OMG! I just saw this on Twitter from @SkeweredS. Gideon the Ninth, p. 65:
“Do you want,” Gideon whispered huskily, “my hanky.”
“I want to watch you die.”
Damn!. Let’s all scream together and then we’ll get into Act 2.
Chapter 12 Skull header: Eighth House. Time: Six months before the Emperor’s murder. 2nd person.
Harrow murders her 13th planet, under Mercymorn’s resentful tutelage. She doesn’t want to, and finds “that first quick slice to the jugular the hardest” (p. 139). The life on this planet is bacterial, and Harrow’s technique, using the two-hander, not a rapier, is perfect. She enters the River and kills the planet’s newborn revenant. Surfacing, Mercy tells her that she’s shaved two minutes off her best time but it’s not good enough, because she’s an incomplete Lyctor, and when she’s in the River, her body is vulnerable, and that’s why she now has hypothermia.
- Mercy mistakes Harrow’s hesitation for anticipation, which tells us everything we need to know about Mercy. And something of what we need to know about Harrow, that, if she has to kill, she wants to be “the knife that cut silently” (p. 143). Mercifully, unlike that virtue’s namesake.
- Harrow still struggles with the two-hander, which is far too heavy for her, until she’s in the River, where it’s “light as forgiveness” (p. 141).
- Lovely simile.
- The narrator notes that Harrow abuses the sword, making sure it would never “have an edge of any kind, ever again” (p. 140).
- Evidence of sexual tension: “Not for you the light ripple of muscle that now showed on Ianthe’s back and shoulders, especially if she was wet with sweat” (p. 140). Harrow notices. In the next chapter we’ll see evidence of a jealous narrator.
- Mercymorn chose this planet because it was so hard to kill: “Here the soul of the planet was in the striations of its sand and minerals: a soft woven network of miniature creatures, of bacteria, of thin, stretched-out skeins of life. You had not even understood what to look for, the first time” (p. 140).
- Harrow cuts into “the minute thalergy of the rock, into the solid stone’s buried recollections of the day its ball of dust was formed” (p. 140). This is a deeper definition of life than we’ve seen before: life need not be sentient, or even organic. Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate how devastatingly destructive the Nine Houses are. But since we’re in their camp, it's hard to see that.
- “You loved God like a king, and you loved God like the promise of redemption, and you loved God like you weren’t even sure what, you had loved so seldom” (p. 141). Remember the rule of three statements being significant, as well as rhetorically pleasing.
- For a spiritual and metaphorical experience, the killing of the revenant is awfully physical.
- “Gathering up your hate, your fear and your serenity [again, rule of three], you thrust your javelin down the moment you perceived a wrinkle of hemisphere, straight through the lobes, and you made the spike a wheel, and you cleaved in half that which was already dead” (p. 141)
- “When a normal Lyctor’s soul went to the River, the dead, blank energy that had once been their cavalier kept the lights on in their body” (p. 145). Harrow, being a failed Lyctor, has none of that protection.
Chapter 13 Skull header: Third House. Time: Same. 2nd person.
Harrow takes refuge in Ianthe’s quarters. She feels safer there, even though she hates the decor. Ianthe tells her that Augustine is unhappy with her. Harrow notes that Ianthe’s replacement arm is looking worse, and tells her that Mercy could fix it. Ianthe says that Harrow could do it, but Harrow refuses and goes to find some soup in the kitchen.
- Ianthe wears Valency’s old clothes, and they’re exquisite, but they don’t fit.
- Her new arm doesn’t fit, either: “It had been very nicely matched to the original until she had ceased using it altogether, and the difference was more pronounced each day” (pp. 146-147).
- “Her quarters held some measure of safety for you, as she warded with the paranoid focus of an escaped murderer, and therefore half as tightly as you did” (p. 147).
- Ianthe: “I’m amazed you made it here from the docking bay without getting assassinated, Harry” (p. 147). Wait, what?
- “Close the door and I’ll call you Nonagesimus.” You might say this is flirty?
- “Her paste-blond hair fell lankly over a face that should have been beautiful and over shoulders that should have been exquisite, but only contributed to the general impression of a wax figure in a pink dolly dress” (p. 150).
