-book in a sequence, it labored. In Harrow the Ninth, Harrow’s reminiscences are locked away and she or he retells the primary e-book in asides that write Gideon out of the narrative. Now, in Nona, we’re beginning over once more with a brand new character who is aware of nothing, and who is actually a passenger delivering a physique to a tomb in anticipation of the ultimate e-book, Alecto the Ninth.

This e-book does embody some nice lyrical turns of phrase and working jokes. It dives into distress and harm and doesn’t look away. It talks about grief, demise, sacrifice, and despair with an expansiveness that’s unbelievable and unmatched. However for all these advantages, Nona has none of their grace. This e-book brushes in opposition to these feelings that may get caught in your throat however then strikes on earlier than they catch. It’s these moments the place the writing is humorous, insightful, brash, and unapologetic that pushed me to maintain studying. Possibly in 20 pages I might get extra, or one thing nice would occur, or Nona would develop. And for me, it by no means did. I might learn these singular moments of cleverness that merely existed, untethered, because the narrative continued to be defined to me.

Because the third e-book in a sequence, Nona the Ninth is already getting plenty of hype from die-hard followers of the Locked Tomb sequence. However this can be a e-book that might make me inform followers to not hassle. I really feel like, in the end, by e-book three of a quartet, I ought to care about the primary characters. I really feel like I must be invested of their story, struggles, and character improvement and world. However there merely isn’t sufficient to Nona to latch onto. Muir has stated herself that this was initially presupposed to be act one in every of Alecto the Ninth, and albeit, I want it had been 100 pages as an alternative of 400. Winks at memes, Kiwi humor, the occasional soiled joke and poignant metaphor are all good within the second, however with out narrative edges, each a part of this e-book bleeds into one lengthy dialog interrupted by small actions, like a twitching corpse going into the final levels of rigor mortis.

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Nona the Ninth is obtainable to buy on September 13; you may order a replica right here.


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