Big Book Energy

Bonus Episode S3E1 - The Ninth House

February 01, 2021 Jennifer Fain and Paige Downey Season 3
Big Book Energy
Bonus Episode S3E1 - The Ninth House
Show Notes Transcript

This season we are doing Phone a Friend for our bonus episodes! Tune in to hear guest host Brooke join us to discuss Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House!

Ninth House & Leigh Bardugo

Folio Facts: The Codex Gigas

This month, Paige presents the Codex Gigas, which is not only a big a** book, but is also known as the Devil’s Bible, due to the creepy story of its origin and a huge illustration of Satan himself inside. To learn more:

Discussion Questions

  1. What were your overall thoughts/opinions of the book? Did you like it?
  2. Thoughts on the use of sexual assault and drugs as part of Alex’s backstory?
  3. What did you think about the chronological arrangement of this narrative? i.e. three, sometimes four different timelines cutting in and out of each other
  4. Do you have a favorite character?
  5. What did you think of the magic system compared to others?
  6. Did you guess who the villain was?

Support the Pod

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Jennifer: Hey everyone! This is Jennifer...

Paige: And this is Paige and this is Big Book Energy.

Jennifer: Welcome back to another episode. Our first bonus episode of season three. And if you guys have been following along so far this season, then you will know that this is our very first episode of a brand new theme: Phone a Friend. So we have a guest with us today. Brooke is joining us.

Brooke: Hi! I'm Brooke.

Paige: Our biggest fan.

Brooke: Yeah, I'm here because of nepotism and no other reason.

Paige: Just roll with it, man.

Jennifer: All right. So let's let's talk about Ninth House. Briefly I want to talk about the author for today: Leigh Bardugo. I was going to say, I would be shocked if you haven't heard of her, but I don't know what our listeners are reading in reality. So Leigh Bardugo is a hugely successful young adult and fantasy author.

She's probably best known for her unique universe that she's written several different series within . It's called the Grishaverse. I have not read anything in that particular world, but she does have several sets of books. I think there's a Grishaverse trilogy. There's obviously Six of Crows, this is the book that I knew her from.

I haven't read it, but I've heard of that book a lot being on like BookTube. So the duology is in the Grishaverse. And then also I think there are a couple of others, it almost looked like standalones, but I'm not sure if they're standalones or she just hasn't published more. Yeah. So she's, she's written several books within this universe or world which is not entirely unheard of.

There are actually a lot of different universes out there that more than just one author has written within the same world. I think another really good example of just a single author creating their own universe and then writing tons of books within it would be Cassandra Clare, she has written like 20 fucking books.

Paige: Brandon Sanderson and the cosmere

Brooke: Yeah. He, I feel like, takes it to the next level.

Paige: He does.

Jennifer: Epic fantasy, I think does that a lot more frequently? Cause I was thinking of like ... Okay so the one that I'm thinking of is Forgotten Realms, which is a universe. It's a campaign setting for D and D. But a lot of authors have actually written books that fit within this universe.

But yeah. So back to Leigh Bardugo, she has written quite a few books within the Grishaverse and it's actually a really funny story because as I started getting into bookstagram and booktube, everyone was mentioning the Grishaverse. And I was just like, excuse me??? I had no idea what it was like, no idea, you know.

Obviously like you can google it and easily find out, but I just kept seeing all these people mentioning Grishaverse, but it clearly wasn't like the title of a book. It was like referring to something else. And I was like, what is this? But yeah, that's what Leigh Bardugo is really well known for, but also in 2019 she published her first adult novel, which is Ninth House and it won Goodreads choice award for best fantasy novel that year. Although, generally I feel like Goodreads choice words are kind of trash, but that's a conversation for another day.

So Leigh Bardugo, very successful author. She actually went to Yale university, which is where Ninth House is set. I think that lends a lot of depth to her descriptions of the campus and just basically the setting in general, within Ninth House , feels very well fleshed out and undoubtedly her experience of actually attending Yale contributed to that. I think that's all that I wanted to mention.

