cover image Ninth House

Ninth House

Leigh Bardugo. Flatiron, $27.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-250-31307-2

Bardugo’s excellent first fantasy novel for adults (following her highly regarded Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone YA series) introduces an antihero who is just the right person to take on rising dangers in an elitist society. Galaxy “Alex” Stern’s early life was wrecked by her unusual ability to see “Grays”—earthbound ghosts—but that same ability gains her admission into one of the magic-based houses at Yale. As she struggles to adjust to college life, she’s forced to confront evil powers swirling under the thin veneers of tradition and ritual. When a young woman is killed, Alex becomes determined to find the murderer, even if it means dodging attempts on her life and striking eldritch bargains. Alex is the story’s gritty, rock-solid heart. While other characters refuse to admit what’s happening, too insulated by their own privilege or distracted by banal needs such as funding, Bardugo gives Alex a thoroughly engaging mix of rough edge, courage, and cynicism, all of which are required to get things done. Much of the book’s white-knuckled tension comes from the increasingly horrific flashbacks revealing Alex’s past, which is still very present in her mind. Fantasy readers, particularly those who love ghosts, will hungrily devour this novel. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Oct.)