The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite
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. In fact, by age twenty, 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 prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Sexual assault, Strong language, Violence
Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Bestselling YA author (and Yale alum) Bardugo’s first adult novel follows Galaxy “Alex” Stern, a survivor who has won a place at Yale because of her ability to see ghosts. She’s the newest initiate of Lethe, the ninth of the university’s notorious secret societies, responsible for oversight whenever magical rituals are conducted by the other eight. As Lethe’s new Dante, Alex is supposed to learn how all the societies operate, make sure they’re not breaking the rules, keep ghosts from interrupting arcane rites, and take a full load of courses and keep up the appearance of being a normal first year student. Then Alex’s mentor disappears and a townie with connections to several societies is murdered. Alex’s violent past hasn’t necessarily prepared her for the academic and arcane rigors of Yale, but she finds she is admirably suited to the role of tenacious detective as she works to understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together. This atmospheric contemporary novel steeped in the spirit of a mystical New Haven is part mystery, part story of a young woman finding purpose in a dark world, and is the first in a potential series.
Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2019)
Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story. Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who’s a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt. With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.
About the Author
Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse (coming soon to Netflix) which spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Ninth House(Goodreads Choice Winner for Best Fantasy 2019) which is being developed for television by Amazon Studios.
Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, and graduated from Yale University. These days she lives and writes in Los Angeles.
Her website is leighbardugo.com.
Ninth House on Common Sense Media
Ninth House Reading Group Guide
Around the Web
Ninth House on Amazon
Ninth House on Barnes and Noble
Ninth House on Goodreads
Ninth House on LibraryThing
Ninth House Publisher Page