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    Gideon 

Gideon Nav

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/gideon_the_ninth.jpg

The primary protagonist and the third person narrator of Gideon the Ninth. An indentured servant of the Ninth House since she was taken in as a foundling, she grew up detested and unwanted, spending years training with her sword in order to one day leave the Ninth behind and never look back. She ends up being dragged by Harrow to the Lyctor trials on the First after the Ninth's cavalier primary fled, knowing that Harrow's success is likely the only way she'll ever escape the Ninth for good.


  • All of the Other Reindeer: She's spent her life detested by everyone in the Ninth House, mainly due to her irreverent attitude and mysterious origins, viewed as worthless by literally everyone except her mentor in swordsmanship, especially compared to the only other child of her generation, Harrow, the perfect nun and powerful necromancer. Mostly because as an infant, she was the only one who survived the nerve gas used to kill all the other children in their generation so that Harrow could be born. Harrow's parents, the leaders of the Ninth, who organized the plot, reacted to her with horror and disgust for the rest of their lives, and the remainder of the House took their cues from them.
  • Ambiguously Human: There are a lot of hints throughout the book that Gideon's Mysterious Past is hiding some deep secrets, between surviving multiple traumas that should have killed her, and her apparent connection to Canaan House and another "Gideon". Then there is the mystery of how the First Never Found the Body.
  • Aura Vision: In tandem with Harrow riding her mind, she can see thanergetic signatures as weird shining auras. Based on Harrow's reaction to being told about it, this is not how necromancers normally see thanergy, implying something else may be at play.
  • Badass Gay: Makes no secret of her love for women, or her love for kicking ass.
  • Bad Dreams: She got them a lot as a kid, especially ones about the Locked Tomb opening. Her dreams get a lot worse after the Fourth's death, her nightmares mostly revolving around all the deaths she failed to prevent.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Gideon is fond of Magnus because he was the first person in her entire life to be kind and friendly to her. It's also why she's hit so hard by his death.
  • Berserk Button: One of the few things that pushes her buttons instantly is others speculating about her origins and her mother's origins.
  • The Big Guy: She's tall, absolutely ripped, and is the only cavalier who favors a heavy weapon which — once she finally breaks it out — smashes through her opponents like a wrecking ball.
  • Blood Knight: Gideon loves fighting. Her favorite thing in the universe is her two hander, and she begs Harrow to let her into the Winnowing trial because the skeletal construct's tendrils look kind of like swords and she wants to fight it. Even when watching the Second challenge the Sixth for their keys, when the mood is somber and alarmed, she can barely suppress a savage grin in watching a fight between two very skilled cavaliers.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Part of her attraction to Dulcinea stems from a desire to take care of and protect her. Toyed with for Harrow. As Harrow opens up, Gideon's narration starts to compliment her, and notices her physical appearance far more than previously, but is frankly shocked that Harrow has anything attractive about her.
  • Book Dumb: She's an "illiterate peon," according to Harrow, and in her own words, "I don't know jack [...] except the sword." All she reads are comics and porn mags, but she's quick on her feet, quicker to run her mouth with elaborate sarcastic insults, and learnt the rapier in three months.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Gideon adores fighting and is quick to enact violence, but it's no secret she has a soft and squishy heart. Her compassion extends to Damsels in Distress, the horrid teens, and even Harrow.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Almost everything that comes out of Gideon's mouth is an innuendo or a weird, confusing joke, and everyone assumes she's a total idiot. She's also very likely the finest sword fighter the Ninth House has ever had.
  • Butch Lesbian: Short hair, tall, buff as heck, with a squishy center. Classic butch.
  • Child Naming Request: With a twist; she was named Gideon after the only thing her mother's ghost said after being summoned, which was a shrieked "Gideon! Gideon! Gideon!" before disappearing.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Flat-out refuses to "throw a bone" to Harrow and make their duel fair for the sake of anything as nebulous as "honor." This persists to Canaan House, be it sucker punching Tern during a stuffy show match or kicking Camilla's dagger out of her hands.
  • Cool Shades: Her Iconic Item. They're even featured on the book's cover, and the final chapter header changes the Ninth House's icon to include them after her death.
  • Chick Magnet: At least, she certainly thinks so.
    Gideon: Why must I have been born so attractive?
  • Childhood Friends: When Gideon describes her childhood with Harrow, she recalls it fondly. Despite how they fought and antagonized each other, it was still the closest thing to a friendship with someone her age. At least initially, the death of Harrow's parents twisted the fremeny dynamic into something more cruel.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Becomes invested in "every weirdo" at Canaan House. Her first instinct is always to help, as evidenced by her reaction to Dulcinea's shaky arrival. Even towards Harrow; after hearing about her deep self-loathing and attempted suicide, her immediate reaction is to empathize with her and forgive her.
  • Dark-Skinned Redhead: She's depicted with brown skin in the cover art of Gideon the Ninth.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rarely ever stops her sarcasm from infusing nearly everything she says, and it flavors her narration heavily. Whenever she genuinely stops quipping it's a major sign of O.O.C. Is Serious Business.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Gideon is the main P.O.V character of Gideon the Ninth, and the narrative focuses on her time in Caanan House, but ultimately the book is about Harrow's ascension to Lyctorhood. To emphasize the point, the focus switches to Harrow for the last chapters.
  • Determinator: A broken knee? Ravaged arm and severe blood loss? Nigh unbeatable odds? Won't stop Gideon.
  • Doorstop Baby: She was a day old when she arrived in Drearburh, safely enclosed in the bio-container of a dead woman's hazard suit.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Her narration indulges in this a lot, usually when Coronabeth is flouncing around her in skimpy nightgowns or a wet swimsuit, though it also flavors her more sincere attraction to Dulcinea, with her narration often fixated on Dulcinea's eyes and hair.
  • Elective Mute: Pretends to have taken a vow of silence shortly after arriving at Canaan House to avoid blowing her cover, surprising a few characters when she starts talking and reveals herself as a foul-mouthed irreverent rather than a grim devotee of the Tomb. It cracks early on around the Sixth and ends up breaking entirely once the shit hits the fan at the end of Act Three.
  • Everyone Can See It: She almost immediately becomes very obviously infatuated with Dulcinea to the point where Harrow tries to limit the time Gideon spends around her.
  • Fiery Redhead: Her bright red hair is commented on several times. Gideon is as spirited and passionate as the trope suggests.
  • Gender-Blender Name: "Gideon," not that anyone brings this up.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Gideon's corpse is still wearing a smile after she sacrifices herself and the battle is won.
  • Hate at First Sight: She and Harrow supposedly hated each other since the moment Harrow was born.
