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WARNING: Late Arrival Spoilers abound for Gideon the Ninth.

Harrow the Ninth is the second book in The Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir. It was released on August 4th, 2020.

She answered the Emperor's call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath ― but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor's Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

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This novel provides examples of:

  • Accidental Innuendo: In-universe. In his epic poem, Ortus has Mathias Nonius go into a "bone frenzy". Harrow suggests that such a phrase might be open to...ahem...misinterpretation, which sets Ortus off on a rant about how only dirty-minded churls could find sex jokes in his poetry and he doesn't want people like that to read it anyway.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Gideon Nav accuses Ianthe (and all necromancers) of using her necromantic powers to do weird stuff during sex, Ianthe says she "loves a little gall on gall". Gideon being Gideon, she immediately stops arguing with her to propose they get married.
  • The All-Concealing "I": The Second-Person Narration is presented as if Harrow's Sanity Slippage has also made her intensely detached from her sense of self until she meets Palamedes again, whereupon the narration suddenly uses “me”, revealing that the narrator is a separate character who's been telling the story to Harrow the whole time. It's not till the next Act that its revealed that Gideon Nav was the Narrator All Along.
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  • Arc Words: Variations on the phrase "Is this how it happens?" appear frequently as asides to Harrow in her Fake Memories, as the ghosts she's pulled into her dreams struggle to recognize their surroundings.
  • Ascended Extra: Several characters who did little in the first book reappear in more prominent roles, because Harrow is populating her Fake Memories with the spirits of the dead, and most of the people with larger parts either survived or are...otherwise unavailable.
  • Assassination Attempt: Multiple people are trying to kill Harrow. They're almost successful in the prologue. Ortus the First believes she's a threat and tries to kill her multiple times, and Commander Wake inside Cytherea's body also tries to kill her, but the assassination at the end was intended by the Saint of Joy as a Mercy Kill.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Harrow quotes Psalm 137:5 after she finally remembers Gideon, as well as part of Ruth 1:17 in a Call-Back to the end of Gideon the Ninth.
  • Aside Comment: People in Harrow's Fake Memories do this often, breaking the flow of narrative by asking her if she's sure this is how everything actually happened.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Subverted with Mercymorn and Augustine; there are several times when it seems like they've finally reconciled, only for it to be revealed later as little more than a temporary truce. Double subverted after they've killed the Emperor, where Augustine admits that while they have hated each other too long to stop, he's glad to have her by his side as they work towards undoing necromancy and finally bringing peace to the galaxy. They embrace. Cue the Emperor reconstituting himself, killing Mercy and spattering Augustine with her organs.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Emperor/God/John is generally the most sensitive and caring person on the Mithraeum. But when Mercymorn briefly kills him, he brutally kills her without a thought. Also, he's something of a Sink-or-Swim Mentor, telling the Saint of Duty to repeatedly attack Harrow so that she either unlocks her full Lyctor ability or dies. All while maintaining his benign appearance.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Resurrection Beast ultimately ends up as a backdrop to the Gambit Pileup of the true antagonists: Commander Wake, Mercymorn, and Augustine.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Gideon Nav makes many from the previous book return, with her first observation upon reawakening inside of Harrow being "Goddamn it, I told you to lift weights."
    • Cytherea-disguised-as-Dulcinea suggested that Harrow could make a "very weeny construct?" to handle the avulsion trial. In order to break into the incinerator and pull out the Saint of Duty, Harrow finally does make a weeny construct.
  • Brown Note: The Resurrection Beasts’ physical bodies are, in some way, horrifying for necromancers to look on, and getting a good eyeful of them can drive even Lyctors insane (for a while). Their Heralds are better, in that just their proximity fills necromancers with overwhelming, inexplicable terror, though only necromancers, as the dead cavaliers inside of Lyctors are immune. The Blood of Eden once got their hands on a dead Herald, and used its corpse to make some highly effective anti-necromancer weapons.
  • Candlelit Ritual: The necromancer who tries to banish a hostile ghost from Harrow's body lights a circle of candles around the coffin that's their only known physical link to the ghost; they erupt in blue flame when the ritual begins. Justified by Clap Your Hands If You Believe, because they're operating in a Dream Land that's shaped by willpower.
  • Cool Sword: Gideon's longsword has become such after her death, with Harrow encasing it in regenerating ash (because she can’t physically touch it without becoming violently ill) and wielding it as a weapon to kill planets, and then kill their ghosts. Gideon's disgusted by the state of it after she reawakens inside Harrow, as Harrow completely ruined the edge and it being sheathed in bone pitted the metal.
