Part fantasy, part space opera, and part apocalyptic nightmare ... Muir’s biting, hilarious prose is full of dark subject matter (violent death, creeping body horror, and various bits of effluvia and gore are commonplace) but tons of heart, deftly exploring issues of identity, belonging, love, and family.
It’s truly unlike anything else in science fiction and fantasy, and the best way I can explain its appeal to you is simply to tell you to go read it and find out for yourselves. (It’s worth it, I promise.)
I have never fully understood the plot of any of the books in Tamsyn Muir’s gutsy, gory, glorious Locked Tomb series. At this point...I have made up my mind not to try. Instead, I wade peacefully into every volume with the knowledge that I am going to experience some lesbian necromancers in space, and otherwise I exist in a blissful state of 'head empty, just vibes' ... We learn more about the key to Muir’s mythology, and the metaphor living at its heart. That metaphor is both more Catholic and more current than the rest of this series let on, and it comes together with such tenderness and urgency that it could, like a Lyctor on a rampage, rip the heart right out of you ... Then Nona, who urgently demands to express her love to everyone she has ever met, will bring your heart back to life again ... Nona the Ninth is a deceptive book: Its sweetness hides teeth, and then its teeth hide more sweetness. As long as you go in without expecting fancy things like being able to understand every detail of the action in a literal and straightforward way, it will treat you right.
It has grief. It has loss and cruelty and violence. It also has most of the other ingredients we’ve come to expect and adore from this series: exquisite meme deployment; sick necro fights; sick sword fights ... [It] will make you cry and tell you lies but—I swear—will neither give you up, nor let you down.
The third book is about waiting for something else to happen. Nona the Ninth is an intermission. A breath of dead air that stagnates and smells faintly of mold. Some people are going to love it. Some people, like me, are going to slog through it, hoping that there’s some kind of payoff at the 300-page mark ... For me, at least, this payoff never happened ... Without any knowledge of the world around her, Nona’s sit-and-stare modus operandi gets more and more frustrating to read as the book goes on ... There were points where I was so bored by the conversations on the page that I went back and checked how long it had been since Nona spoke ... I just wanted so much more, and I know Muir has the ability to give it to me.
Once again pulls the rug out from beneath our feet, taking the kind of unexpected risks we’ve come to expect from the series in order to tell a very different kind of story—at least initially ... Nona the Ninth’s greatest strength lies in its willingness to attempt to tell a story that has accrued cosmic consequences on an entirely smaller scale ... Muir is not a careless writer: she offers her theological discourses, painstakingly precise anatomical terminology, and timely meme references with a warmth and sincerity not always present in post-apocalyptic fiction ... I finished Nona the Ninth feeling uncertain as to whether what we had gained with our all-too-brief acquaintance with Nona justified her loss, however inevitable.
Mind-bending but deeply compelling tale of necromancers, cavaliers, the Nine Houses…and a sweet-natured girl with golden eyes ... This isn’t a straightforward, easy book. It starts off pretty slow, contrasting Nona’s point of view with strange, revelatory dream segments, and it quickly becomes clear that while this definitely feels like a natural continuation of the series, it very much has its own tone ... As the book progresses it explores the history of the Locked Tomb setting in a way that links it to reality in an unexpected, but very effective fashion ... You might consider this something of a setup book, laying the groundwork for the dramatic series finale still to come, but that would be unkind to Nona the Ninth and would ignore the depth and context that Nona’s story offers to the setting and the ongoing narrative ... What Nona the Ninth won’t do is change anyone’s mind on the series as a whole; readers who struggled with Harrow, for example, may not find this much easier, and Muir is unapologetic in her determination to tell this story in her own fashion. It is, in its own way, a strange and confusing book which demands trust from the reader.
The book is set over the course of five days in the prelude to an apocalyptic event, with chapters interspersed where the reader learns how the death and resurrection of the people of Earth came to pass. Muir fans will be even more eager for the imperial scope of Alecto once they’ve finished Nona’s quiet character study.
This uniquely poignant arc of a young woman’s search for an ordinary life within a very extraordinary world is both stunning in its simpler moments and shocking in its reveals. Readers get lost in the story lines, but Muir’s clever prose always provides a path to the end ... Muir’s third entry in The Locked Tomb series is as immersive and original as its predecessors.
Characteristically brilliant ... Muir’s skill is such that readers will be desperate to find out the truth of Nona’s background but will still savor the quiet moments with this heartbreaking character. Nona’s lovely, simple, and occasionally silly voice works especially well in juxtaposition with the dark, dense backdrop of the series so far, creating a riveting contrast. Readers will be on the edges of their seats.
It’s pretty gutsy of Muir to write two books in a row about amnesiac characters, particularly when it may very well be the same character experiencing a different form of amnesia in each. This work initially reads like a strange interlude from the series, devoted to Nona’s odd but essentially quotidian routine in the midst of war, riot, and general chaos. But the story gradually gathers speed, and it’s all in service to a deeper plot. It is unfortunate that the demands of that plot mean we’ve gotten a considerably smaller dose of Gideon’s defiantly crude, riotously flouncy behavior in the two books subsequent to the one which bears her name ... A deceptively quiet beginning rockets to a thrilling finish, preparing us for the next volume’s undoubtedly explosive finale.