  • The Hero: For all her goofiness, Gideon is undoubtedly good and a hero to the end. There's a reason the very first book is named after her.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: She prefers her two hander specifically, although she's more than competent with the traditional rapier all cavaliers use, even if she whines about it not being proper fighting.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: She impales herself in the heart so that Harrow can extract her soul and become a Lyctor powerful enough to kill Cytherea, and thereby save both Harrow and Camilla.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Gideon did not have a good time growing up in the Ninth as a universally reviled indentured servant. She's mostly blase about it, treating instances like having the heat turned off in her cell until she's so cold she's left screaming in a hallway as comically mundane, but it gets Played for Drama later, especially when it comes to her twisted and entangled history with Harrow.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Though she's more than passably skilled with the rapier, her real skill and passion lies with her two hander. When she finally breaks it out, she and Harrow quickly dismantle Cytherea's bone construct, and when she duels Cytherea, Gideon effortlessly smashes through her defenses, only failing to kill her due to the Healing Factor she possesses.
  • I Am Who?: Subverted. Despite her Mysterious Past and wanting to know more about her origins, when she finds a partial note with her name on it in an ancient study at Canaan House, she's uncharacteristically terrified of what it means, and her narration says that the scrap of paper feels "as dangerous as a live grenade". She doesn't pursue this lead further in the first book, and is dead by the end of it.
  • Iconic Item: Her beloved two-hander and especially her aviator sunglasses. They're featured on the cover of Gideon the Ninth, and she wears them in all but the deepest darkness.
  • Indentured Servitude: The Ninth raised her since she was a baby, a debt they won't soon let her forget.
  • In-Series Nickname: Harrow only addresses her either by her surname or "Griddle," to the point that Gideon is surprised and delighted on the very rare occasions that she uses her proper first name.
  • It's All My Fault: A habit of hers, probably tied to her Chronic Hero Syndrome. Becomes particularly apparent when she isn't able to prevent Isaac and Jeannemary from getting killed. It's also revealed that since the age of eleven, she's blamed herself for Harrow's parents' suicides.
  • Leave Him to Me: Temporarily. When she believes Harrow is responsible for the murders, she is left saying a variation on this repeatedly, and very nearly ended up waiting in their quarters to kill her.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Gideon is very strong and surprisingly quick among the other cavaliers, being quick enough to keep up with both Naberius and Camilla despite the handicap of wearing her church robes at all times. It's downplayed with the rapier due to her lack of training and dislike of it, but both her speed and power are fully realized with her two hander.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: It turns out she is this to Harrow, in a twisted and complicated way. They've known each other their whole lives, and Harrow can't imagine life without her.
  • Made of Iron: Gideon's unusual durability is remarked upon a few times. She survives the extended siphoning in the Avulsion room and recovers completely from the experience in less than a day, when Palamedes says it ought to have given her permanent brain damage, if not outright killed her. Then there's the matter of the nerve gas that was released in her nursery when she was a baby, when just releasing the gas blinded Harrow's great-aunts. Gideon breathed it for ten minutes unharmed. She also takes several incapacitating injuries during the final fight against Cytherea, and only stops fighting when she can physically no longer lift her sword, with her narration only distantly commenting on the pain.
  • Meaningful Name: Aside from loosely sticking to the Numerical Theme Naming of most House surnames, "Nav" has a number of puns on it that fit Gideon, from "knave" to "navigate" to "naive," all of which apply in some way. "Gideon" is also the name of a biblical hero, and has an additional meaning in-universe, as there was someone named Gideon at Canaan House when the first Lyctors were ascending, who, given her Mysterious Past may be Gideon Nav's namesake.
  • Mysterious Past: The circumstances around her birth and being taken in by the Ninth are hinted to contain some unusual connections to the First and Canaan House itself, but this is never actually explored in the first book.
  • Naïve Newcomer: A downplayed version, and toyed with on top of that. Since she's lived her entire life on the Ninth and wasn't Harrow's first choice of cavalier, she doesn't know much about the other Houses, especially their necromantic specialties, or what being a cavalier primary actually entails. However, it also extends to things that she's unfamiliar with but are normal in real life, such as daily nightfall, baths, and what a salad is.
  • Never Found the Body: The Emperor's forces fail to find her body at the end of the first book. Which is odd given it was last seen laying dead in a courtyard right next to where they found Harrow and Ianthe.
  • Only Friend: Harrow reveals this is how she actually views Gideon, despite having mostly treated her like she despised her.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: After the death of the Fourth right in front of her, Gideon's sarcasm turns very bitter and hurtful, often directed at herself as her self-loathing rises, and she starts lashing out at people more frequently. It isn't until she and Harrow finally reconcile that she shakes it off.
    • Gideon's narration also makes note of the fact that, although they despise each other, and Harrow routinely hurts Gideon emotionally and physically, Gideon has never physically threatened or hurt Harrow in return, and the times that Gideon comes genuinely close to doing so are times when she's especially upset or infuriated by Harrow.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: It's a sore point for her that she knows nothing about her family or where she came from, and was raised by a House full of people who never loved her or showed her any real kindness.
  • Power Fist: Her offhand weapon alongside the rapier is a set of spiked, obsidian knuckle-knives. Subverted in that they're mainly for appearances' sake, as Gideon has absolutely no idea how to use them for anything beyond blocking and backhanding.
  • Pungeon Master: Gideon assumes puns are automatically funny.
  • Sad Clown: Gideon will make inappropriate jokes in the most dire of situations, mostly because her whole life has been a fairly dire situation. Palamedes observes that Gideon, underneath her bluster, absolutely hates herself. She can't deny he's right.
  • Sunglasses at Night: She wears her sunglasses constantly. Justified, in that the Ninth is a very dark hole bored into the core of a dead planet, so wearing sunglasses even in the deepest shadows at Canaan House isn't much to her, though even she thinks it's stupid to fight with them on and she does take them off in the Lyctoral labs.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Her uncommon eye color is remarked upon by Dulcinea, and it's one more thing contributing to her Ambiguously Human status.
  • Unknown Rival: Harrow claims she barely remembers Gideon exists most of the time, though she's clearly lying.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Several characters, including Dulcinea, comment on her eye color as being striking. During the final chapters when the perspective shifts to Harrow, her narration also makes note of how she has always been startled by Gideon's eyes.
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    Harrow 

