Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Fantasy, 458 pages, published in 2019

Synopsis: Alex Stern has been sent to Yale in order to join Lethe, a group that keeps all the other secret societies of Yale in check. The murder of a young woman sets of a series of events that could expose the dark secrets of the societies.

Spoiler Free Review:


This is such a hard book for me to review. I have had mixed feelings about Leigh Bardugo’s books in the past, so honestly, this one fits that theme. I was hesitant going in because of all the trigger warnings associated with this book.

I really did not enjoy the first half of this book. It was confusing and boring to me. Chapters are split between “winter”, where the actual story takes place, and “last fall”, where some somewhat relevant stuff happens. This doesn’t stop the narration from going back to Alex’s memories at any time. I had such a hard time keeping track of when each part was taking place because the transitions between the current time and a memory was hard to follow. It was hard to remember what was happening in the current time because some memories were pages and pages long.

It felt like this beginning section was really just setting up for the action in the second half. This was actually my biggest complaint about King of Scars, Leigh’s other release this year. It just doesn’t feel worth it to have to sit around for 200+ pages in order to get to the good stuff.

This is what makes this review hard: I absolutely loved the second half of this book. It was mostly an investigation, which I really enjoyed. It’s an investigation, plus magic, ghosts, and secret societies. It was just a really cool mix of things.

Alex works with some people she initially clashes with, but watching them eventually become friends was so nice. I don’t particularly love Alex, but she was fine and an interesting character to follow through these events.

I am really looking forward to the next book! It seems like it’ll explore something that I’m really interested in, and hopefully that we have all the background already, the beginning won’t be a slog like in this book.

As far as the trigger warnings, I definitely was expecting worse. I was most worried about the sexual assault and forced consumption of human waste because my brain took those phrases and ran, but they were not as bad as I was imagining. I am still grateful that I knew about them though, because I think I would have been caught off guard had I not known.

I think if you like ghosts, secret societies, or murder mysteries, you could enjoy this book! Please beware though, this is adult, not YA. Since Leigh has only written YA in the past, many people are categorizing it as such, but it isn’t.

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7 thoughts on “Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

  1. Wonderful review! I really want to read this too at some point, I don’t mind a slow build so hopefully the beginning won’t be too slow for me! Definitely sounds like an awesome read though, particularly the second half! Totally have to get this after christmas! Amazing review!! 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

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