REVIEW: ‘Nona the Ninth’ by Tamsyn Muir bewildered and enthralled me


All Nona wants is a birthday party but the revolution around her is making that very hard.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tamsyn Muir takes her readers on a rollercoaster of a journey with new and familiar characters in Nona the Ninth.

From the Blurb:

Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…

Nona the Ninth is an entirely new look at the world of The Locked Tomb series. Tthis one mostly takes place on a planet controlled by the rebel group Blood of Eden, where necromancers and their constructs are feared, hunted and eliminated. The change from a magic dominated sci-fi setting to a dystopian one was jarring, but not entirely unexpected given the second book in the series. It’s no secret Muir likes to keep her readers on their feet as to what’s going on for most of her novels.

As such, it’s the characters that become the anchors readers rely on to understand what’s happening. Given how new Nona is to this world, she has a childlike understanding of most things and a very bubbly personality that seems at odds with everything around her. It was very interesting to see this completely new personality in a beloved character, especially how she interacted with others. Each of her group of school friends has something that makes them stand out while Pyrrha, Camilla and Palamedes take on parental roles. Without giving too much away, other favourites do appear later in the book, though the anticipation for them was killing me.

As before, Tamsyn Muir’s writing style stands out. With Nona, she writes her world through the eyes of a very particular child while retaining her penchant for interesting comparisons and memorable descriptions. Muir’s writing always delights me, and it is made even better though Moira Quirk’s reading of it who takes care with everything, including accents and even random sounds described in the book itself.

Another fun aspect of Nona the Ninth is that Muir throws the concept of gender out far more than before, and it’s wonderful to see. Typically gendered words are used in much looser contexts across many characters, with female characters using ‘prince’ and ‘sir’ as titles. This fluidity paints a world in which gender roles are much less rigid, which is a silver lining given the lives the characters lead.

As far as the plot is concerned, it’s structured like previous books where a lot of things happen in a short period of time without it feeling rushed. The overall confusion is stronger in this one, so there is more of an emphasis on Nona as a character rather than the plot itself, though that kicks in midway through the book. Because of how confusing it was, it took a while to get my bearings; I would say this is the weakest aspect of Nona the Ninth.

Overall Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is an excellent addition to a series that keeps getting more and more expansive. It was interesting to experience planets outside the reach of the Nine Houses and their rigidity, while the backstory and greater picture are finally coming into focus. Though I’m still unclear on the ending, I do look forward to the next book in the series, and anything else Muir puts out in the future. She’s an author with a distinct style that stays with you.

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Confusing but enthralling

As an English and Archaeology major, Brigitte spends her days analysing everything from medieval texts to prehistoric pottery shards, which has only fueled her passion for piecing together any plot she comes across.

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