  • Darker and Edgier: The early portions have the sarcastic and adventurous tone of Gideon the Ninth shifted into bitter and remorseful Psychological Horror. The previous tone returns in Act 5, along with Harrow reconciling her memories and Gideon returning.
  • Dark Secret: The Emperor has two that come out in the final moments of the book that change everything about how he's viewed by his Lyctors: there is a perfect form of Lyctorhood that doesn't require anyone to die, and he achieved it with Alecto, taking her eyes.
  • Deader Than Dead: The River is the representation of the underworld in this universe. The climax of the book heavily implies both that the River is not the end, and there may be another shore on the far side of the River. It's this trope because a gateway to whatever is beneath the River tries to devour most of the main cast.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In order for Harrow to make an attempt to kill the Saint of Duty (who keeps trying to kill her) she needs the Emperor distracted. So Augustine and Mercymorn interrupt dinner with a threesome.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Harrow regrows Ianthe's arm bone, the way the scene is described makes it feel more like they're having sex. This was confirmed as intentional by the author.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Resurrection Beasts approaching the bottom of the River trigger a "stoma", a huge gaping maw with many long tongues, to emerge and attempt to draw them into it. It’s not clear if this leads to a literal hell or not, but the characters describe it as such and are terrified of it. Augustine tries to pull the Emperor into one at the end of the book, but falls in himself when Ianthe rescues the Emperor.
  • Dream Land: A major element of the story. In the wake of performing "the work", Harrow spontaneously and accidentally created a liminal bubble within the River, pulling in the dead of Canaan House to fill out the roles of her Elseworld recreation of her Fake Memories. Chapters with a split skull show her in this space, and only take place when she's asleep or incapacitated. Near the climax of the story, she becomes trapped in this space, forcing a Battle in the Center of the Mind against the revenant of the Sleeper trying to possess her body.
  • Eldritch Abomination: This book introduces the Resurrection Beasts, which are the souls of planets killed by violence. The Emperor accidentally created nine of them in the Resurrection, and his Lyctors have been fleeing/fighting them ever since. They’re planet eaters that grow more powerful by sucking the life out of living planets and absorbing their mass, and inexorably hunt down anyone who has committed the “indelible sin” of becoming a Lyctor. Over the last ten thousand years, the Empire has killed five of the nine, with three left, and lost half of his Lyctors doing so.
  • Elseworld: Harrow's Fake Memories end up as this, completely changing the events at Canaan House around Gideon's absence. The beginning of Act 5 is a cascade of them as Harrow desperately tries to avoid admitting Gideon's death. As an injoke, all of them are based on popular fanfiction tropes: a Role Swap AU where Gideon is the Reverend Daughter and Harrow Nova her abused cavalier, a Masquerade Ball where the events of Canaan House are a means to find "Her Divine Highness" a spouse, and a Coffee Shop AU complete with a Meet Cute with Gideon.
  • Empathic Weapon: Gideon's longsword is characterized as one by Harrow, having a personality and moods, mostly composed of a complete hatred of Harrow, and burns her hands when she tries to wield it. It's actually the Soul Jar of Commander Wake, who does completely hate all necromancers.
  • Fake Memories: Chapters with a split skull in the header are flashbacks to the events at Canaan House from Harrow's restructured memories. They're actually events taking place in her Dream Land concurrently with the main story.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted, after being enforced in Gideon the Ninth. Oddly, the guns in question all seem to be from approximately the early 20th century, rather than the black powder or laser guns one might expect from the 17th century-ish rapier fighting or the futuristic space ships.
  • First-Episode Twist: It's pretty difficult to discuss the book at all without spoiling the first major twist: Harrow was so distraught by Gideon's death that she completely remade her memories to remove Gideon from them entirely, and is not handling Lyctorhood well in the aftermath.
  • Forceful Kiss: Harrow plants one on Ianthe to check if Ianthe's jaw or tongue had been recently replaced.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The reader knows the Emperor is not long for this world because several chapters begin by stating how much time remains until the Emperor is murdered. Subverted when he reconstructs his body after a few moments and kills his would-be assassin.
  • Foreshadowing: The series features a lot of extensively foreshadowed events, so much so that they're listed separately here.
  • Gainax Ending: The final chapter is a cliffhanger with All three original Lyctors dead, with the Emperor, Ianthe, Gideon the Ninth (in Harrow's body) and the entire Mythraeum crashing into the River, and Harrow's soul... laying down in the Locked Tomb?