Harrowhark Nonagesimus

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/harrow_the_ninth.png

The other primary protagonist, and the POV character of Harrow the Ninth. The Reverend Daughter of Drearburh, her to the Ninth House, Harrowhark Nonagesimus is haughty, one of the most powerful necromancers of her generation, and Gideon's lifelong bully. It is only out of necessity that she conscripts Gideon as her cavalier for the Lyctor trials, because more than she hates Gideon, Harrow needs to become a Lyctor to safeguard her House and the Locked Tomb.


  • 100% Adoration Rating: Excluding Gideon, all her subjects in the Ninth House are absolutely devoted to her.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Became the leader of her house at the age of 10 after the suicide of her parents, though only a few people know that they're dead.
  • Anti-Hero: She’s the other protagonist of the book, but not nearly as virtuous or traditionally heroic as Gideon. There are times in the first book when it's called into question whether Harrow is one of the "good guys" at all, but ultimately Harrowhark does what she does for the sake of her House, and she's not at all as heartless as she tries to appear.
  • Badass Boast: She's prone to these.
    Harrow: I have bested my father. I have bested my father and my grandmother—every single necromancer ever taught by my House—every necromancer who has ever touched a skeleton.
  • Badass Bookworm: Par for the course as a necromancer, but Harrow in particular is one of the only necros whom the others consider a significant threat even without a cavalier at her side.
  • Badass Gay: The book's tagline is "lesbian necromancers" and Harrow embodies that; she's just as prone to being distracted by Coronabeth as Gideon is.
  • Barrier Warrior: One of her recurring techniques aside from swarms of skeletons is to summon shields of bone. By the end of Gideon the Ninth, she's also learned how to make them regenerate.
  • Bittersweet 17: Harrow is seventeen in book one, and deals with such Coming of Age trials as: leaving home for the first time, growing closer to her first crush, and trying to ascend to Lyctorhood to secure the future of her House.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Doesn't extend to her sclera like in some examples, but her irises are so dark as to appear black, and she's Gideon's lifelong tormentor. Also ultimately ends up as a subversion.
  • Bodyguard Crush: It's very heavily implied that she has a crush on Gideon beneath all of the tangled emotions between them.
  • Broken Bird: Harrow is cold and cynical, but her parents killing themselves when she was ten is also only the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to her issues.
  • Cassandra Truth: Harrow often expresses her distrust of the Seventh House, much to Gideon's exasperation. Guess who turns out to (sort of) be behind all the murders?
  • Child Prodigy: It's mentioned that she should control skeletons before she could properly walk.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: When she tries to limit the time Gideon spends around Dulcinea, Gideon accuses her of being jealous, but Harrow insists that it's because Dulcinea isn't trustworthy. Although she ends up being right, Harrow was also being jealous.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Is never without weapons, and usually several steps ahead of everyone else.
  • Creepy Loner Girl: Harrow fits this to a T. She encourages the other Houses to see her this way, as it fits into the mysterious reputation of the Ninth and prevents them from prying.
  • Death Seeker: Harrow has struggled with suicidal depression since she was a child, but in Harrow the Ninth, consuming Gideon has left her riddled with self-loathing, and openly questioning if she should even be alive.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Compare how she acts with Gideon at the start of the book and at the end. She also defrosts to the other heirs at Canaan House, enough to be concerned about their whereabouts in the epilogue.
  • Determinator: In a different style than Gideon, but she does not stop working towards her goals until she's physically unable to. An early example is that she cataloged and mapped over 200 doors in Canaan House on the very first day they arrived.
  • Deuteragonist: Gideon may be the eponymous, point of view character of book one, but Harrow's story develops in tandem with hers and is just as important. Tellingly, the second book is named after Harrow and shifts to her perspective following Gideon's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In her introductory chapter, she kicks Gideon in the face while she's disabled — hard enough to make Gideon cough up a tooth — for trying to leave. This is comparatively mild; Harrow is fond of doling these out to Gideon for her escape attempts, such as poisoning her food so that Gideon was sick for a month and giving her frostbite by turning off the heating to her cell.
  • Driven to Suicide: Once she understood the circumstances behind her conception, she broke into the Locked Tomb in a nihilistic attempt to kill herself. At the age of 10. Despite not following through, it is heavily implied she has continued to struggle with suicidal depression in the years since.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Checks all the boxes. Some of the other heirs note Harrow is as stereotypically Ninth as they come.
  • Eye Color Change: The cover of Harrow the Ninth depicts her with golden sclera and her own dark, nearly black pupils. Notably, this is not the kind of change that other Lyctors experience, tying in with the other hints that Harrow's own Lyctorhood is flawed in some way.
  • Forgets to Eat: Big time. In addition to forgetting to sleep and drink water.
  • The Gift: Harrow is likely the strongest necromancer in the entire history of the Ninth, and has been raising skeletons since almost before she could walk. She even describes herself as "the perfect necromancer". There is a reason for this, as her parents killed almost all of the Ninth's children to ensure her conception.
  • Hate at First Sight: Apparently she's hated Gideon since she was born.
  • Heroic BSoD: Gideon's death hits her extremely hard, and in the final chapter and epilogue of Gideon the Ninth she's left sobbing and deeply heartbroken.
  • In-Series Nickname: In previews of Harrow the Ninth, Ianthe calls her "Harry".
  • Insufferable Genius: Harrow is smug and arrogant, but she really is a hugely talented necromancer, assuredly one of the most powerful of her generation. And she won't let anyone forget it.
  • I Work Alone: Starts as this, but ends up a subversion by the end of Gideon the Ninth. She flat-out refuses to collaborate with any of the other Houses, as she's convinced the Lyctoral challenges are a competition with no room for cooperation, and initially treats Gideon as little more than a cavalier brought to the First for appearances sake alone. However, her determination and desire to complete things alone is a complete mismatch for the Lyctoral labs, and after being taken down several pegs, she ends up working closely with Gideon, and later the Sixth.
  • Last-Name Basis: She calls everyone by their surname or formal title, and everyone in turn does the same to her. Gideon is the only one who occasionally calls her "Harrow," although Palamedes eventually works up to it too.
  • Love at First Sight: For the dead girl inside the Locked Tomb, effectively The Antichrist of the Empire's religion, and the real reason Harrow wants to become a Lyctor and safeguard the Tomb, not the preservation of her House.
    Harrow: Nav, when I saw her face, I decided I wanted to live. I decided to live forever just in case she ever woke up.
  • Meaningful Name: Her given name is a portmanteau of two archaic words, "harrow" being roughly synonymous to traumatic or terrifying, and "hark" being used primarily as an exclamation for others to pay attention.
  • Mundane Utility: She uses her own blood as ink and isn't above using skeletons to prop herself up in bed.
  • No Social Skills: Gideon is amused to discover that Harrow isn't just aloof, but absolutely terrified at the prospect of having to socialize at a cordial dinner party. Considering Harrow's spent most of her time with skeletons and nuns, it makes sense she has no idea how to interact with anyone in a casual setting.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Remarked upon frequently by Gideon's narration, which is disarmed to see Harrow open up and start to treat her with compassion throughout her Character Arc in Gideon the Ninth. Most especially when the final secrets are revealed between them, which leaves Harrow stammering, apologetic, and has her admit that Gideon is her Only Friend.
  • Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You: Harrow, enraged that Gideon feels sorry for her even after everything Harrow's done to Gideon over the years, furiously begs Gideon to strike her down, yelling that she deserves to die by Gideon's hand. To her mortification, Gideon hugs her instead.
  • Power-Strain Blackout: Harrow passes out quite a few times after straining her magic too far. She's the only necromancer in the book shown to do so, though she often pushes herself past the limits where other necromancers would back down.
  • Powers as Programs: As part of consuming Gideon's soul to ascend to Lyctorhood, she gains all of Gideon's experience with a zweihander. Actually having the strength to use it is another matter entirely, and being stuck with Gideon's mixed instincts with a rapier actually makes it worse.
  • Properly Paranoid: Harrow can be said to be easily the most antagonistic towards the other Houses at Canaan House and she handles the first murderers much better than most of the rest of the cast.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: As a side effect of using necromancy, she often gets blood sweat, nosebleeds, blood from the eyes, and even exploded blood vessels when really letting loose with her magic.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The royal family of Drearburh is said to be extremely twisted, and Harrow and her parents fit right in.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: Harrow can summon armies of skeletons like nobody's business, but she has No Social Skills, is phenomenally bad at taking care of herself, and has the physique of a wet noodle.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: She has lots of bone jewelry, including bone earrings and bangles, and wears an entire ribcage around her torso.
  • The Snark Knight: She's sarcastic, scathing, and critical, but is just as hard on herself as she is on others.
  • Squishy Wizard: Gideon constantly marvels at how out of shape Harrow is. She's even scrawnier and frailer than the average necromancer, since she can easily just call bone constructs to do anything from heavy lifting to propping her up in bed.
  • Supernatural Angst: The circumstances of her own conception fuel a lot of her self-loathing. Her parents murdered all 200 children in their House in a secret Human Sacrifice ritual to ensure she would be born a potent necromancer. Harrow herself calls her conception "a war crime", and remarks that "the universe ought to scream when my feet touch the ground."
  • Teen Genius: Harrow is seventeen, a necromantic prodigy, and able to retain all the knowledge she obsessively researches to boot.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Harrow has been puppeteering her parents' corpses since she was ten. Also at age ten, she broke into the Locked Tomb housing The Antichrist, which she was taught was pretty much the most evil and forbidden thing anyone in the Empire could do, in a nihilistic attempt to kill herself.
  • Tsundere: Just look at how often she calls Gideon an idiot, while becoming a flustered mess when Gideon hugs her. Deconstructed in that her treatment of Gideon has created a lot of emotional baggage between them and is a huge roadblock to Gideon trusting her. Reconstructed after they have a long, honest conversation; Harrow is still this trope, but now that their relationship is in a better place, their back-and-forth is less loaded and tense, and more affectionate.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Harrow has an intense dislike of swords and swordfighting, particularly of Gideon's two-hander, which she seems to be actually afraid of. It ends up being a bigger problem for her in Harrow the Ninth, where as a Lyctor, she needs to rely on a sword that she hates.
  • Workaholic: Harrow devotes time, soul, and body to restoring her House and achieving Lyctorhood. Things like "sleep" and "food" are trivial and optional.


