Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

I have been staring at my laptop screen for the longest time because I am struggling with how to start this review. 🖤 Leigh Bardugo easily became one of my favorite authors through the Six of Crows duology, and I was immediately excited to pick up her latest release (and attend her author signing ahhhh!!). 

However, while Ninth House was a thoughtful and intense story that explored magic, mystery, trauma, and healing, I struggled to wholeheartedly enjoy this book. ✨ Personally, despite knowing the book contained gorey and dark elements, I found the themes of this book too dark for my personal liking.

NINTH HOUSE (ALEX STERN #1) by Leigh Bardugo

PUBLISHED BY Flatiron Books (Macmillan) on October 8th 2019

GENRES: Fantasy, Mystery

PAGES: 458


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.

Trigger/Content Warnings: rape of a child, sexual assault under influence of a magical drug, drowning, heavy violence, gore, drug addiction, overdosing, death, suicide, blackmail, self-harm, and forced consumption of human waste (credit to Melanie)

Ninth House follows the story of Galaxy Stern, or Alex, a freshman at Yale University who was enlisted specifically to join Lethe House, Yale’s ninth secret society dedicated to protecting the secrets and magical rituals of the secret societies that rule the world. ☠️

The story follows two timelines: Winter and Spring. During Winter, Alex begins her journey at Yale, meeting her golden-boy mentor, Darlington, and beginning her training to protect the human world from ancient dark magic. In the Spring, everything has gone awry with the center of the mystery surrounding a murder that can only be connected to one of the secret societies.

“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”

To describe the book as hard-hitting would be an understatement. Leigh Bardugo doesn’t hold back, pointing out the unchecked privileges of the elite and exploring the traumatic aftereffects of abuse. It’s raw and unfiltered, making it so much more real

Despite reading all the trigger warnings and knowing that the book would contain dark elements, I found myself unprepared for the very dark scenes and themes of the book. This book was very different from the happy contemporaries that have become my brand so please make sure that you’re in the right mental state before picking this up. 

“Only two things kept you safe: money and power.”

The best part of the story has to be the atmospheric elements, and I was in awe with how Leigh Bardugo was able to incorporate dark magic into the real worlds in a seamless way. It’s reminiscent of the ominous mood in Ketterdam, bringing back the wonders of crime-fighting and mystery.

Overall, this book just wasn’t for me. I couldn’t bring myself to love Alex and Darlington the same way I adore Leigh Bardugo’s other characters. The atmospheric elements were extremely well done though.

“I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.”

Again, I would proceed with caution and recommend that you ask yourself if you’re in the right headspace to pick up this book due to the dark themes and graphic scenes. 

Have you read Ninth House?

What were your thoughts?

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17 thoughts on “Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

    1. Thank you for liking my review!! and I know! It was super strange? I can see why people would like it a lot, but I think it’s just not for us 😅


  1. Good to know! This was an auto-add to my TBR because I loved SoC too. I don’t mind dark but only so much. I hate that this one wasn’t your cup of tea but I’m glad you shared. I may wait until I’m in that mood you mentioned.


    1. Aww I’m so glad this review was helpful for you in making the decision!! If you don’t mind dark themes, this might be good just make sure you’re in the right mood for it! ❤️


  2. I kinda had a similar mindset about this book, I really loved the darkness and like you said especially the atmospheric elements, but overall just didn’t really care about Alex. And so though some parts were awesome, overall the book was a disappointment for me. (But Darlington, ahh, I wish the book was about his time as Dante with Michelle as Virgil). I’m really hoping the second book will be better but it’s definitely not for everyone.


    1. Ahh I agree!! I want more backstory about Darlington, and hearing about what happened just made my heart B R E A K 😭💔 I’m so glad that you were able to relate to so many of my thoughts though!!


  3. Great review!! Overall I ended up enjoying this book because I really loved the way that Leigh wrote about all the different secret societies and how their magic differed etc, but I definitely agree that this book was *very* dark. I was a bit surprised by how gory it was even though I knew I should’ve expected it based off of Six of Crows. I am looking forward to the next book though, hopefully it won’t be too much 😅


    1. That’s so true! I also forgot that Six of Crows got pretty gory at times, but I think because I think more of the action based plot (that was less dark than this one) that I enjoyed it a lot more ❤️


  4. Ahh thank you so much, I’ve been waiting for your review! I know I will stay away from that one for sure ahah, it seems a little too dark for my liking and I don’t think I can handle it ahah. We’re contemporary marshmallooooows. ❤



      I’m glad that my review was helpful for you, and I would definitely say that it’s not our type of books. It’s really good, but after reading it, it left me in a M 0 0 D.


  5. Oooh, I love this review & really appreciate it – ofc Leigh Bardugo has become one of my auto-buy authors, but I’ve heard such mixed reviews of this book, and most of them seem to refer to the surprising dark themes. Will definitely keep this in mind when I decide to read it!

    💛 Ngoc


    1. Aww I’m glad, Ngoc!! She’s definitely one of my favorite authors too, but it’s cool that she’s experimenting and branching into different genres! If you’re a fan of the darker themes, then I think you’ll enjoy this book 💖


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