BOOK REVIEW: Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

BOOK REVIEW: Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) by Leigh BardugoNinth House (Alex Stern #1)
by Leigh Bardugo
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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. By age twenty, in fact, 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 elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

If you were going to hell together, murder seemed like a good place to start.

When I say this book took my breath away, I truly mean it. It was thrilling and shocking and eerie and just a total surprise. As dark as the book was, I truly loved it and cannot wait for the next installment.

I had read Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows series, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t absolutely love it. But I know how talented Leigh is, so when I saw she was writing an adult fantasy book based on secret societies and ghosts in New Haven, I was SO in. Talk about checking off a lot of boxes for me.

The book follows two main characters: Galaxy “Alex” Stern and Daniel “Darlington” Arlington. Both are students at Yale, but come from very different backgrounds. I don’t really want to spoil a lot of it, but Alex grew up in a not so great family and had some troubled teenage years that led to the death of some people, as well as the reason for her admittance to Yale and Lethe. Darlington, meanwhile, while not having a perfect childhood, did have some family and a more privileged upbringing. The two have far more in common than they think they do.

Alex gave a sharp shake of her head. “I mean tell me what I’m in for here…with you.”
That was the hard question to answer. Nothing. Everything. Lethe was meant to be a gift, but could it be to her? There was too much to tell.


Darlington is tasked with teaching Alex the ways of Lethe and its role to the other secret societies of Yale. However, something very dark and powerful is at play and it ultimately causes some dire consequences for both Darlington and Alex. On top of what they are dealing with in the present, there is a lot of trauma from their pasts, especial Alex’s, that comes into play.

Daniel Arlington prided himself on being prepared for anything, but if he’d had to choose a way to describe Alex Stern, it would have been “an unwelcome surprise.”

This book certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be very vivid in its descriptions at times, and there’s a ton of talk of death, dying and murder. There’s also a decent amount of mentions of drug and alcohol use, self-harm, unhealthy relationships and the big one, a very descriptive account of a sexual assault of a minor. It’s not overly long (I believe just a few pages) and could be easily skipped (it takes place in a bathroom on a school trip if that helps). It plays a large part into this character’s story, but I understand for some readers this kind of material is an absolute no-go. This has been discussed by a lot of other reviewers in the lead up to this book, but just want to make it very clear of the content in this book.

I’m in danger, she wanted to say. Someone hurt me and I don’t think they’re finished. Help me. But what good had that ever done?

I loved the mystery in this book. It was very layered and multi-faceted and loved how it blended the magical and real worlds. I didn’t guess the ending and am cautiously optimistic a *certain important character* will be making a return. I truly did not see that character exit coming or the circumstances surrounding it. It honestly broke my heart a little bit and hope there is a positive resolution to it.

I let you die. To save myself, I let you die.
That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.


Overall this was truly a five-star read for me. I certainly understand this book will not be for everyone: it’s very dark and has a lot of heavy topics and themes. However, I just loved the setting, the world-building and the characters. I can’t wait for what’s next and hope Bardugo continues to bounce back and forth between young adult and adult novels.

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6 Comments

  1. Beware Of The Reader

    January 11, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    I am so happy you loved it too Cassie!!! Now I can’t wait for book two!

  2. Great review! The more I see this book, the more I want to read it!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

    • Cassie

      January 17, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks, Michelle! I still can’t believe how much I loved it, but I definitely recommend trying it if you are interested! -Cassie

  3. Great review! I haven’t read it yet, but I’m planning to pick it up next month. I’m glad you loved it! 🙂
    Raven @ Dreamy Addictions recently posted…February Most Anticipated Reads + FEBRUARY TBR [2020]My Profile

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