There's a few adaptations for works that have been slowly being worked on over the years. Apparently all the way back in 2012 Dreamworks had bought the movie rights to Shadow and Bone, which is one of her Grisha verse books. However, that has not panned out into anything for a variety of reasons.

And then in 2019, Netflix said that they were going to create a series based on the Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows books. They even announced cast members so I'm assuming that that project is still ongoing.

Brooke: So I think the trailer just dropped a couple of weeks ago.

Jennifer: I'll go ahead and I'll find that and I will put it in the show notes actually. Okay, yeah, so like I was reading that they had announced all this in 2019 and I was like, this show still isn't out... But then, you know, 2020 was just like a lost year. So I assume that it's taking longer than it normally would.

And also in 2019, Amazon studios said that they were going to adapt Ninth House and Leigh Bardugo is actually set to be a co-executive producer on that project so kudos to her because that is not usually something that authors get to do, like, you know, having some say in the interpretation of their work. So that's pretty cool. I think. I don't know if I'd want to watch that show, but we'll get there in a second.

All right. So that's Leigh Bardugo. And now I guess-  now, I guess I have to try and summarize this book.

Brooke: Have fun because it is a little bit like- the end, especially, is like the end of a Scooby-Doo episode where they keep pulling off the mask and it's just a different mask. That's how I would summarize the end of this. So I'm excited to see how you're going to summarize this.

Jennifer: Yeah. So also the varying timelines situation doesn't make for an easy summary. So I'm going to read... basically, I'm going to read through my notes.  I thought about just arranging this in chronological order and just telling it from like the main character's childhood  all the way up to the end of the book, but I didn't have time to do that. So we're just going to read through my notes.

So we open Ninth House with a very grim scene overall, which is fair because most of the scenes in this book are grim. But we opened with Alex, who is our protagonist and main character, and she has clearly been through something very traumatic. She mentions getting blood out of her coat. No one else is left. She thinks that to herself at one point. So we know that something very bad has happened to her. Also she reveals that, you know, she has like this infected wound in her side from a dog biting her. Just, just she's been through it, okay? She's been through it.

Also, Dr. Jennifer has diagnosed her as depressed at this point. She is depressed. I mean she's completely checked out of school, she can barely muster up the energy to feed herself. I mean, obviously she's injured as well, so that could be playing into it, but she also just seems very hopeless about this entire situation that you have no idea what the situation is. So, you know, thanks to my university-mandated training, I would recognize that as a student in crisis, okay?

Brooke: The is kind of the subtitle of this book, Ninth House: A Student in Crisis.

Jennifer: And you know what, that actually holds out once you start reading.

So it's also revealed that she has joined this shadowy society at Yale, called the society of the Lethe, and that is a reference to, I think, Greek mythology. And then there's a really gross like body horror moment at the very end of this intro that I did not appreciate. So just a content warning for the readers out there.

So we get that very beginning section and it's actually like towards the end of the narrative. So we flashed back and were introduced to Alex navigating her way through the Society of the Lethe and what that means. We're told that at Yale, there are a variety of secret societies like Skull and Bones and all that, Scroll and Key and all this . Except that these societies, we learn, are actually based off of magical ability, magical rites.

There's a reason why these societies are so wealthy and powerful and it's because of the magic that they wield. And the Society of the Lethe was founded in order to try and make sure that the societies didn't do anything untoward and, you know, like kill people. And they've done this with varying degrees of success, I will say.

The reason that Alex has been chosen, and we actually- I'm skipping ahead because we don't find out, you know, the secrets of this book are really spread out throughout the entire narrative. So it takes a really long time for the full story to really unravel. But she has been chosen to become the new Dante, which is kind of like the apprentice of the Society of the Lethe, because she can actually see ghosts.

She can see the kind of spirit world beyond the regular world and that's really important because when the societies are doing their magical rituals, things on the other side - they call it the other side of the veil - tend to want to come back through into the land of living. And obviously that is not what you want, but most people can't see ghosts, right?

Usually members of the Society of the Lethe have to take a special drug to be able to see them, but Alex can see them just in her normal life. This is not beneficial for her. This has really screwed her up a lot for understandable reasons. But she has been chosen to become the new apprentice and we're not really sure what her story was like before this. We just know it was bad.