The Ninth House

Keepers of the Locked Tomb, House of the Sewn Tongue, the Black Vestals

    Pelleamena and Priamhark 

Pelleamena Novenarius and Priamhark Noniusvianus

Harrow’s parents, the Reverend Mother and Father of Drearburh.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hanged themselves when Harrow was ten years old, along with their cavalier Mortus. Right in front of Harrow, too, and even meant for her to join them in the deed, because she committed the gravest possible sin by unlocking and entering the Locked Tomb containing this universe's equivalent to the The Antichrist.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: Harrow used necromancy to preserve their bodies (at least from the shoulders up) and has been puppeteering them ever since. She tells her subjects that her parents have taken a vow of silence, are fasting, and so on. Gideon is appalled no one has caught on.
  • Puppet King: Quite literally: see above. While they're still the rulers of Drearburh in name, Harrow controls them and everything else in practice.
  • Would Hurt a Child: They were quite cruel to Gideon when she was young. They also tried to kill her as an infant, and did succeed in killing the other 200 babies and children of the House in a mass Human Sacrifice.

    Aiglamene 

Aiglamene

The Ninth’s captain of the (nonexistent) guard, and Gideon’s sword-master.
  • Old Soldier: Old as balls, wizened and scarred, and still the most (and just about only) capable soldier Drearburh has.
  • Parental Substitute: Though she would laugh her ass off at the suggestion, she's effectively the closest thing to a parent that Gideon has.
  • Rugged Scar: Her whole head is comprised of "melty scars."
  • Tough Love: She's the only adult in the Ninth House who cares about Gideon to any degree, but she's no softer for it. She treats her so gruffly that Gideon can't even conceive that Aiglamene could love her. Still, it's clear she's invested in Gideon's wellbeing despite everything, and even stands up to Harrow on her behalf.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Harrowhark. As much as she cares about Gideon, she won't stand for her disrespecting her Lady.
  • With Due Respect: Aiglamene does, however, stand up to Harrow — and even puts her own honor on the line — to ensure Harrow will abide by her promise to set Gideon free after the Lyctor trials.

    Crux 

Crux

The marshal of the Ninth House.
  • Jerkass: He's rude to everyone but Harrow and absolutely delights in anything that makes Gideon suffer.
  • Number Two: To Harrow. He's left in charge when Harrow and Gideon leave Drearburh.
  • Old Retainer: He is ancient and certainly gives off these vibes in regards to Harrow's family.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Harrowhark, and the Ninth House in general. Harrow says he can't stand disloyalty, to the point that he blows up the shuttle stolen by Ortus and Glaurica for their audacity to abandon their duty.
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The First House

Necromancer Divine, King of the Nine Renewals, our Resurrector, the Necrolord Prime

    The Emperor 

The Emperor

The supreme deity and ruler of The Empire, the Necromancer Divine, King of the Nine Renewals, our Resurrector, the Necrolord Prime.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: A rare inversion. His completely black eyes are his most notable physical feature, and at least within the Empire, he's viewed as divine and beneficent.
  • Came Back Strong: Implied, what with the "Great Resurrection" business and his ascension to godhood.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Gideon calls the Empire a fascist regime.
  • God: In Empire religion, the Emperor is God, capital G and all that entails.
  • God Is Good: At least according to everyone in the Nine Houses. It's also how he presents himself in the epilogue.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Presents himself as a Reasonable Authority Figure, but his failure to have a serious discussion with Cytherea drives most of the plot. Much of the rest of the plot is driven by his failure to provide clear instructions to the Lyctor candidates or to monitor what they are up to.

    Teacher 

Teacher

The leader of the three old priests at Canaan House.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Both of the other priests die and all the skeletons fall to pieces when he is killed.
  • Many Spirits Inside of One: He is the result of an experiment of the original Lyctors, a demented creature comprised of one thousand souls stuffed into one body.
  • Mentor Archetype: Averted, despite his name. He says he has nothing really to teach the heirs, and has as little idea of how they can achieve Lyctorhood as they do, and beyond providing the facility keys, he doesn't interfere or even engage with the cast aside from clarifying a few points of order at certain points.
  • Mr. Exposition: He speaks at length about the haunted nature of Canaan House, especially its Creepy Basement.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: While it's probably true that he doesn't know the actual nuts-and-bolts theorems behind Lyctorhood, Teacher clearly knows what it ultimately entails and deliberately gives only vague hints about it. Cytheria suspects that Teacher recognized her, although that's ultimately unresolved. He's mysteriously aware of who's beaten challenges and where the keys are, but only brings it up when it suits him. Even at the end, his motivations for any of this are not clear.
  • Really 700 Years Old: A group photo from thousands of years ago features Teacher, looking exactly the same as he does today.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Teacher is a bit of an enigma. Even Cytherea, who was present when he was created, has no idea what his motivations were and why he didn't recognize her, and is fairly relieved that the Second eliminated him for her.

    Cytherea (Unmarked Spoilers) 

Cytherea

One of the Emperor’s original Lyctors, the woman impersonating Dulcinea Septimus, and the force behind the deaths at Canaan House.
  • The Ageless: As a Lyctor, she has not aged for the past 10,000 years.
  • Batman Gambit: Her plan ultimately relies upon one of the Houses deciding to override Teacher and break the rule forbidding off-planet communications to put out a distress call, and the Emperor choosing to bring only his own ship in answer, which they do and he does. In a rarity for the trope however, it's noted by Cytherea herself that her impersonation of Dulcinea almost fell apart at nearly every stage, and it's treated more as luck that things managed to go her way more than any true cunningnote 
  • Corpsing: There are a few moments while she's passing herself off as Dulcinea where Cytherea has trouble concealing her amusement at the charade, though they're subtle enough that they are unlikely to be picked up on as Foreshadowing and more as a Rewatch Bonus.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: She passes herself off as Dulcinea Septimus for the majority of the book, knowing that 1) no one had actually met Dulcinea in person, and 2) Seventh House heirs all look remarkably similar anyway.
  • Death Seeker: By the time she reveals herself, she's clearly intent on causing as much chaos as she can before finally dying. Indeed, her reaction to Harrow ascending is giddy anticipation, and when she's finally mortally wounded, she immediately sighs in relief.
  • Double Meaning: Claims to have never lied to anyone, and has a penchant for speaking in hypotheticals or oblique terms. Almost all of her dialogue, especially with Gideon, takes on a new meaning with the knowledge of her true nature.
  • Eye Colour Change: Her blue eyes are noted as being "someone else's fire," since she, too, consumed her cavalier to become a Lyctor.
  • Face–Heel Turn: She was a loyal Lyctor to the Emperor for a myriad, but at some point decided to raze his Nine Houses and kill him.
  • Freudian Excuse: She has endured thousands of years of the pain of dying from cancer, of having to live with the person she loved most in the world as her always-dying-never-dead necromantic battery, and whatever else it is the Emperor asks of the Lyctors, which explicitly sucks. However, she herself never asks for sympathy, it's the Emperor who asks Harrow not to blame her, saying Cytherea's actions at Canaan House are ultimately his fault for putting too much on her and waiting this long to get replacement Lyctors to share the burden.
  • Healing Factor: She survives getting blown up, and manages to heal over all the injuries getting blown up would entail. Including growing back her hair.
  • The Heart: According to the Emperor, before her Face–Heel Turn she was always the kindest, most loyal and humane of all his Lyctors.
  • Ill Girl: She had advanced blood cancer as a mortal, and became a Lyctor because she didn't want to die.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: She has the same disease that plagues the Seventh, so she commonly coughs up blood.
  • Immortality Hurts: Lyctorhood has preserved her body at the exact stage of her illness she’d reached as a human. She's been suffering the painful symptoms of the terminal illness for 10,000 years, but being a Lyctor just means she can't actually die from these symptoms.
  • The Juggernaut: Her Healing Factor and 10,000 years of fighting make her nearly impossible to stop despite her severe illness. In the end, it takes the combined efforts of Sextus and Gideon's Heroic Suicides, the newly ascended Lyctor Ianthe, Camilla, and Harrow's ascension to Lyctorhood to defeat her.
  • Takes One to Kill One: Although she's not entirely immune to necromantic or physical attacks, it seems that it takes another Lyctor to have any chance of actually killing her.
  • Villainous Crush: Her affection for Gideon is entirely genuine, and Cytherea deliberately spared Gideon when her construct killed Jeannemary and Isaac. In the final chapters, Cytherea even tries to get her to ask to be spared. Gideon doesn't take kindly to the request.
  • Walking Spoiler: Talking about her means giving away who "Dulcinea Septimus" really is.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: She bitterly warns Palamedes and Gideon that Lyctorhood is not worth it. Notably, becoming The Ageless didn't cure her cancer, only blocked off death as a potential escape from the pain.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: As a Lyctor, she's able to exert herself far more than she let on when she's impersonating Dulcinea, and her terminal illness and symptoms prior to that were largely theatrical displays.


