My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you’ve come for the “lesbian necromancers in space” then, er, readjust your expectations. There’s no romantic or sexual involvement between anyone. Sure, Gideon fancies women but at no point does anyone identify themselves by a set sexuality – she could be bi for all we know – and while she sort-of fancies one of the other necromancers (not Harrow) for a while, that’s it. She notices when one of the other women is in very flimsy attire but also notices the ’58 abdominal muscles’ of one of the male cavaliers too. Also, Gideon is not a necromancer. Also, they’re not really in space, they’re on a planet. So forget all the taglines, because they’re bullshit.
I liked Gideon as a character but felt like there wasn’t enough development of her and Harrow (more in the spoiler section below). Sure, their relationship changed but it made some big leaps as opposed to a steady progression and as such some of the story that relied on their relationship fell a bit flat. The necromancy and sword fights were pretty fun and if there’d been more than 2 or 3 actual fights I might not have felt quite so bored mid-book. I started skim-reading toward the end of Act III through some of it just to get to the next dialogue section as that seemed to be where all the information lay.
One criticism I heard before reading was that it was hard to follow all the names of characters because there were so many ways to refer to the same person, e.g.: Coronabeth Tridentarius was also Corona and ‘the glorious twin’ (or something similar). And while ‘the mayonnaise uncle’ was an amusing moniker, it was a bit difficult keeping everyone straight in my head and I had to keep referring back to the roster at the start of the book. The names were also a complete pain to try and pronounce correctly and I spent the whole book arguing with my brain and ended up shortening names to make it easier to read. After I finished the story, I found the pronunciation guide right at the back of the book, however, even then, my brain rebels.
One such other naming scheme was that of the Fourth house’s obnoxious teens. The awful teens. And so on. Despite the fact Gideon and Harrow are also teenagers. This felt like something a person in their late 30s or up would moan about – teenagers so obnoxiously full of life – not an 18 year old.
There was a lot unexplored and unexplained and bits that seemed to contradict other parts of the story; it is mentioned that Gideon survived huffing nerve gas for 10 hours as an infant; she’s survived a lot of things that should’ve killed other people; her parentage is a mystery; and then all of a sudden she’s dead at the end of the book. Um, what? Sure I expect those things will be explored in the next book(s) but the ending doesn’t exactly encourage me to read those because there’s just too many arrows that were let loose all at once and only some hit their mark, the rest are scattered all over the place.
In a review for Harrow the Ninth, I read that Gideon was H’s “one true love” and, I’ll be honest, that is 100% not what I got from this book. They realise they need each other and rely on each other but “one true love” was not what they were exuding at all. Here, I’ll point back to my comment about their relationship development taking some awfully big leaps without any groundwork to justify them.
It took me almost a month to read because of all these little niggles and because Act 3 & 4 were just a bit bleh. The novelty of having Gideon be a foul-mouthed teen using 21st Century language wore off pretty swiftly as I wondered how the heck she was meant to have heard of pizza or mayonnaise while spending her entire life on a dingy rock of a planet where they all live underground and eat gruel and ‘snow leeks’. Hm. It’s not quite bad enough to be a 2 star but I was really hoping for better.
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This was book 75 of 2020.