    • Additionally, this action-packed climax cuts to the epilogue, featuring an unnamed character laying low with Camilla Hect in an unspecified but politically unstable city.
  • Gambit Pileup: The Ninth House Operation, the mysterious event that took place almost twenty years ago, has far reaching consequences that only reach fruition during the events of the book, with the differing agendas and actions of Commander Wake, Augustine and Mercymorn, Gideon the First, Pyrrha Dve, Gideon Nav, and Harrow all culminating in the revelations that the blood ward on the Tomb has been broken and that the Emperor has been lying to his Lyctors for a myriad.
  • God-Emperor: John is something of a subversion in that he isn't particularly godly nor imperious. He seems like more of a middle manager or stepparent most of the time.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": Invoked; at one point, Harrow says she's been told repeatedly that being half-cocked is "worse than not being cocked at all", and the narrative remarks that Ianthe should have taken the opportunity for this and doesn't. There are several similar moments; it's Gideon obliquely doing this trope from the back of Harrow's head.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Even short term exposure to the River causes hellish hallucinations and comes with the inevitable reality of being devoured by thousands of hungry ghosts, or worse, running headlong into the body of a Resurrection Beast. The longest that anyone is known to have survived full immersion is seven minutes.
  • I Love the Dead: Harrow sees the Saint of Duty making out with Cytherea's corpse. This is apparently kind of a thing for necromancers, enough that Ianthe is fascinated and has several Unusual Euphemisms for it. It's heavily implied it wasn't actually him, but his cavalier, and Cytherea was actually possessed by Pyrrha's former lover Wake at the time.
  • Immortality Immorality: Used in an existential way. Lyctorhood does confer vast thanergetic reservoirs and enhanced abilities, as well as becoming The Ageless... but marks someone forever with an indelible sin, drawing the attention of the planet-destroying Resurrection Beasts from across the entire universe.
  • In Medias Res: The prologue begins with the Seventh Resurrection Beast bearing down on the Mithratheum and Harrow being stabbed through the gut with her own sword, before jumping back nine months, to just after Harrow became a Lyctor.
  • Kiss Diss: Harrow turns away from Ianthe's drunken kiss at the last second, so Ianthe's lips get her cheek instead. This is a happy compromise between Harrow's other impulses of either leaning into the kiss or murdering Ianthe on the spot.
  • La Résistance: The Blood of Eden, an anti-necromancy insurgency believed to be almost entirely extinguished after their leader disappeared nearly twenty years ago, yet suspected to be behind the recent destruction of three Imperial warships. They're actually not a resistance at all, but a militant arm of the civilization outside the Empire; the "Eden" in their name refers to Earth, which they believe the Emperor murdered.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The dead in Harrow's Dream Land refer to themselves acting out roles and reading lines in a play, which is both literally true and the framing for each book.
  • Lethal Chef: Most of the First are noted as being terrible cooks, including Ianthe and Harrow, and it's a Running Gag that the only things they can cook are mediocre soups. Harrow's is particularly bad, because at the time she's cooking it she hasn't slept in six days thanks to overclocking her own brain. Also, she put her own bone marrow in it, and turns it into a skeleton after the Saint of Duty has eaten a good bit of it. Only John's intervention stops her being literally lethal.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Courtesy of Harrow's extensive false memories, all nineteen named characters from Gideon the Ninth return, with the addition of God and the three remaining Lyctors. Additionally, many characters from Gideon the Ninth are reinterpreted or expanded, particularly the Fifth and Seventh Houses.
  • Meaningful Echo: Numerous ones, sometimes returning all the way from Gideon the Ninth.
    • The first time Gideon's Supernatural Gold Eyes are mentioned, Cytherea muses "Lipochrome... recessive." Mercymorn repeats the exact same words when she realizes what those eyes in Harrow's face mean: that a perfect Lyctorhood is possible and that God's eyes are not his own.
    • Several from Gideon's Heroic Sacrifice return. Harrow again quotes from Ruth 1:17, as Gideon did to her, as she remembers what happened to her cavalier, and when she bids farewell to Abigail and the other revenants, she repeats a variation of what Gideon told her: "Someday I'll die and be buried in the ground, and you can take it up with me then."
  • Meaningful Rename: Lyctors of old ceremonially discarded their names entirely, adopting new titles as the Empire's Saints in order to let themselves become Shrouded in Myth, only keeping their given names around each other and the Emperor. At Cytherea's funeral, all of the remaining Lyctors and the Emperor genuinely can't recall what her house name was.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Harrow keeps Gideon's sword with her and can't bear to be parted from it even to sleep, despite not remembering Gideon. It ends up being very important to the plot, since Commander Wake's soul is initially contained inside it, which lets her infiltrate both the Mithraeum and Harrow's Dream Land.