She was approached by a Dean of Yale when she was in the hospital. So clearly something has really gone wrong for her, even before she shows up at Yale. Alex is a new apprentice, a new Dante and her Virgil is someone called Darlington, except when we're opening on this very first ritual in the book, we know that he's gone. She doesn't really say why, but he's gone and she's on her own right now for her very first solo prognostication. A wonderful time. Yeah. I really, really liked this.

Brooke: [laughs] This part is a little gross.

Jennifer: This part is very gross.

Brooke: I picked a real light and fluffy book for you guys, so.

Paige: It was right up my alley. I loved it.

Brooke: I know, I did, too.

Jennifer: I didn't so much, but we'll get to that later.

Well, first of all, a huge thank you to Brooke for coming on the show and having us kick off this phone, a friend theme.

Brooke: Thank you for having me!

As much as it may seem like I didn't like reading this book, I'm glad you picked this book because I was meaning to read it and I did. But yeah. Thank you so much for coming on. This has been fun. This is our first time- I was going to say filming? It's because I'm staring at your faces on the facetime and that's why.

But yeah, this is the first time we're recording with someone else and you know, there were a few hiccups in the road, but thank you for being our guinea pig with this process.

Brooke: It was fun.

Jennifer: And hopefully you haven't cursed us.

Brooke: I know [laughs] well, it's too soon to say it for that one, but it's fun being here. Thank you for letting me use this as my , my therapy session to hash out my feelings on this book.

Paige: The whole reason we have this podcast.

Jennifer: [laughs] I was going to say, that's why we record. Just one giant therapy session after another on what we read. If you enjoy this episode today please do consider leaving us a review on your favorite podcasting app if that is an option for you. Tell your friends that you found an awesome new podcast to listen to. And if you want to keep up with everything that we're doing, you can also follow us on social media. We have a Twitter and an Instagram, both of them @big_book_energy. Those will be linked in the show notes.

You can also check us out at Where, I mean every now and again, we post some blog posts, perhaps a review or two. I think our most recent ones were our Best Reads of 2020, and also a post where I talk about my #readmyshelf challenge that I've started for 2021, which I don't want to talk about right now.

If you are interested in supporting the podcast, you can head on over to We have a store there. That's going to be book energy. That will also be linked in the show notes. And basically that's if you want to buy any of the books that we talk about on the podcast, you get to support us you get to support small, local, independent bookstores, and you didn't book at the same time.

Paige: And we also have a Patreon . If you are not one of our higher tier Patreon members, you will only be getting a short snippet of a much, much longer episode. So if you like what you're hearing, but you want the longer thing, head on over to and become either a Book Ninja or a Book Mage, or if you would like to follow in Brooke's footsteps and hang out on here with us, you can be a Book Elder.

Jennifer: All right guys. Thanks for tuning in today and we will see you next time. Bye!

Paige: Bye.

Brooke: Can you guys hear this motorcycle outside my window?

Paige: Yeah.

Jennifer: Oh my God, that was so loud.

Brooke: I feel like it's doing laps or something.

Paige: It sounds like a scooter through our headphones, or at least mine. It doesn't sound like a full-blown motorcycle.

Brooke: It sort of sounds like a go-kart, is what it sounds like.

Paige: Hamster on the pedal kind of thing, yeah.

Jennifer: Or it's like a car with like a really bad exhaust on it that they thought was going to make it sound cool, but in actuality just makes it sound stupid.

Brooke: [laughs] That was so judge-y.

Jennifer: There's a lot of that here. I have many- I have many thoughts on cars with exhausts on them. I usually disapprove, but that's, that's just something else. I swear that's like every five minutes on the road outside of my apartment, I just hear some like terrible exhaust go by. And I'm like, really? You thought that was a good choice? You thought, you thought that sounds good? It doesn't.

Brooke: [laughs] I hope all of this goes in. Just 10 minutes of ranting about exhaust.

Paige: Oh yeah, all of this is staying in.