This, the second book in Tamsyn Muir’s Locked Tomb series, follows Harrowhark Nonagesimus, as she adjusts to life as a Lyctor, serving the Emperor of the Nine Houses, following the events of Gideon the Ninth. Sort of.
It becomes clear to readers very quickly that something isn’t quite right. A lot of the chapters are written in second person, directed to Harrow herself. But these are interspersed with flashbacks to Harrow’s time at Canaan House, where she underwent the tests to become a Lyctor. Except, there’s no Gideon, just Ortus, her original cavalier. What in the world is going on?
Gideon the Ninth was pretty confusing at the start, but this is even more so because what is happening makes absolutely no sense. But it’s obvious that it’s not supposed to make sense, so I was much more able to go with it and experience Harrow’s emotional journey on the two timelines. She struggles with her training and with learning who to trust in both timelines. And she’s up against some perilous foes. In the “present” storyline, it seems that something isn’t quite right in her ascension to Lyctor status, which makes her task even harder.
As is the case with Gideon, the story gets quite dark and violent, and this book lacks Gideon’s wise-cracking attitude, but I really didn’t miss it, as much as I enjoyed her voice in the previous book. Harrow’s relationship with Ianthe of the Third House involves enough banter to keep the story from being all grim all the time. And, overall, I was too drawn in by the mystery of the book’s construction to need the wise-cracks. I think I actually liked this better than I did Gideon the Ninth.
The answer to the mystery was not a total surprise, but the revelation of it was an emotional gut-punch. The novel also answers some other mysteries from the first book and introduces some new ones as the characters delve further back into their own histories and the history of the Nine Worlds. The next book, Nona the Ninth, is coming next fall, to be followed by Alecto the Ninth. Now I just have to hold I hold enough of the story in my head to enjoy the next book when it comes.