  • Mercy Kill: It turns out that Mercymorn was the one who stabbed Harrow in the back in the prologue, hoping to let her die quickly and relatively painlessly when the Heralds arrived.
  • The Mole: Judith warns Harrow in the beginning of Act 4 that there is a traitor in the Emperor's inner circle. While she's bound by her oath to Camilla and never tells the Emperor, it becomes something she worries about as Number Seven bears down on the Mithraeum. In the end, both Augustine and Mercymorn are revealed to have been working with Blood of Eden, and both try to murder the Emperor, but fail.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: Divided into two threads: the main one being the Second-Person Narration about Harrow's life after becoming a Lyctor, and a subplot with conventional third person narration recounting her Fake Memories. And shifts again in Act 5 when the Second-Person Narration is revealed to be Gideon talking to Harrow, with the remainder of the Act being in first person from her perspective.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: When Gideon takes over Harrow's body to fight the Heralds, she repeatedly has problems with how much shorter and weaker Harrow is than her, and mentions that it would be nice if Harrow had lifted some weights like Gideon told her to.
  • Mysterious Note: Two different uses:
    • Shortly after she becomes coherent, Harrow receives a stack of letters from Ianthe, written by Harrow herself before she suffered Trauma-Induced Amnesia, marked to be opened under various specific circumstances. Most of them never come up, and Gideon accidentally discards them when she removes Harrow's Powered Armor.
    • In her false memories, Harrow repeatedly hallucinates letters in all caps and jagged handwriting, which all seem to part of a larger whole. They end up being the thoughts of Commander Wake in her final days, loosely addressed to the Emperor, his Lyctors, and Pyrrha Dve.
  • Mythology Gag: Harrow comes across a romance novel starring a woman from the Third House named Abella, which was a name that one of the Tridentarius twins had in an earlier draft of Gideon the Ninth.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Resurrection Beasts basically necessitate it. It's mentioned that Cyrus the First died by drawing the Sixth Resurrection Beast into a black hole, and even then the Emperor isn't wholly certain it's dead.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Mercymorn, Augustine, and especially the Emperor are prone to dithering and childlike bickering even when circumstances demand decisive action. Subverted by Ortus the First, who cuts through all of it in moments.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Of the "Now Or Maybe Never" variety, including some crossover with Kissing Under the Influence. A half-drunk Ianthe tries to kiss Harrow before the latter leaves to fight the vastly more powerful and experienced Ortus the First. Ianthe's parting words are "good luck" and "try not to die."
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Near the climax, the souls of Ortus, Protesilaus, Marta, and Matthias Nonius, alongside Gideon the First, apparently managed to not only hold off the Seventh Resurrection Beast by themselves but actually got it to retreat.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, and plot relevant in its aversion. Harrow refers to Gideon the First as "Ortus the First," as a side effect of her determination to pretend Gideon Nav never existed and thus that she took Ortus to Canaan House.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Discussing an "ancient theoretical epigram" Magnus found in a men's bathroom of Canaan House:
    Pent said mildly, "Magnus is being amusing. It reads as a dialogue between magicians from the schools of flesh, spirit, and bone magic, the punchline being: Yes, but my bone expands when I touch it, which at least proves that joke is as old as the Nine Houses themselves."
  • Painting the Medium: The Dramatis Personae at the start of the book reflects Harrow's Trauma-Induced Amnesia. Gideon the First's name is replaced by "ORTUS the First", and the text "Gideon Nav, her cavalier" is written over with "ORTUS NIGENAD, HER CAVALIER" so many times that it's a completely illegible scribble.
  • Planet Eater: The Resurrection Beasts wander across the universe in their pursuit of the Emperor and his Lyctors, draining entire planets of thalergy in their mindless hunger along the way.
  • Powered Armor: To get around her necromancer-physique frailty, Harrowhark creates a literal exoskeleton for herself: an external harness of bones, worn on her skin, that helps her lift her two-hander and which she can reshape into extra armor as needed.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Emperor is easily the least toxic and most helpful person on the Mithraeum. Subverted by the ending, where he brutally murders Mercymorn, admits to ten-thousand years of treachery, and throws Augustine into the River.
  • Resurrection Gambit: This book reveals that Palamedes had, before his Suicide Attack in Gideon the Ninth, transformed all the matter in his body into a Haunted Fetter, preserving his soul in a Pocket Dimension for later retrieval. The Stinger suggests that he and Camilla have successfully achieved Lyctorhood.