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The Second House

The Emperor's Strength, House of the Crimson Shield, the Centurion's House

    Judith 

Judith Deuteros

The heir to the Second House, and ranked captain of the Cohort.
  • Braids of Action: Tight braids to reflect that she’s an uptight, ass-kicking soldier.
  • The Captain: Her rank as captain means she's used to taking charge, but her attempts to do so at Canaan House... do not go over well.
  • Child Soldiers: She entered the Emperor's service when she was six.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: She claims she and Marta are forced to take action where all the other Houses have failed to. The action being, confronting—and ultimately killing—Teacher so they can use the comm to call for backup. This costs Marta her life, and Harrow bluntly tells Judith their sacrifice has accomplished nothing.
  • Improbable Age: Despite her rank as a Captain of the Cohort, she's in the same age group as the Third, possibly even a teenager herself. Justified given she's been a soldier since she was six.
  • Never Found the Body: The last time Gideon sees her, she is bleeding out from a horrific wound and alone, but the First House does not find her corpse along with Marta in the epilogue.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Her approach to the trials makes sense for a military officer used to trying to maintain order and minimize causalities, but is woefully mismatched with the reality of the trials, and the Second are the only House other than the Fourth to seemingly never even attempt a trial. Later, when she attempts to assert her authority as a captain of the Cohort, this approach fails to do anything other than create more chaos, and her final attempt to call for backup ultimately leaves her cavalier dead and fails to save any of the other Houses..

    Marta 

Marta Dyas

Cavalier primary to Judith, and ranked first lieutenant of the Cohort.
  • Braids of Action: She has the same braids as her captain.
  • Flat Character: Marta is a disciplined soldier who follows Judith's every order without question.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Harrow explicitly says that Marta's death meant nothing, and the realization that this is the case hits Judith very hard.
  • The Worf Effect: Rare take on the trope. Marta is a veteran of the Cohort who has seen actual combat in service of the Emperor, but is quickly and brutally defeated by Camilla to show how skilled she is when she's not holding back.


The Third House

Mouth of the Emperor, the Procession, House of the Shining Dead

    Corona 

Coronabeth Tridentarius

The heir to the Third House, and crown princess of Ida.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Non-sexual example. She's dismayed that her sister didn't sacrifice her and consume her soul like she did to Naberius. Gideon explicitly finds this complaint bizarre, as do the other necromancers and cavaliers, themselves a pretty strange bunch.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Third House has a reputation for this, and Coronabeth exemplifies it as the beautiful, golden girl Crown Princess.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Desperately. It turns out Coronabeth is not a necromancer at all. She's trained in swordplay like a cavalier, and is desperate to test her skills, but has to maintain the facade that she's the necromantic heir to the House. When Ianthe kills Naberius and consumes his soul to become a Lyctor, Coronabeth is distraught—not because of Tern's death, but because Ianthe picked him over her.
  • The Leader: Early on, she becomes the self-appointed mediator of disputes at Canaan House, but she ends up being ignored.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Ianthe keeps her explorations of the Lyctoral labs secret from her until Teacher forces Ianthe to tell everyone that she also has a key. Corona's reaction isn't seen, but it seems to be the first point of her Sanity Slippage.
  • Meaningful Name: Not only does "corona" literally mean "crown," she's often compared to the sun in her radiance, and "corona" is also used to refer to the outer atmosphere of stars.
  • Ms. Fanservice: She's repeatedly noted to distract anyone who is distractable by hot women, and wears outfits that assist in doing so.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: She's the hot, charismatic leader and mediator to Ianthe's grey, forgettable, vicious contrarian. She is also not a necromancer at all, while Ianthe is an immensely powerful one.
  • Sanity Slippage: By the later portions of the book, as Ianthe continues to ignore her and people keep dying, and she can do literally nothing about it, she's increasingly unhinged and unstable, culminating in the final moments of the book where she's left sobbing, not because Naberius is dead, but because Ianthe ate him instead of her.
  • Uncertain Doom: The last time she's seen she's still alive, if utterly devastated following Ianthe's ascension to Lyctorhood, but according to the Emperor she was not found either alive or dead in Canaan House.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: She, Naberius, and Ianthe are constantly squabbling and insulting each other, but they're obviously very close despite that, especially Corona and Ianthe.

