Dark magic flourishes on the Yale campus in Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Ninth House #1 by Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Published 2019, 459 pages
"Darlington was all about the pursuit of perfection, something spectacular. He didn't know how precious a normal life could be, how easy it was to drift away from average. You started sleeping until noon, skipped one class, one day of school, lost one job, then another, forgot the way that normal people did things. You lost the language of ordinary life."
Alex, a high school drop out, a drug user, a young person on the fringe of society, survives a horrific violent murder and while in the hospital is offered a surprising and amazing opportunity. A chance for a full ride to Yale. What's wrong with this picture?
She is told there are nine houses of magic on the Yale campus and the Ninth House wants her as their newest intern. Again, why???? Because she sees ghosts. Has always seen ghosts. Was ridiculed and teased and no one believed a little girl who saw things no one else saw. So she turned away from society and toward drugs to help soften the edges of her life.
I found myself so drawn into the story of Alex and her efforts to fit in at Yale - a street girl from California trying to mesh with the rich and upper crust east coast kids - well, as you can imagine, it's like oil and water. As she struggles academically, she's also trying to learn the magic, the history of each House and the magic they specialize in. Then, there's a murder and Alex gets drawn into trying to solve it while the local police push it away as a suicide.
"Peace was like any high. It couldn't last. It was an illusion, something that could be interrupted in a moment and lost forever. Only two things kept you safe: money and power."
And, Alex had neither money nor power (nor did she have any peace!). She's a 19 year old woman put in an impossible position and every time her 'street wise' self shows up and helps her stand up against the snooty, entitled Yale elite, I wanted to cheer for her. I found myself reading late, reading every moment I could to turn the next page and see what calamity would befall Alex next and how she'd get out of it. And don't forget the ghosts - she figures out how to cooperate with a ghost that's been following her so they each get something they want. Ghosts and dark magic, what else could you want?
I liked the scared but brave protagonist, Alex. I liked her snob-with-a-heart mentor, Darlington. I loved the combination of ghosts and dark magic. I found this book tightly plotted, filled with excellent characters, wrapped around a solid mystery, but the magic and ghostly interactions definitely are the stars. Alex is a strong protagonist and it wasn't till the end of the book cliffhanger that I realized it was the first in a series. I can't wait for the next one.
*Reading challenge #Bookworm20 (takes place in winter)
Photo by Natalia Y via unsplash