Nona the Ninth, the upcoming third book in the Locked Tomb series, is coming out September 13th and we are HYPED. In the sarcastic spirit of the books we decided to do a meme-based recap to remind you what happened in Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. Obviously major spoilers are to follow. This is only going to make sense if you’ve read the first two books, so go do that if you haven’t–maybe this upcoming Labor Day weekend?
Gideon Nav, an orphan, and Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the necromantic heir to the Ninth House, go to the First House along with other house scions and their cavaliers. They’ve been summoned to potentially become Lyctors, the immortal servants of the Emperor Undying. Gideon has been pressed into service as Harrow’s cavalier with the promise that she will be free to leave the Ninth House when the competition for Lyctorhood is complete.
After a series of puzzles and murders it is revealed that Dulcinea the Seventh is actually Cytherea the First, a rogue Lyctor intending to use the competition to murder the Emperor. Ianthe Tridentarius has also discovered the secrets of Lyctorhood, killing and consuming the soul of your own cavalier. The survivors fight Ianthe and Cytherea to mediocre effect: it’s tough to kill an immortal ten-thousand-year old, even if she does have perpetual blood cancer.
Realizing that Cytherea will kill them all, Gideon kills herself, forcing Harrow to complete the Lyctoral Process. With her necromancy and Gideon’s swordsmanship, Harrow defeats Cytherea. She passes out and when she wakes up she is with the Emperor himself. She begs him to save Gideon’s soul, but he can’t do that, and she accepts a role with him as a Lyctor. OR DOES SHE???
Harrow the Ninth takes a very different turn both in tone and style. Harrow is with the Emperor and other Lyctors on the Mithraeum, his space station 40 billion light years from Dominicus. They are joined by fellow baby Lyctor Ianthe, and the ten-thousand-year olds Mercymorn, Augustine, and “Ortus” the Firsts. Over the course of the book we learn that in an effort to keep her soul from consuming Gideon’s, Harrow had Ianthe perform necromantic brain surgery on her to erase Gideon from her mind. This includes doing basically a Find and Replace for the name Gideon, so anytime she hears that name her brain changes it to the name Ortus.
To cope with this altered reality, Harrow also constructs an entirely new version of the events of Gideon the Ninth. Only it doesn’t go the way the first book did, and Harrow assumes she’s crazy. Well, yes, but it’s not entirely that.
The main things that Harrow and Ianthe learn in their time on the Mithraeum is that when the Emperor resurrected the planets that make up the Nine Houses (because as it turns out, planets have souls) that process creates an unholy monster out of the mangled spirit of the planet. These are called Resurrection Beasts, and they are piiiiiiiiissed at the Emperor and the Lyctors. They control hordes of secondary creatures called Heralds, and being in the presence of both Heralds and Resurrection Beasts causes necromancers to go insane. Over time the Emperor and his Lyctors have managed to kill many Resurrection Beasts, but Number Seven is coming and there are only a few Lyctors left, hence why they tried to make more. Well, not everybody was on board with that plan; Ortus the First doesn’t trust Harrow, which leads to the infamous dinner scene.
The other force in the Galaxy is Blood of Eden, an insurgent group who hates necromancy and the structure of the Nine Houses. They’ve actually been reasonably successful as a quasi-terrorist organization and have existed for a few thousand years at this point. At one point Harrow runs into a BOE cell keeping the apparently not-dead Corona, Camilla and Judith in custody. Camilla reveals that Palamedes spirit is hanging out in the River, attached to the pieces of his skull that she picked up after his death in book one.
During an attack by the Heralds of Number Seven, Harrow and the other Lyctors send their spirits to the River. Normally a Lyctor’s dead cavalier’s instincts puppet the body during this time, fighting off attacks. Harrow up until now hasn’t made that work, but by this time she has relearned what she did to herself to save Gideon’s soul and effectively broken through the block. Gideon wakes up in Harrow’ body and we all cheer because we missed her so much. She chides Harrow for not lifting weights more and fights her way through the Mithraeum.
Harrow meanwhile is back in her simulation of the first book, and it turns out she’s been summoning and controlling the actual spirits of her dead comrades to reenact her revisionist history in the River, which is basically the place where dead souls go. The spirit of Abigail the Fifth informs Harrow that she is in fact haunted by a third soul, who is killing them all off in the dreamscape. The spirit is Commander Awake Remembrance of These Valiant Dead Kia Hua Ko Te Pai Snap Back to Reality Oops There Goes Gravity. More on her in a second.
Gideon-in-Harrow arrives to find a dramatic scene of Mercymorn trying to assassinate the Emperor. Turns out there was totally a way to get Lyctor powers without killing and eating your best friend, but the Emperor kept that quiet because he didn’t want competition. His cavalier is somebody named Alecto, who as it turns out is the body in the Locked Tomb. (You know, the one that Harrow unlocked when she was ten. Everyone sucks at security in this series.) The Emperor had promised to kill her, but instead he just switched her off and put her in the tomb.
Mercymorn found this out and conspired with Blood of Eden to use the Emperor’s genetic material to produce a child that would share enough of his DNA to activate the blood wards guarding the Locked Tomb. When their test tube babies all died, Commander Wake of the BOE inseminated herself and birthed our favourite sarcastic swordswoman, Gideon, before being promptly murdered by Gideon the First (yes his name is also Gideon, Harrow had been calling him Ortus the whole time due to the brain surgery). That is why Gideon Nav’s mother’s spirit screamed “Gideon! Gideon! Gideon!” and what led the Ninth House to assume the baby was named Gideon. Mercymorn tries to disintegrate the Emperor; it doesn’t work; he comes back and kills her instead. Gideon-in-Harrow reveals to the Emperor that she is quote not fucking dead end quote.
The Emperor asks the remaining Lyctors for their loyalty. Ianthe gives it but Augustine decides the jig is up and drops the entire Mithraeum into the River. He’s eventually sucked up by the stoma, a weird portal to nobody-knows-where at the bottom (to paraphrase Ianthe: yuck). Ianthe saves the Emperor, and Gideon Nav meets Gideon the First, or rather Pyrrha, his cavalier who has been chilling in the back of the brain for ten thousand years and just woke up because Gideon the First(‘s soul) is dead. They try to swim out of the Mithraeum and Gideon dies. Again.
Unable to return to her body, Harrow’s spirit travels through the River and ends up in the Locked Tomb where she lies down with the body of Alecto and has a nap. The novel ends on an unknown planet where a mysterious new person narrates their life, ending with a reveal that Camilla is still alive and trying to determine who this new narrator is.
WHEW! That is certainly not everything but that should get you mostly caught up on the events of the first two books if you don’t have time to reread them before Nona the Ninth. Look for our coverage of Nona the Ninth coming around September 13th, 2022.