Leigh Bardugo is an incredible YA author famously known for her immersive worlds and cast of diverse, interesting characters. Her previous YA fantasy series include the Grisha trilogy, King of Scars, and the popular Six of Crows duology. Set in a world known as the Grishaverse in which different Grisha possess magical powers under different orders of magic—The Order of the Living and the Dead, the Order of Summoners, and the Order of Fabrikators—Leigh Bardugo created fictional countries with such unique cultures and locations that they almost seemed believable. And let’s not forget how much we all fell in love with Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. Amidst the buzz about Shadow and Bone, the first book in the Grisha trilogy, coming to Netflix, Bardugo has decided to dive into a new realm of magic by penning her first adult novel.
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Bardugo’s new novel, titled Ninth House, seems to be the first book set outside the Grishaverse. And this setting might be slightly more familiar to us—it’s New Haven, Connecticut. The book follows a Yale freshman with a bad past, Alex Stern. She was raised by a hippie mom and dropped out of school to mess around with drug dealer boyfriends and bad jobs. It’s unlikely that she would end up at Yale, but when she becomes the only survivor of a multiple homicide, Alex is offered a full ride to one of the most prestigious universities. Alex’s benefactors instruct her to monitor the suspicious activities of the secret societies within Yale, and she soon discovers that these societies are more sinister than one might expect. The Yale societies are made up of prominent rich and powerful figures who conduct occult activities and forbidden magic in windowless clubhouses referred to as “tombs.”
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Bardugo, a graduate of Yale herself, says that she’s had the idea for Ninth House since her first day in New Haven as a student. The book’s release date is October 8th, and Bardugo says, “October is the perfect time for sinister tales, and I hope you’ll find Ninth House to be thrilling, eerie, funny, and maybe a little unnerving.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Leigh Bardugo makes the switch from young adult fiction to adult fiction. Her books have certainly dealt with dark themes surrounding magic before, and they’ve always held a particular air of maturity for YA books. Still, maybe Ninth House will be even more mature now that Bardugo is incorporating some of her own experiences. It also makes you wonder just what Leigh Bardugo experienced at Yale to imagine their secret societies as something occult. But what even are the Yale secret societies? Does her fantastical interpretation have any weight?
Each Yale secret society is small and only allows fifteen members or so. As is to be expected, it’s almost impossible to find information about these societies or what they do, but many of them also have impressive amounts of wealth. Yale has forty-one secret societies that we know about, each with menacing names like Berzelius, Skull and Bones, Book and Snake, Wolf’s Head, and Scroll and Key. With names like Skull and Bones, why shouldn’t we be suspicious? Skull and Bones is probably the most famous secret society and its alumni include William Howard Taft, President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush, and former Secretary of State John Kerry. Most of the societies’ alumni seem to be involved in political or financial positions of power… possibly bargained for by occult means? The architectural style of the tomb-like, windowless clubhouses was designed with privacy in mind, so we may never really know what goes on inside.
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After a few break-ins to the “tombs,” the floor plan of the original Skull and Bones building was published and it seemed like a fairly normal clubhouse. Nonetheless, who knows what the members of the societies could be concealing behind hidden walls and doors? Maybe Bardugo discovered something in her time at Yale and is finally revealing the dark, supernatural truth.
With a mix of such creepy rumors surrounding the Yale societies in real life and Bardugo’s thrilling, intense writing style, Ninth House is sure to be an amazing first adult fantasy novel for this author.
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