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In this section, we will provide an audiobook review of Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. The book, narrated by Lauren Fortgang and Michael David Axtell, has received immense popularity for its unique blend of fantasy and mystery genres. Set in the prestigious Yale University, Ninth House follows the story of Galaxy “Alex” Stern, who is given the task of monitoring the eight secret societies lurking within the campus walls.

Key Takeaways

  • Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House is a captivating audiobook, blending fantasy and mystery genres.
  • The audiobook is expertly narrated by Lauren Fortgang and Michael David Axtell.
  • Ninth House is set in the prestigious Yale University and revolves around eight secret societies.
  • The book explores themes of power, privilege, and corruption in a unique and engaging manner.
  • Ninth House has received critical acclaim and is a must-read for fans of fantasy and mystery genres.

Overview of Ninth House

Ninth House is a dark fantasy novel by Leigh Bardugo, known for her bestselling series, Shadow and Bone. The novel follows the story of Galaxy “Alex” Stern, who receives a full-ride scholarship to Yale University after surviving a traumatic incident. However, Alex soon discovers that she is part of a secret society called Lethe, which exists to monitor the occult activities of Yale’s secret societies.

The setting is contemporary New Haven, Connecticut, but with a twist of magic and supernatural elements. Leigh Bardugo’s portrayal of the Ivy League University is chilling and atmospheric, drawing readers into a world of dark secrets and hidden agendas.

Ninth House features a diverse cast of characters, including Alex, her mentor, Darlington, and the members of Lethe’s houses. Each character adds depth to the plot and contributes to the intricate web of relationships in the story. Alex’s journey of self-discovery and growth throughout the novel is particularly compelling.

Overall, Ninth House is a haunting and captivating novel that showcases Leigh Bardugo’s exceptional storytelling abilities. The book deftly weaves together themes of trauma, power, and corruption, creating a complex and thought-provoking narrative. Stay tuned for our in-depth analysis of Leigh Bardugo’s writing style and narrative techniques in Section 3.

Writing Style and Narrative

Leigh Bardugo’s writing style in Ninth House is captivating, allowing readers to become immersed in the dark, magical world she has created. The narrative is told from the perspective of the main character, Galaxy “Alex” Stern, providing readers with a unique insight into her thoughts and experiences.

Bardugo’s writing is character-driven, exploring the complexities of Alex’s character and her interactions with the other characters in the book. Her vivid descriptions and use of imagery create a rich and atmospheric setting, transporting readers to the Ivy League campus of Yale and the magical underworld that lurks beneath its surface.

The narrative structure is non-linear, with the story jumping between different time periods and perspectives. This creates a sense of mystery and tension, as readers slowly piece together the events of the story and uncover the truth behind the mysteries that Alex is trying to solve.

Overall, Leigh Bardugo’s writing style and narrative techniques in Ninth House are masterful, drawing readers in and keeping them engaged from beginning to end.

Character Development and Relationships

Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House exhibits a complex cast of characters, each with a unique backstory and relationships that shape their actions. One of the central themes of the novel is the struggle with identity, which is prominently displayed through the character development of the protagonist, Alex Stern.

The strength of the novel lies in how well Bardugo develops each of her characters, providing insights into their motivations and thought processes.

The most poignant relationship in Ninth House is that between Alex and her mentor, Darlington. Initially, the two have a tense relationship, with Darlington struggling to fully trust and understand Alex’s motivations. However, as the plot progresses, the two become inseparable, with Darlington serving as both a guide and confidant to Alex.

The relationships between the other characters in Ninth House are equally complicated. From the members of Lethe House, who clash with one another, to the ghosts that haunt the campus, each character adds depth and tension to the story.

Character Relationships in Ninth House

Character Relationship
Alex Stern Mentee of Darlington, friend of Dawes, enemy of Turner
Darlington Mentor of Alex, friend of Dawes, nemesis of Turner
Dawes Friend of Alex and Darlington, rival of Turner
Turner Enemy of Alex, Darlington, and Dawes

Bardugo’s masterful character development and complex relationships make Ninth House a gripping read that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Themes and Symbolism

Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House is packed with underlying themes and symbolism that add depth to the story.

One of the prominent themes is the concept of power and its corrupting influence. Throughout the book, the characters grapple with the impact of power, both in their personal lives and how it influences their roles within the societies they inhabit. This theme is highlighted by the power struggles between characters, the manipulation of power for personal gain, and the devastating consequences that result.

Another theme that runs throughout the book is the concept of death and rebirth. The protagonist, Galaxy “Alex” Stern, struggles to come to grips with her traumatic past and embrace a new beginning. The concept of rebirth is also woven into the plot, as the characters confront the death of the daughter of a powerful senator, and the subsequent upheaval in their world as they seek to solve the mystery of her murder.

Bardugo employs symbolism throughout the book to enhance these themes. For example, the Ninth House itself symbolizes the duality of power and corruption, with its ornate and intimidating exterior giving way to a dark and foreboding interior. Additionally, the tarot cards used extensively throughout the book symbolize the concept of fate and the consequences of actions.

Overall, the themes and symbolism present in Ninth House elevate the story beyond its plot and characters, creating a rich and thought-provoking reading experience.

Audiobook Narration

The audiobook narration for Ninth House is top-notch and elevates the listening experience. Narrated by Lauren Fortgang, the voice acting is clear and easy to understand, with excellent pacing and intonation. Fortgang manages to bring the characters to life, adding depth and nuance to their personalities. She provides distinct voices for each character, making it easy for the listener to follow along with the dialogue and understand who’s speaking.

