Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth HouseAuthor: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Released: October 8th, 2019
Received: Own
Warnings: Abuse, drug usage/overdose, sexual assault, stalking, rape of child, drowning, gore, self-harm
Rating: Kitty Rating

Ninth House is the first novel in an all-new series by Leigh Bardugo. And it’s been getting a lot of attention – both because people have been loving it, and because it’s Bardugo’s first excursion out of the realm of young adult novels.

New Haven is a place of magic and wonders. It is also a place of horrors and corruption. And it is this world that Galaxy Stern, aka Alex, has to navigate. She’s been granted a wonderful gift; a full ride at Yale. But it comes at a cost. Those in the know expect her to use her talent to help them out.

Alex Stern can see dead people, which is exactly as traumatic as it sounds. But this opportunity at Yale might be her one chance to take control of her abilities. And her life. She doesn’t want to mess it up. But she’s also not going to look the other way when a murder happens. Not when she’s in a place to actually do something about it.

Darlington is the golden boy of Yale. He’s the Virgil to Alex’s Dante. He’s a classic good old boy, but with a secret twist. He’s been obsessed and fascinated with magic and the history of the town since he was a little boy. And he’s going to delve deeper than anybody else.


“’Incorruptible.’ When she saw that word she understood Darlington’s smirk. The dead would be raised, but as for incorruptibility, Grove Street Cemetery was making no promises. In New Haven, it was best not to hope for guarantees.”

Spoiler Warning

Warnings: Ninth House is a brilliant – but exceptionally intense novel. It doesn’t shy away from some of the worst sides of human (and ghost) nature. There are scenes that depict abuse, drug addiction and overdosing, (graphic) sexual assault/rape towards adults and a child, drowning, self-harm, and lots and lots of gore. These scenes veer on the graphic side, but since they are actually relevant to the plot they never cross a line into becoming gratuitous.


I’ve been hearing nothing but good things from Ninth House for about six months now. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I downloaded the book first thing when I woke up Tuesday morning, and I’ll be honest with you; I wish I had planned ahead and taken the day off from work. Because I did not want to put this book down. Not even for a moment.

I’ve seen and read plenty of novels about girls being able to see ghosts. But I’ve never read anything like Ninth House. It was beautiful. It was dark. And it digs into my brain until I found myself unable to walk away. Now that I’ve finished, I find myself desperate for any news about the next novel in the series. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Leigh Bardugo masterfully revealed the plot through a series of creative storytelling techniques. The tale itself took place at multiple points in time, and through a couple different perspectives. Alex’s story is in two parts; her past and her present. Darlington’s story is in the recent past. These three points in time weave together, creating something breathtaking – and terrifying.

There was so much to love about Ninth House. The writing was exemplary, full of complex characters and motives. But it was more than that as well. The world itself was as fascinating as it was dark and disturbing – which is saying something.

Alex’s character was…riveting. Her past was not an easy one, and the more I learned about it, the more I understood about the way she behaved. Her anger became easier and easier to understand. Especially when one considers the life of privilege those with magic live.

The magical system is one that I’m finding myself desperate to see more of. I suppose in that way I’m more similar to Darlington than not. I want to see more of the different tombs and their specialties. And ideally, I’d like to see how they’re meant to function, as opposed to how they’ve twisted with time.

I’ll confess that there were parts in this novel that got a lot darker than I expected. And I went into this book expecting something disturbing – it’s not every day you see an author and publisher go out of their way to warn the readers about content. It wasn’t enough to make me put the book down…but it did make me grateful that I was doing the bulk of my reading in the middle of the day. I’m not sure what I would have done had I hit those points in the dead of night.

I ended up loving Ninth House so much that I actually bought two copies of the novel. The ebook, which I was able to start right away on release day. And the special edition from Barnes and Noble, which contains some bonus material. I actually haven’t read the extra stuff yet – something I’m probably going to pop over and check out once I finish this review.

The Ninth House was everything that I had hoped for and expected. But it was also so much more. I can’t get Alex and her quest out of my head. So now I’m just going to sit here and hope for more news about the next novel.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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7 Responses to Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

  1. This book sounds so intense!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rayasreads says:

    I’ve been excited about the book since it’s been announced and your review only adds to my excitement. Fantastic review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Theresa (Tessa) Pulyer says:

    I bought the book and can’t wait to read it! Wonderful review 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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