Early last year I read the first Galaxy Stern book (Ninth House) based on a shelf talker at Brazos. It was fine — not the best thing I read last year for sure, but a solid gentleman’s B. And it was definitely good enough to have me jump on the sequel more or less as soon as it popped up as available on my Kindle.
I should take this as a lesson, though, because we all know Amazon is evil, and that you should buy your books locally, and I even have a great outlet for said, but sometimes we are weak. And this time, my weakness was punished with a real overwrought mess of a sequel.
I think Bardugo is pushing for a series here, and why not? I mean, that’s clearly where all genre is going — just try finding a self-contained book at this point. Ninth House had its charms, despite being very trope-driven: underprivileged young woman plucked from dangerous circumstances to attend fucking YALE on a scholarship, but the catch is she has to serve in something called Lethe: a super-secret society that monitors the magical pursuits of the OTHER secret societies on campus. And, wouldn’t you know it, murder and mayhem ensue.
It even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but if I’m honest that wasn’t why I went ahead and read the second one; I had enjoyed, at least to a point, the company of Alex Stern and her Lethe cohort, so I was interested enough to buy the sequel on my Kindle at 10:30 at night.
As I said, mistake.
Bardugo has shoved just entirely TOO MUCH STUFF into this book. There are too many plot points, too many new magical ideas pulled out of hats with very little prior justification, too many new characters, and entirely too much empty peril for Stern — whom we know is garbed head to toe in Plot Armor. Moreover, the book needed a MUCH more ruthless editor; we’re burdened repeatedly by needless backstory for minor characters, none of which does much besides increase the page count.
I don’t think I’ll be back for the all-but-inevitable follow-up books.