    Ianthe 

Ianthe Tridentarius

The heir to the Third House, and princess of Ida.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Cytherea gruesomely tears off her right arm in their fight, her 10,000 years of experience trumping Ianthe's youthful vitality. In Harrow the Ninth, she's had it replaced by a gold plated skeletal arm.
  • Evil Gloating: Specifically and gleefully sets this up after she figures out the secret of Lyctorhood and kills Naberius. She wants to rub in everyone's faces that they underestimated her.
  • Evil Twin: Coronabeth isn't squeaky clean morally, but next to Ianthe...
  • Eye Colour Change: After she consumes Naberius's soul and becomes a Lyctor, her eyes keep flickering between her natural eye colour and his, sometimes just becoming entirely pupil-less and white. By the time of Harrow the Ninth, her eyes are firmly Naberius's.
  • Fighting from the Inside: An interesting variant. After she consumes Naberius Tern's soul, she is clearly struggling to subdue it inside of her. Naberius fighting inside of her makes her fight against Silas not as much of a Curb-Stomp Battle as it otherwise would be.
  • Foil: To Harrow, and Palamedes. While she's just as intelligent as them, if not even more so, she's actually as manipulative and callous as Harrow appears, and murdered her own cavalier to ascend to Lyctorhood. Her necromantic specialty is even briefly stated to be liminal magic, the boundary between death and life, which are Harrow and Palamedes' specialities.
  • Hidden Badass: She's about twice as powerful as she appears. In addition, despite not having access to any of the super-advanced necromantic theorems the other characters get to study, she figures them all out anyway from first principles just from observation, including the Avulsion trial which Palamedes said would have killed his cavalier, and might have actually killed Gideon.
  • Human Resources: A downplayed version, but she has seems to have a habit of eating parts of Tern (his hair, fingernails, and blood) whenever she needs a power boost for some necromancy. She's also shown doing it to herself after ascending to Lyctor.
  • Living Battery: Cytherea (briefly) turns her into one after she defeats her, noting Lyctors make the perfect battery because their Life Energy self-replenishes.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Her enhanced abilities as a Lyctor manifest as this, using acidic blood, fleshy shields, and hiding in pools of blood.
  • Meaningful Name: Ianthe is not only the name of an ocean nymph from Greek mythology, but literally translates as "violet flower," matching her eye color. Her original eye color, anyways.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: She is creepy, grey, and abrasive while Coronabeth is beautiful, golden, and charismatic. She is also a powerful necromancer, while Corona has not an ounce of necromancy in her.
  • The Rival: Firmly established as Harrow's rival in Harrow the Ninth.
  • The Sociopath: She doesn't express any remorse whatsoever in killing Naberius to consume his soul, freely admits she is a terrible sister, casually manipulates the others at Canaan House to believe that Corona is the leader of the Third, and believes herself to be the greatest necromancer that her House has ever produced.
  • Walking Spoiler: The fact that she plays a pivotal role in the finale and is also one of the few characters to return in Harrow the Ninth makes her this.

    Naberius 

Naberius Tern

The cavalier primary to Coronabeth and Ianthe, and prince of Ida.
  • Achilles' Heel: While even Gideon acknowledges that he's extremely technically skilled at the rapier, he's actually one of the weaker fighters at Canaan House, as he's used to the structured fighting of tournaments and duels, while the serious cavaliers have no compunctions about fighting dirty and breaking any rules along the way.
  • Blood Knight: Basically the only thing he cares about aside from the Third and his ego is fighting, and he constantly tries to rope other cavaliers into debates and discussions about tournaments and fighting styles.
  • Butt-Monkey: He's constantly made fun of and humiliated by Gideon's narration, Ianthe, and Coronabeth.
  • In-Series Nickname: Corona and Ianthe call him "Babs."
  • Jerkass: He is snobby, narcissistic, and perfectly willing to yell at the Fourth House kids.
  • Meaningful Name: Naberius is a three-headed demon and alter ego of Cerberus from Ars Goetia.
  • Royal Brat: Naberius is petulant, and very insistent on his "prince" title.
  • Smug Snake: He is supremely overconfident in his skills and his title, and is a jerk to everyone aside from Ianthe and Corona.
  • Undying Loyalty: Despite how they treat him, Naberius is unfailingly loyal to Ianthe and Coronabeth, but he becomes conflicted when the twins are quarreling with each other.


The Fourth House

Hope of the Emperor, the Emperor's Sword

    Isaac 

Isaac Tettares

The heir to the Fourth House, and baron of Tisis.
  • Break the Cutie: He and Jeannemary take the death of the Fifth very badly, and spend the next few days on edge and exhausted, stalking the halls and paranoid of everyone but Coronabeth and Gideon, until they're the next to be killed.
  • Childhood Friends: He has been paired with Jeannemary since they were very young.
  • Child Soldiers: He and Jeannemary would have been enlisted already if Isaac hadn't gotten the mumps during the recruitment period, and they still intend to enlist the next year.
  • Easily Embarrassed Youngster: He is constantly embarrassed by everything from Magnus’s lame jokes and stories, to anything Jeannemary says.
  • Emo Teen: Described as such by Gideon, eye makeup and all.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Downplayed example with Jeannemary. Isaac is a sensitive, cautious Squishy Wizard, while Jeannemary is a reckless, violence-loving melee fighter.
  • Meaningful Name: Isaac ends up dying early on.
  • Phrase Catcher: Gideon's narration almost exclusively refers to him and Jeannemary as "the horrible teens" and other variations.
  • Satellite Character: Gideon's narration connects with Jeannemary more closely as a fellow cavalier, and Isaac is rarely seen apart from her.
  • Technicolor Fire: His unnamed necromantic specialty is conjuring ghostly blue-green fire.

    Jeannemary 

Jeannemary Chatur

The cavalier primary to Isaac, and a knight of Tisis.
  • Break the Cutie: She and Isaac take the death of the Fifth very badly, and spend the next few days on edge and exhausted, stalking the halls and paranoid of everyone but Coronabeth and Gideon, until Isaac dies in the labs. Jeannemary absolutely loses it after that in the short time before she is killed as well.
  • Childhood Friends: She has been paired with Isaac since they were very young. She notes she hated him at first.
  • Child Soldiers: She and Isaac would have been enlisted already if Isaac hadn't gotten the mumps during the recruitment period, and they still intend to enlist the next year.
  • Easily Embarrassed Youngster: She is constantly embarrassed by everything from Magnus’s lame jokes and stories, to anything Isaac says.
  • Emo Teen: Described as such by Gideon.
  • Foil: Not only is she symbolically a foil for Gideon, being likewise naive and out of her depth at Canaan House, but Gideon herself recognizes the similarities on some level. Her narration always frames her interactions with the Fourth through her relationship with Jeannemary, and Jeannemary's murder is the one that hits Gideon the hardest as she feels the most responsible, and she is the one Gideon mentions most frequently after her death.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Downplayed example with Isaac. Isaac is a sensitive, cautious Squishy Wizard, while Jeannemary is a reckless, violence-loving melee fighter.
  • Meaningful Name: Jeannemary derives from Joan of Arc and the Virgin Mary, and like Joan of Arc, Jeannemary dies young.
  • Muscle Angst: A very rare female example of wishing her biceps were bigger, after she asks Gideon to flex.
  • Phrase Catcher: Gideon's narration almost exclusively refers to her and Isaac as "the horrible teens" and other variations.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Isaac. She refuses to leave him alone in any sort of danger, even if it means risking her life.


The Fifth House

Heart of the Emperor, Watchers over the River

    Abigail 

Abigail Pent

The heir to the Fifth House, and Lady of Koniortos Court.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A rare example of this being done post-humously. While it initially appears that she and Magnus were killed opportunistically, it's not until the final revelations of who the antagonist at Canaan House is that Cytherea reveals how Abigail nearly ruined her plans in three separate ways: her necromantic specialty in spirit talking had the potential to reveal the culprit behind other murders, her being a historian interested in piecing together Lyctoral history could have unveiled the secrets at Canaan House much earlier, and she had completed the challenge to gain the key to the Seventh's Lyctoral study, which Cytherea had neglected to clear of traces of herself out of sentimentality.
  • Forgotten Anniversary: She forgot her eleventh anniversary with Magnus, so she insists on throwing a big dinner party the evening after to make up for it.
  • Happily Married: To Magnus.
  • Interrogating the Dead: As a spirit magician, this is her specialty.
  • Parental Substitute: To Jeannemary and Isaac.

