Ugggggh, I love Nona so much.
Not Nona the book — and we’ll come to that later — but Nona the character, who is about the sweetest gorram teenager you’ve ever met in your life. Well, technically a teenager: her body is about nineteen years old but she’s only really been alive? resurrected? reborn? for almost six months now. So, ofc, she wants a birthday party, to include her friends at school, several good dogs and the few members of the Blood Of Eden guerilla group whom she’s familiar with.
This last group, ofc, is strictly vetoed by her guardian Camilla Hect (yes, that Camilla, yesssssss!) who is taking care of her with the assistance of a grumpy older person named Pyrrha. Our little trio live in The Building, a somewhat scary edifice that houses all sorts of unsavory characters. Nona, no longer being a complete infant, is allowed to go to school, where she’s a Teacher’s Aide who hangs out with a literal gang of teenagers. These teens are very anti-zombie, which is basically what everyone on their planet calls the necromancers of the Nine Houses and their minions and soldiers. Thus sweet Nona is also anti-z-word, too, even tho she has a sneaking suspicion that her little family might be more involved with necromancy than she wants to think about. But when an honest-to-God Lyctor comes calling, demanding that this planet give up its House renegades in exchange for resettlement somewhere far away from the planet-killing threat looming in the sky, matters come to a head and Nona must finally confront who and what she really is.
Whereas the first book in the Locked Tomb series was Battle Royale meets And Then There Were None, and the second a murderous boarding school mystery in space, this third book is about a true innocent growing up in a dystopia and finding herself far more important than she’d ever imagined. It’s a bit Chosen One-ish, but Nona is just so darn likeable that I eagerly read all the chapters of her adolescent adventures with her friends as war and disaster threw long shadows over them. Interspersed with these are chapters from the viewpoint of God a.k.a John, who reveals (mostly) what happened to get him to his exalted position. John is a dick but he is also hilarious, so I spent a lot of time laughing at his jokes and feeling a little bad about it later. His essentially dirtbag POV is a nice contrast to Nona’s earnest desire for all her friends to love one another, as she loves them, making the first 75% of the book a quick, compelling read.
Alas that everything should get murky in the final quarter of the tome. After the thing that led to Paul (and LET ME TELL YOU, I was SOBBING when Camilla said “life is too short and love is too long”,) the narrative begins to deliberately sacrifice clarity for vibes, to the point that I’m starting to worry about where this series is going. It doesn’t help that I had to strongly refresh myself on what happened in Harrow The Ninth (with the help of the wonderful Space Gnomes!) because I somehow managed to forget the biggest plot twists from the final quarter of that book! I’m hardly the dumbest reader — I figured out whose body Nona was in within the first twenty pages and am pretty certain I understand the deal with Alecto — but there were parts that were so (I hope deliberately) obscure that I’m still trying to figure them out. The TV Tropes site, btw, is excellent for helping clarify things, if you’ve already read the book and are looking for answers.
Nona The Ninth was originally written as part of the next book of the series, and it shows. The end isn’t so much a payoff as an off-ramp, leading me to spend these past four or five hours frantically combing the internet and consulting with my fellow readers (especially Larisa, shout out!) in my efforts to finally understand what’s going on here. Harrow The Ninth had a similar feel, but at least that book explained the many identities of Gideon, and felt like a more solid experience on its own. Which isn’t to pan NtN at all, just that it doesn’t feel as complete unto itself as the other books did (which is saying A Lot because HtN was very much a Connector Novel.)
Fans of The Locked Tomb series must absolutely read and devour this. Do not attempt if you haven’t already read the first two! Shoot, I read them and I was still confused: thank goodness for the Internet and friends with better information retention than me.
Nona The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir was published September 13 2022 and is available from all good booksellers, including