So Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House is an urban fantasy, wherein a young woman is recruited by a centuries-old occult organization to guard against supernatural evil, and trains under the tutelage of an older and more experienced man. And somehow, it wasn’t until I wrote that out that it even occurred to me that you could compare it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Mostly that’s because this is so firmly its own thing; I wasn’t even thinking of it as being in the urban fantasy genre until well into the book. Part of this is the setting: It takes place at Yale, and it is super about Yale, both as a geographical place and as a cultural institution. The other part of it is the main character, who is very much not the type of person who usually ends up at Yale, which sets up a strong sense of class-based culture shock, as this person who’s lived in genuine down-and-out circumstances is now immersed in a world of wealth and privilege. (It’s also a pretty straight-up class conflict, too, but in a way that feels relevant and true, not in some cartoonish Animal House kinda way.)

The world-building is interesting, the mystery has enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages, the narrator is vivid and jumps off the page, and it does that thing where it combines breezy readability with some real substance. Strongly recommended.


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