I am a huge Locked Tomb fan, just ask the tattoo of Gideon the Ninth I got on my shoulder. So to say my expectations for Nona the Ninth were high would be putting it mildly. I love the voices and characters and the gothic sci-fi fantasy that Muir has created. Her ability to create such distinct voices for each and everyone of her main cast, even outside of Harrow and Gideon is, to me, masterful. But I was worried when this planned trilogy suddenly became a quadruple series. I was curious why Nona was so interesting or unique that she required, suddenly, her own book. Unfortunately, this story was the weakest to me in the series, especially when put up against Gideon and Harrow’s title books.
Here's the thing: Nona reads completely like a middle book, pure setup for what’s to come in Alecto. I kind of expected that given how this story came to be, but I didn’t expect it to be so obvious with it feeling like a middle story. While Nona is incredibly sweet and loveable, and such a stark bundle of sunshine in an otherwise very dark and brutal world, it was hard to be in such a juvenile head in a very adult story and conflict against the necromancer empire. I’ve read Gideon and Harrow multiple times, and if I hadn’t (especially Gideon the Ninth) this book would have been unnecessarily complicated, and not because the story is complex with an intricate use of POV the way Harrow’s story was, but because Nona knows literally nothing of what’s happening to or around her. Plus Blood of Eden loves their silly code names and that added another layer of “oh wait, so that’s who that is” that didn’t add much to the story, especially when the reader is already dealing with a lot of soul and body swapping. After reading Nona and getting to know her, I don’t think she was the right voice for this book. She couldn’t carry the weight of her story the way the other two POV characters could.
That’s not to say I hated this book, far from it! Being able to get a more domestic look at Cam and Palamedes relationship was the star of this story to me. Their yearning to speak face to face with one another was heartbreaking and really reminded me of the place Harrow and Gideon got to in Canaan House. But this story just didn’t add much to the world, or even the place we left off in Harrow’s story. I got very little new information that Harrow’s book didn’t already provide. Yes, the transition from Gideon to Harrow was rough, so I was prepared for Nona to be similar, but this wasn’t rough, it was, sadly, dull. I kept hoping things would turn around at the end because that’s what Muir does; she crafts these slow burn stories that get absolutely wild at the end. That happened, partially, but in such a weird POV because of what was happening to Nona that I didn’t get the same level of satisfaction I did from the crazy twists in Harrow the Ninth.
Nona the Ninth is, to put it simply, padding for Alecto the Ninth, it’s not even fluff. There are a few great lines of banter, but not to the extent we got before. This book was merely fine when I was expecting and pining for greatness, which frankly, this deep into the series, I don’t think is unreasonable to want. I’ll probably read this again in audiobook before Alecto’s book comes out, mostly because I want to see just how necessary this story was to what we’ll eventually get in Alecto. Suffice it to say, if I get to Alecto and it turns out I could have skipped Nona altogether I’ll be 1. Annoyed that Muir wasted my time with Nona and 2. Glad to get back to the real stars of this series, finally. But that’s ultimately why this book gets 3 stars from me. Here’s hoping Alecto actually gives us what we’ve been teased with for so long now, though my fear is that Muir will be sidelining both Harrow and Gideon in favor of John and Alecto… Lets hope I’m wrong about that.
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