Book Review: Ninth House

NINTH HOUSE | Leigh Bardugo
(Alex Stern #1)
10.08.2019 | Flatiron Books
Rating: 5/5 stars


Yale’s freshman class just earned it’s most unlikeliest of members in the form of Galaxy “Alex” Stern. Hailing from Los Angeles, Alex was raised by a hippie mom who didn’t understand the strange things happening to her. Alex ultimately dropped out of school and turned to a shady lifestyle, living with a drug dealer boyfriend and in and out of jobs. At the age of twenty, Alex finds herself the only survivor of a multiple homicide. She has lost her best friend and feels as though she has thrown her entire life away. When a mysterious stranger shows up at her hospital bed with an offer to attend Yale on a full ride she knows there must be a catch.

Alex is now trying to find her way in New Haven. In addition to the traditional struggles of all college freshman, Alex must also take on the challenge of understanding and monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Within these eight societies are some of the world’s most powerful people. What the world does not see is their connection to the occult and the potentially deadly magic they play with daily. Alex has just entered a world she never could have dreamed existed.


Anyone who has ever looked at my reading interests knows that I generally run in the opposite direction of YA fantasy books. They’re something I struggle with working for me, but lately I have found my interest being peaked. Blame it on all the stunning covers or the fantastical plots, but there is simply something that makes me intrigued. While I was contemplating how to jump in (still seeking suggestions!), NINTH HOUSE came across my radar. One of YA fantasy’s biggest writers taking on an adult fantasy/mystery series? I’m here for that! This book was the perfect mix of mystery and fantasy to give me a chance to test the fantasy waters. So how did it go? I fell in love!

Leigh Bardugo instantly transports readers to New Haven and Yale campus where we meet Alex Stern. She’s a headstrong woman trying to find her place after a very traumatic few years. What isn’t clear is who this secret society Alex just joined is, what they do, and who Alex is working to protect. I instantly felt a connection with Alex. While the reader doesn’t immediately know her past, you do know that it wasn’t easy, Alex isn’t going to take any crap from anyone, and if you’re her friend, she will do anything for you.


NINTH HOUSE is told through two alternating timelines with the first being present day and the second being a few months earlier. Not long after Alex’s arrival on campus and beginning her new role in the secret society of Lethe, an event happens that spirals into Alex running an investigation in present day. Why so vague? I really don’t want to risk giving any plot points away. I went into this book completely blind and loved every moment. I think it’s one of those books you need to experience without any plot hints.

Speaking of the plot…this book is not an easy read. What I mean is that there is a ton of set up over the course of the first 100 or so pages. Not only is this the start of a series, it is also a fantasy book, so pretty much every concept and character is new to the reader. I will caution that those first 100 pages are a bit slow, but it’s so worth it to keep pushing through! Also, don’t be afraid if you don’t pick up on every last detail or that some things might go over your head. I promise there are definitely things I missed, but I loved every moment!

NINTH HOUSE is a whirlwind of a story with fantastic characters and a fascinating story! I cannot wait to continue on with Alex Stern in future books on adventures that I have zero doubts will be intense and powerful. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend giving it a slot on your TBR!

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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