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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House

by Leigh Bardugo

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Quick take

A secret Yale society is into some spooky stuff. Like off-record surgical prophecies and real, live (dead?) ghosts.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_GraphicViolence

    Graphic violence

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SexualContent

    Sexual Content


Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

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Why I love it

I adore Leigh Bardugo’s YA books—the shippable characters (I’m a Kanej ride or die), the deeply lived-in worlds, the breakneck audacity of her plotting. All of that can be found in her adult debut, but Ninth House ticks with a different kind of heartbeat. It’s a tale of threadbare survival, a pick-up-the-jagged-pieces story that kicks off long after its hard-baked heroine’s life has already fallen apart.

Since she was a kid Alex Stern has been able to see ghosts, an awful ability that’s precluded her attempts to lead a normal life. She drifts early into a world of dangerous men, her life on the skids until she makes a devil’s deal: in exchange for a free ride to Yale, she’ll use her ghostly ability to work for Lethe House. Lethe was formed to serve as supernatural sheriff to the university’s eight secret societies—practitioners of arcane magic. But after the murder of a local girl and the possibly related disappearance of her closest Lethe colleague, Alex learns how far the societies will go to avoid policing.

In these pages Alex embarks on the journey all of us have longed for: she steps nimbly through the looking-glass, into a world of untold wonders. But the enchantments she finds have claws and teeth and puppet strings, manipulated by some very wicked hands. The sandbox Bardugo has built for herself—one of looming tombs and papery autumn skies, haunted by the searchlight eyes of the dead—feels limitless. I want to watch her build (and raze) castles in it for a hundred more books.

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