Fortgang’s ability to convey emotions through her narration is also noteworthy. She’s able to capture the tension and suspense of the story, keeping listeners engaged throughout. Additionally, her voice brings a haunting quality to the atmospheric descriptions of the book, emphasizing the eerie setting of the Yale campus and the supernatural elements of the story.

audiobook narration

Overall, the audiobook narration for Ninth House is excellent and highly recommended for fans of Leigh Bardugo or anyone looking for a captivating audiobook experience.

Pacing and Plot Development

Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House has an intense and engaging plot that maintains steady pacing throughout the story. The plot development is carefully crafted and gradually unfolds, keeping readers intrigued and guessing until the very end.

The story is sectioned out into alternating timelines, with flashbacks to the past and present events in Alex Stern’s life. This structure allows for a gradual unraveling of the story as both timelines intersect and the overarching plot becomes clear.

Bardugo’s exceptional pacing and plot development allows for a fully immersive experience, where every detail is revealed at just the right time, making the story feel like a well-crafted puzzle. The fast-paced action and suspenseful plot kept us on the edge of our seats, making it difficult to put down at any point in the story.

The Three-Act Structure

The pacing and plot development in Ninth House are driven by Bardugo’s use of the classic three-act structure. At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to the characters and the world they inhabit, which sets the stage for the conflict that will unfold.

In the second act, the tension builds, and the characters face greater challenges and obstacles as they work towards achieving their goals. This is where the plot thickens, and the story becomes more complex.

In the final act, we reach the climax, where the story’s central conflict is resolved, and loose ends are tied up. Bardugo masterfully executes this structure in Ninth House, creating a compelling and satisfying plot that keeps readers fully engaged from start to finish.

World Building and Atmosphere

The world building in Ninth House is a standout feature of the novel. From the intricately developed magic system to the detailed descriptions of New Haven, every aspect of the world feels meticulously crafted and purposeful. The atmosphere is equally immersive, with Leigh Bardugo masterfully using language and tone to create a dark and haunting mood throughout the novel.

One notable aspect of the world building is the incorporation of real-world locations and historical events into the fictional setting. For example, the secret societies at Yale University are based on real-life organizations, adding a layer of realism to the story. Bardugo also weaves in references to historical figures and events, such as the Salem witch trials, to further enrich the world and add a sense of depth.

The atmosphere of Ninth House is undeniably eerie and unsettling, with descriptions of the supernatural elements and the morally ambiguous actions of the characters adding to the overall sense of unease. The novel is not for the faint of heart, but for readers who enjoy dark and gritty stories, the atmospheric quality of Ninth House is sure to captivate.

Critical Reception and Public Opinion

Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House has received mixed critical reception and public opinion. While some readers have praised the book’s gripping plot and dark themes, others have criticized its heavy-handed world-building and graphic content.

According to Publishers Weekly, Ninth House is “an intoxicating urban fantasy that delivers a heady blend of atmosphere, suspense, and danger.” However, The Guardian criticized the book’s “murky and overly complicated world-building,” stating that it “never quite coheres into a believable whole.”

On Goodreads, Ninth House has an overall rating of 3.73 out of 5 stars, with some readers praising its “incredible writing” and “unique storyline,” while others found it “confusing” and “slow-paced.”

Despite the mixed response, Ninth House continues to be a popular choice among readers who enjoy dark, atmospheric fantasy novels with a touch of horror. Whether or not you’ll enjoy it will ultimately depend on your personal taste.

Comparison to Other Works by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo has established herself as a prominent figure in the young adult fiction genre, with multiple successful book series to her name. But how does Ninth House compare to her previous works?

The Grisha Trilogy

Bardugo’s debut series, The Grisha Trilogy, is a fantasy series set in a world inspired by Russian folklore. The series follows a teenage girl named Alina Starkov, who discovers she has magical powers and becomes embroiled in a power struggle between rival factions. While Ninth House is decidedly different in terms of genre and tone, it shares some similarities with The Grisha Trilogy, such as the focus on secret societies and power dynamics.

Six of Crows Duology

The Six of Crows Duology is a heist series set in the same universe as The Grisha Trilogy, but with a different cast of characters and a grittier tone. The duology has been praised for its complex characters and intricate plotting. While Ninth House also features morally ambiguous characters and a non-linear narrative, its themes and subject matter are much darker and mature than the Six of Crows Duology.

Ninth House The Grisha Trilogy Six of Crows Duology
Genre Contemporary Fantasy High Fantasy Heist/Adventure
Setting Ivy League University/Secret Societies Inspired by Russian folklore Same universe as Grisha Trilogy
Tone Dark, mature Adventure, romance Gritty, morally ambiguous
Themes Power, trauma, addiction Identity, power, romance Friendship, trust, loyalty

Overall, Ninth House is a departure from Leigh Bardugo’s previous works in terms of genre and subject matter. While there are some similarities in theme and tone, it stands out as a unique and mature offering from the author. Fans of Bardugo’s previous works may be surprised by Ninth House, but its quality and storytelling are undeniable.


Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House is a thrilling and dark tale that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. The audiobook narration by Lauren Fortgang is exceptional, bringing the story to life with her powerful voice and dynamic range.

Bardugo’s writing style and narrative techniques are skillfully executed, creating an immersive and atmospheric world that will transport readers to the secret societies of Yale University. The character development and relationships are complex and nuanced, adding depth and realism to the story.

Throughout the novel, Bardugo explores themes of power, privilege, and trauma, using symbolism to add layers of meaning to the narrative. The pacing and plot development are expertly crafted, building tension and suspense until the gripping climax.

Ninth House has received critical acclaim, and it’s easy to see why. The novel has captivated audiences with its dark and thrilling story, richly developed characters, and vivid world building.

Overall, we highly recommend Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House to anyone looking for a gripping and immersive audiobook experience.

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