    Magnus 

Magnus Quinn

The cavalier primary to Abigail, and seneschal of Koniortos Court.
  • Adorkable: He is brimming with lame dad jokes and awkward courtesy, and his clumsy attempts to make small talk with the intimidating Ninth solidify him as this.
  • Happily Married: To Abigail.
  • Nepotism: He claims that the only reason he gets to be cavalier primary is because he's married to the heir.
  • Nice Guy: He takes pains to make Gideon feel included, and is just a pleasant and nice person to everybody around him.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Probably the weakest fighter of all the cavaliers; in a showmatch with Gideon he's defeated in three moves. He doesn't appear to be actually unskilled though - the others are just that good.
  • Parental Substitute: To Jeannemary and Isaac.
  • Pungeon Master: He loves puns, and will make them every chance he gets, even if Coronabeth is the only one who laughs.
  • Team Dad: Everyone likes him, and he's a very paternal figure to the Fourth; the one time he is ever shown as anything other than smiling is when Naberius insults Jeannemary's fighting style.


The Sixth House

The Emperor's Reason, the Master Wardens

    Palamedes 

Palamedes Sextus

The heir to the Sixth House, and Master Warden of the Library.
  • Bishōnen: Parodied. He's actually fairly handsome (particularly his eyes) but tends to wear a scowl more than a smile, and his thick glasses obscure it further.
    Up close, he was gaunt and ordinary looking, except for the eyes. His spectacles were set with lenses of spaceflight-grade thickness, and through these his eyes were a perfectly lambent grey: unflecked, unmurked, even and clear. He had the eyes of a very beautiful person, trapped in resting bitch face.
  • Chekhov's Skill: His skill with psychometry ends up being how Cytherea's true identity is revealed.
  • Driven to Suicide: While his Heroic Suicide ultimately helps save Harrow and Camilla, it's heavily implied that he also deliberately chose that method of trying to take out Cytherea because once he realized there was no hope of saving Dulcinea, he didn't want to continue living.
  • Foil: To Harrow. He can give her a run for her money in terms of intelligence, but unlike her, he's a far more well adjusted and compassionate person, and is the de facto medic at Canaan House, while Harrow specializes in raising skeletons. They also both fell in Love at First Sight with someone unattainable, or as Gideon puts it, "You're both into old dead chicks."
  • Go Out with a Smile: The last time Gideon sees him, he gives her an honest smile, and he's obscured from sight while he confronts "Dulcinea" before committing a Heroic Suicide.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Detonates his thanergy reserves in an attempt to kill Cytherea. It doesn't initially work, but is critical to slowing her down enough that the others can finish her off.
  • Insufferable Genius: When he and Harrow are working together they compete over this position.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Although he has a long and complicated history with Dulcinea, he is never rude to Gideon, despite Dulcinea's obvious interest in her, and his obvious interest in Dulcinea. He tells Cam that he is only happy to see Dulcinea with someone who can make her laugh.
  • Meaningful Name: Palamedes was one of the Greek heroes of the Trojan War, and an archtypal example of a Genius Bruiser.
  • The Medic: He has focused his studies on the distinctly non-necromantic medical sciences, making him the go-to medic of Canaan House. His medical knowledge of Seventh House health issues is critical to inflicting "turbo-cancer" on Cytherea later, which she doesn't have time to cure and which disrupts her usual healing factor enough that Harrow can defeat her.
  • Mundane Utility: Though his studies in medicine are not actually necromantic in nature, his Psychometry helps perform quick medical assessments without specialized equipment.
  • Nerd Glasses: His lenses are as thick as glass found on spacecraft. Also, he's a nerd.
  • Nice Guy: He is almost as fixated on becoming Lyctor as Harrow is, but it doesn't stop him from being a very fair-minded, compassionate, and decent person. He also outright refused to attempt the Avulsion challenge because of the risk of harm to Camilla, and is the only character to outright refuse to become a Lyctor based on morals once he understands the process, because he would never consume Camilla.
  • Photographic Memory: Of course he has one.
  • Precocious Crush: When he was eight, he began trading letters with a 15-year-old Dulcinea and fell in love with her, though he knew he was too young for her at the time. He's never really gotten over it either, although he mostly just wants Dulcinea to be happy
  • Psychometry: The Sixth House’s necromantic specialty, reading and tracking the echoes that death leaves on objects. Palamedes himself is particularly skilled with it, as he had to pass exams requiring it to become the Sixth House's heir.
  • Rage Breaking Point: While he gets frustrated with the other Houses at multiple points, he only ever outright loses his temper at the Second for needlessly challenging him and getting Camilla and Marta wounded, and his outburst shocks everyone in the room.
  • The Rival: Even before she leaves the Ninth House, Harrow sees the Sixth as the biggest threat out of all the Houses. The feeling is mutual, as he views her as one of the bigger threats in the trials, and remains competitive with her, though never openly antagonistic (unlike Harrow). Ultimately ends up as a subversion, as they pool their resources, and are the only two Houses to work closely together.
  • The Smart Guy: Unlike the other Houses who inherit their titles by blood, the Sixth House chooses its heir through a series of entrance exams. It is inevitable that Palamedes falls into this role.
  • Teen Genius: He's either eighteen or twentynote  during the events of the book, so it either applies or has in the recent past, and Palamedes is assuredly one of the smartest characters in the cast.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Enough that even Butch Lesbian Gideon comments on their beauty repeatedly in her narration.
  • When She Smiles: His normally gaunt appearance lightens considerably when he smiles, though he only does so rarely.

    Camilla 

Camilla Hect

The cavalier primary to Palamedes, and Warden’s Hand of the Library.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Her fighting style is compared by Gideon to a grease fire, leaving a lot of openings but moving quickly and precisely and not being afraid to fight dirty. In the end, she loses to Cytherea, but holds her off longer than Gideon or Ianthe do, though Gideon's knee was broken at the time.
  • Badass Bookworm: Camilla looks like a librarian, grew up in the Sixth House, and can keep up with Palamedes, but it is a huge mistake to underestimate her combat capabilities.
  • Bodyguard Crush: It's implied she's fallen for Palamedes.
  • The Champion: Out of all the cavalier primaries, she perhaps embodies the best of a cavalier, being a superb fighter, smart in her own right, a minder for her necromancer, and having a deep friendship with him.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Even through her stoicism, she regularly makes it pretty clear that she has a very low opinion of Dulcinea, who Palamedes is in love with, while it's heavily implied that she has feelings for Palamedes, herself. Ends up downplayed, as when she finally explains their relationship, she admits to being resigned and confused about their long courtship, and is mostly upset that Dulcinea hurt Palamedes by rejecting his marriage proposal rather than actually hating her as a rival.
  • Combat Parkour: In her introduction, when disarmed by Gideon, Camilla kicks her dagger back into her hand and does a backwards handspring going down stairs. Gideon is thoroughly impressed.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Camilla has trained to fight like a warrior. She's prepared for battlefields with real stakes, not just the performative duels most of the cavaliers are used to.
  • Contralto of Danger: Gideon's narration notes that she has a deep voice for a woman, and she's definitely one of the most dangerous cavaliers at Canaan House.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Not nearly as much as Gideon and Harrow, but she has her moments. Her very first lines in the book are sarcastic responses to Palamedes being fixated on small details at Canaan House.
  • Dual Wielding: She can fight fine with the rapier and knife, but her preferred weapons of choice are double shortswords.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first time Gideon encounters the Sixth separately from the rest of the Houses establishes that Camilla is a Deadpan Snarker and an extremely skilled cavalier.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: She and Gideon first meet in a surprise fight, but after people start dying, they end up bonding as their necromancers work together, and Camilla even (fruitlessly) tries to get Gideon to open up after the Fourth die in front of her.
  • Foil: To Gideon. They're both quiet (by coercion in Gideon's case), sarcastic, and highly skilled cavaliers (unexpectedly so, for their Houses) who are primarily trained in weapons other than the rapier. However, Camilla is a stoic snarker compared Gideon's Sad Clown, and she has a far better relationship with her cavalier.
  • Fragile Speedster: Her greatest attribute as a fighter is being blindingly quick, but, while she's not frail by any means, her fighting style having so many openings means that she takes a lot of damage in the process against opponents that she doesn't overwhelm immediately.
  • In-Series Nickname: Palamedes almost always refers to her as "Cam," and Gideon starts using that as well in the final chapters.
  • Meaningful Name: Camilla is the name of a female warrior from The Aeneid.
  • The Medic: Not as much as Palamedes, but she assists him in his medical evaluations and has some proficiency in her own right.
  • The Reliable One: She's quiet and can easily fade into the background amid the colorful cast of heirs and cavaliers, but Camilla is levelheaded and hypercompetent and can always be counted on to get the task done.
  • The Stoic: She doesn't emote very often, even compared to already stoic Palamedes, and when she does it's usually resigned exasperation with Gideon or her necromancer.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Targets a lump on Cythera's back (which Gideon hadn't even noticed) from across a courtyard to help Ianthe, and hits it even while heavily injured.
  • Uncertain Doom: She's seen alive before Gideon's suicide, but Harrow's narration loses track of her, and the Emperor’s forces find no trace of her at Canaan House, alive or dead.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: She has known Palamedes since they were both young, and has watched him pine helplessly over Dulcinea for all these years.