  • Running Gag:
    • Mercymorn, who already thinks Harrowhark is only 15, revises her age lower and lower over the course of the book. By the end, she’s incredulously referring to Harrowhark as an infant.
    • Throughout the first part of the book, whenever Harrow mentions the end of a sword, there's a little aside correcting that it's called a pommel. This turns out to be an early hint at Gideon being the narrator.
    • As coddled necromantic nobility, most of the First are terrible cooks, with the only things they can make being mediocre soup. This culminates in Harrow serving a meal to the gathered First after weaponizing soup to try to kill Ortus the First.
    • Harrow's hair gets mentioned several times as growing incredibly quickly, to the point where she's worried it's the only manifestation of her missing Lyctoral Healing Factor. This is eventually revealed to be because, after helping Harrow perform "the work", Ianthe kicked her hair follicles into overdrive out of spite while putting her head back together.
  • Second-Person Narration: As opposed to her narration at the end of Gideon the Ninth, the portions of Harrow's narration that take place after the events at Canaan House are second-person narration about Harrow, told to her by Gideon.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: The River is both a metaphysical location full of the dead, and also itself tries to violently destroy any living thing that enters it.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Discussed at length by Ianthe as she dresses Harrow up for Augustine's dinner party. She then dismisses the idea by saying no one is capable of giving Harrowhark of all people "a sexy makeover."
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: When the Emperor assumes Harrow and Ianthe are sleeping together, Harrow gets very flustered and nearly walks out of the room altogether.
    Harrow: We—are not—intimate. Neither are we romantic—neither are we, frankly, platonic
  • Shout-Out: To Homestar Runner of all things, when Ianthe compares Harrow to a puppy missing three legs insisting she can make it on her own, a description of "Li'l Brudder".
  • Smoking Is Cool: Invoked; Ianthe admires Augustine's cigarette habit and intends to cultivate one herself, because she loves the Conspicuous Consumption of smoking on a space station. (It helps that they're Lyctors and it can't actually hurt them.)
  • Spoiler Cover: The cover indirectly spoils Gideon's death, as Harrow is pictured with Gideon's Supernatural Gold Eyes and her two-hander.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: Harrow's Dream Land runs on rules applied by whoever's currently dominant within it. When Ortus takes control, and summons Matthias Nonius to fight the Sleeper, it plays out exactly like a duel would in The Noniad, with both combatants speaking in verse, fighting alone for an extended period of time, and taking only cosmetic injuries until one of them is conclusively defeated. The Sleeper's guns even stop working because there are none in The Noniad. Ortus warns Harrow about trying to join the fight, because he's worried it might break the narrative and give the Sleeper total control again.
  • The Stinger: The epilogue takes place six months after the Emperor's murder and features Camilla with Palamedes' eyes, taking care of a mysterious girl with two other unidentified people in a busy city on a planet far outside the Empire, with both Camilla and the mystery girl being unsure who she actually is.
    • As Yet Unsent, a short story from Judith's perspective added for the paperback version, adds in a second as the final content in the book. Despite months having passed since her death, Gideon's corpse has failed to rot, and Blood of Eden has access to a ship with a stele and intends to force Judith to use it on an unknown mission.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Augustine and Mercymorn have not been on speaking terms for over a hundred years, and Mercymorn especially is not fond of the "infants", who themselves get along hardly better, but they all pull together in the face of the Resurrection Beast. Augustine and Mercymorn have also been conspiring against the Emperor for ages while hating each other... less, but still hating each other, while Ianthe helped Harrow do brain surgery on herself to write over memories of Gideon.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Due to Harrow's Trauma-Induced Amnesia and the Fake Memories that come with it, even she can't trust that what she experiences is actually what's real. In the end, all of it was real.
  • Wham Line: Several
    • After an awkward, not really informative talk with Gideon the First.
      "You were angry. You were always such a little bitch when you were angry."
    • In As Yet Unsent, describing the first months of Judith, Camilla, and Corona's capture by Blood of Eden.
      " The corpse has still failed to rot. The princess says they are leaving it outside in significantly fluctuating temperatures, under observation, and it still fails to rot."
  • You Can't Go Home Again: While just invoked at the end of Gideon the Ninth, with both Gideon's ghost/hallucination and Harrow saying "We can't go home again," the Emperor reveals early on that Harrow never had a choice in the first place, as Lyctors inevitably attract Resurrection Beasts that can kill planets.


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