Harrow the Ninth Rothdas book review RSS
4.0 Stars

A neat and fast-reading sequel that failed to really come together for me like the first one did. Part of this is due to the fractured narrative, as the main character has partial amnesia & sensory glitches & unreliable flashbacks & peer-to-peer-dreams, and has to use a Memento style system of notes to help her out. Part of this is due to my own amnesia, as I try to remember ~20 characters from a year ago. Part of this is due to the magic system, which reminded me of the transition from high school level math to college level math, where small seeds of misunderstanding blossomed into flowers of complete incomprehension. It did not help that the power level of the magic system launches completely into the stratosphere, so that all the main characters are basically demi-gods who can heal and reshape themselves at will and travel through dimensions and fight planet-size psychic beasts. And part of this is simply due to the character of the main character, Harrow, who seemed to have way too much detachment and chill for someone in her place. I kept comparing her to other teenage void priests/necromancers, e.g. the priestess from le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan, or the kindly necromancer from the Sabriel series. Both of these were grounded characters and grounded worlds that fully explored their subject and all its details. They felt like worlds you could reason about and understand, and less like "a wizard did it" (though of course a wizard did do it, just in a way that it is consistent and understandable given the previous world building).

Despite these flaws, Harrow is still an enjoyable book, and the author does an excellent job on a number of fronts. The simplest accolade is that I blazed through it and read the ~600 page book in ~2 days. The book does have energy and cliff hangers and central threats and mysteries and for the most part it does manage to draw you along. Many of the characters are neat, once you remember them, and the sensory description and anatomy poerty is often great. At its best the book has a giddy energy where the author leans into the psychedelic craziness, and it becomes something closer to a Philip Palmer book but with wizards. So despite parts of this not working, I am still looking forward to the final entry in the triology.