The Seventh House

Joy of the Emperor, the Rose Unblown

    Dulcinea 

Dulcinea Septimus

The heir to the Seventh House, and duchess of Rhodes.
  • Dead All Along: She died before ever reaching Canaan House, and has been impersonated by Cytherea ever since.
  • Disability Alibi: Dulcinea Septimus is not seen as a viable suspect for the murders considering her advanced blood cancer barely allows her to walk two paces on her own without collapsing in coughs.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: A prime target for this is the aptly named Dulcinea Septimus, thanks to her terminal illness. Gideon is compelled to protect her the second they meet. And it turns out Palamedes Sextus has devoted his life to trying to rescue her from her illness ever since he began trading letters with her twelve years ago. He never even needed to meet her in person to fall in love with her.
  • Ill Girl: Seventh House nobility deliberately breed to keep terminal blood cancer in the family, because it lets their necromancers fuel their magic with their own dying bodies instead of siphoning ambient thanergy. However, Dulcinea’s case left her too frail to use necromancy at all, and she is not expected to live past 25. She, in fact, didn't, and died on the way to the First.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Terminally ill Dulcinea is prone to coughing blood.

    Protesilaus 

Protesilaus Ebdoma

The cavalier primary to Dulcinea, and a knight of Rhodes.
  • Chain Pain: His offhand is a chain, something which is considered a difficult offhand to master. Dulcinea even notes that he was indeed a very skilled cavalier before his untimely death.
  • Dead All Along: He died before ever reaching Canaan House, and has been puppeted by Cytherea ever since.
  • Empty Shell: He's noted as being often dead-eyed, sleep-walking, and rarely responds to much, though he is quick to help Dulcinea and defend her physically. Which makes sense, given he's dead, and his defense of Dulcinea was really just a way for Cytherea to prevent her cover from being blown.
  • Flat Character: He is repeatedly called basic and boring. Which makes sense, considering he's not much more than a reanimated corpse.
  • The Quiet One: He really doesn't say much.


The Eighth House

Keepers of the Tome, the Forgiving House

    Silas 

Silas Octakiseron

The heir to the Eighth House, and master templar of the White Glass.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Utilizes soul siphoning, which all the other Houses view unfavorably (from unease to outright contempt). It's not exactly banned, but even the Emperor warns against using it. Teacher warns Silas that siphoning in the haunted Canaan House is sheer lunacy. He's absolutely right.
  • Foil: To Harrow. They're both highly religious, wield outsized authority for their age, and have a distinctly parasitic relationship to their cavaliers. Silas always wears white, and his necromancy is associated with souls and light, while Harrow wears nothing but black, and her necromancy centers on bones. Unlike Harrow, who deeply regrets the way she's treated Gideon, and eventually even tries to sacrifice herself to save Gideon, Silas overrides Colum's will constantly, and ends up getting them both killed due to his hubris.
  • Holier Than Thou: The Eighth House has a reputation for zealotry, and Silas embodies this. At Canaan House, he's of the opinion that he's the only "pure" person present and it's up to him to force the path of divine righteousness on everyone else. Despite everyone's assumptions, he ends up hoarding keys primarily to prevent others from studying the Lyctor labs, viewing the mere existence of the Lyctor trials as blasphemous.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: People spend most of the book warning him about the danger of soul siphoning, which Silas brushes off. When he starts siphoning Colum against his will to fight Ianthe, Colum's empty body ends up possessed, and stabs him through the throat.
  • Hypocrite: There are several necromantic practices which Silas denounces as heresy, but Dulcinea notes that the only one the Emperor has openly cautioned against is soul siphoning, Silas's own specialty.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While he's a haughty jerk quick to call anything he disagrees with blasphemous, he's entirely right in his suspicion that the death of the Ninth's children was intentional and that the cover story of a flu didn't make any sense.
  • Knight Templar: Silas does everything he does because he genuinely believes he's in the right in the eyes of the Emperor. Calling things blasphemous is practically his catchphrase.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Eighth's shtick; they dress in pure white and have austere living habits, but they also practice one of the most dangerous sub-disciplines of necromancy, soul siphoning, and treat their cavaliers as little more than human batteries.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Colum states that Silas used to look up to him as a child, and that he loved Silas then, but that he can't stand the man he's become.

    Colum 

Colum Asht

The cavalier primary to Silas, and a templar of the White Glass.
  • Demonic Possession: Teacher warns early on that this could happen to him if Silas soul-siphons him in Canaan House. This warning comes to fruition during the fight with Ianthe, and leads to both his and Silas's deaths.
  • Exorcist Head: His head turns 180 degrees while he's possessed.
  • Eye Colour Change: After being possessed, his eyes turn completely black.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite being born and bred purely to serve as a Living Battery, Colum is actually a highly skilled and dangerous cavalier. He also has a sensibility and intelligence that surprises Gideon, and helps provide key insights into the mystery of who was burnt in the incinerator.
  • I Gave My Word: When he confiscates Gideon's weapons in the Eighth's quarters, he promises on his honor that no harm will come to her. He takes this very seriously: see below.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Gideon expects Colum to be able to hit really hard; after all, he's a big guy. She is surprised at how fast he can move while doing it, though.
  • Living Battery: His primary role as cavalier to Silas, and something he was born to do even before Silas was concieved; it's also notably left him with a battered, aged appearance despite being younger than Magnus.
  • Many Spirits Inside of One: After Silas siphons his soul to empower himself for the fight with Ianthe, multiple spirits possess Colum.
    He now moved like there were six people inside him, and none of those six people had ever been inside a human being before.
  • Mook–Face Turn: Colum silently abides by many of Silas's decisions that anger him, but he won't let Silas attack an unarmed Gideon after Colum had promised their meeting would not be violent.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Colum has lived in this trope for years, disliking the direction Silas has taken, but obeying him anyway out of duty.
  • Odd Name Out: Both his given name and surname break the Religious and Mythological Theme Naming and Numerical Theme Naming respectively that almost everyone else in the cast follows.
  • Too Many Mouths: While he's possessed, his eyeballs disappear and turn into mouths.
  • Younger Than They Look: Years of siphoning have taken a marked toll on his body; he's noted as having a washed out, jaundiced tinge to his skin and seems like a fairly battered middle aged man, despite only being in his early 30s.


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