Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 15, 2022
Advice to readers: Definitely read Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth before attempting Nona the Ninth. I would even recommend reading Gideon and Harrow twice, since you learn things toward the end of each book that change your understanding of what happened earlier. If you have not read Harrow recently, re-read the last chapter (that would be chapter 51) and the epilog. You will need to know where Harrow, Gideon, and louche John (who is also God) were left at the end of Harrow to fully appreciate the events of Nona.
The epilog of Harrow the Ninth concerned a girl surviving somehow in a bombed-out city with three people, "the person who went to work for her", "the person who taught her", and "the person who looked after her". The last words of the epilog were,
'"Have you worked out who I am?"
"Not yet", said Camilla.'
We now know that the girl is Nona, but that is just what she's called -- it is not an answer to the question "Who am I?" We also find (this is in the publisher's blurb, so not a spoiler) that the three people she lives with are Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, whom you will remember from Harrow and Gideon. We do not, in this book, get a clear answer to the question, "Who is Nona?", although there is one big clue that is, I think, almost definitive, and which, of course, I will not reveal.
Gideon was a vulgar brawler. Harrow was a mad necromancer. Nona is a child, for all that she inhabits a 19-year-old body. She woke up six months ago in a stranger's body. When she woke, she could barely dress herself. Since then she has progressed. She now goes to school every day, where she helps out as a teacher's aide. She lives with Pyrrha, Camilla, and Palamedes in a city at war, where everything is falling apart. She has unique gifts -- superpowers, so to speak.
The story is complicated. I don't fully understand it, and I don't expect I will until Alecto the Ninth comes out, and perhaps not even then. If you've read and enjoyed Gideon and Harrow, you already know what I mean.
Nona the Ninth is a story of a loving family. It is an unusual family: Camilla and Palamedes (who share a body) and Pyrrha love Nona. Cam and Pal love each other, and all share their love for Nona, who loves them back. The love of this family threads all the way through the long and complex plot, all the way to the bitter, dark end. And it is bitter: at the end Nona the Ninth is dark and awful and will wreck you.
This is what the Locked Tomb series is about, I think. Through all the complicated mad plots, we have this: Gideon the Ninth is at its core the story of Gideon's death-transcending love for Harrow. Harrow the Ninth is, at its core the story of Harrow's beyond-death love for Gideon. Nona the Ninth is a story of a family united by love of a child. So, three entirely unique love stories in a row.
There is, of course, much more to the book than this. To avoid spoilers, I won't say much more, but expect old friends and enemies to show up, and old mysteries to be partially elucidated. Never fully! That's not how Tamsyn Muir rolls!
We end with an epilog that introduces Alecto the Ninth.
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