Title: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Mystery, Fiction
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: October 2019
Hardcover: 459 pages

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.


My Rating: ★★★★

I haven't read any of Leigh Bardugo's previous books so I didn't know what to expect from this one. It's fair to say I was pleasantly surprised by this story. I love adult fantasy and this one ticked all the boxes for me.

From the beginning, we are introduced to Alex Stern. A deeply troubled young woman with a special paranormal ability. She finds herself recruited by a secret society, named Lethe, who offers her the chance to change her life, to study at Yale University and leave her dreaded past behind. After the last ordeal she's been through she doesn't hesitate to take the help they offer but that doesn't mean things are gonna be easy for Alex, from here on out. The Lethe society overlooks the activities of the eight houses of Yale that practice magic, overseeing their dangerous rituals and ensuring they don't do anything inappropriate. But the mysterious death of a town girl turns things upside down, and Alex can't help the feeling that one of the societies might be involved.

The action starts out slow, and I get that many readers might find this a bit tedious. There is a lot of info to take in from the start. The author dives into Alex's backstory but at the same time, the events are told from Darlington's (Alex's mentor) POV. But all of this helped with the world-building and to get a better understanding of how these societies function and what their roles are.

Halfway through, the action picks up and things start to get crazy and thrilling. The plotline is filled with dark themes( sexual assault, gore, disembowelment, ghosts), titillating magic, and mystery which combined create a stunning and gripping fantasy. Alex Stern is a phenomenal heroine, her character is multi-layered and complex. Everything that she went through made her tough as nails and a bit reckless at times but that only worked to her advantage. Also, the secondary characters were brilliantly presented. I came to love Darlington's quirky persona and Dawes's prim and proper attitude. And the villains were so well camouflaged I was constantly jumping from one theory to another, which kept me really invested in the story.

The plotline, the characters, the history of Lether and the other houses, the occult magic, everything came together beautifully. I found myself glued to the pages and after that ending, I can't wait to see what will happen next. I recommend this book to all fans of fantasy, crime, and paranormal novels.