- “As God said, you might be the ninth saint, but you could never be Ninth again — except when you closed Ianthe’s door.”
- Ianthe’s rooms are quite something — fancy and frilly, and worse: decorated with life-sized nudes of Cyrus and Valency “in languorous attitudes, generally in oils, and all . . . enthusiastically executed. The duo posing held a variety of objects both likely and unlikely . . . . It was not that you were a prude. It was simply that sitting in a room with those painting was like having a long visit with someone who kept laughing at their own puns” (p. 148).
Chapter 14 Skull header: Ninth House. Time: Same. 2nd person.
We get the same hortatory celebration of the Emperor that we saw in the Parados and Chapter 1. In the Parados, the action opens with Harrow watching Ortus read the invitation to Canaan House and immediately try to weasel out. In Chapter 1, the invocation is deflated immediately by Harrow’s hypernausea. Here it’s the Mithraeum being celebrated as the “Seat of the First Reborn, the Sanctuary of the Emperor...” and the “bolthole of God” (p. 150). A bolthole is a place to hide. If you hadn’t noticed before now, there’s a steady erosion of ecstatic encomiums related to God.
This chapter begins a section that is structurally different from the chronological approach we’ve seen before. Three months have passed since Harrow’s arrival, and we start with description:
The Mithraeum is a classic ringed space station, with living quarters on the outermost ring; labs, storage rooms, reading area and presumably kitchen and other workrooms in the middle ring, and the center devoted to the chapel and God’s rooms, which are, as they are in Canaan House, locked and strictly private. Everything else, everywhere, houses the body parts of the heroes of the Nine Houses (all at once).
The use of the title “Mithraeum” is interesting: Mithraism was a Persian religion dedicated to the sun god Mithra, who’s most often depicted killing a bull. Keep an eye on bovine references — when they recur, you’ll be in on the joke. He was very popular with Roman soldiers, so statues and carvings of Mithra appear throughout the former Roman Empire (something something, soldiers’ god, empire dedicated to war, etc.) Mithra was also a principal god of mutual obligation whose worship was codified by Zarathustra (and if you’re thinking of Nietzsche and hearing Richard Strauss right now, you’re doing it right). It’s a hint into God’s nature on at least three levels (cattle, Nietzsche, and Strauss). Especially Nietzsche’s philosophy and his response to the rise of science and decline of religion.
Harrow’s quarters have always been unoccupied (leading us to wonder what happened to the founder of the Ninth House, Anastasia, and why she never lived at the Mithraeum), which is both novel and pleasant to Harrow, who grew up among the collected debris of her ancestors. Ianthe has inherited both the garish quarters and all the cavalier’s clothes of the Third House.
This discursiveness of this section gives us a summary view of John and his relationship with Harrow, as he calls Harrow to his sitting room for long silences or chats. Here we hear about Blood of Eden for the first time. Also, John asks Harrow about why her abilities are so singular and how her dead parents begot her. She confesses their crime, and John absolves her.
- John hangs out in the kitchen, drinking coffee. Or in his study, with tea and biscuits (cookies, to Americans).
- John is still preoccupied with the loss of 3 ships and 18,000 troops: “Augustine says thinking about it before we endure Number Seven is folly, but the way I see it, if I fail with Number Seven nothing matters; if we win, then this is the thing that matters most” (p. 154). Who is the real threat: the Resurrection Beast, or the as yet unrevealed enemy? PS: The Lyctors will fight the Resurrection Beast, not John.
- Hilarious bit about Harrow trying to like tea with milk and cookies, and thinks of John as “the God of the Unstilled Mandible” (p. 154). Nice way to say that he won’t shut up.
- BOE: “A cult who came to our attention maybe five thousand years ago. We stumbled on them during one of our pushes into deep space. Stumbled . . . they’d been looking for us the whole time. They hate the Nine Houses . . . a secretive central organisation that sends it agents to people we encounter outside the Nine Houses, to populated planets we’re stewarding, and turns them against us from the shadows” (p. 154). There’s a lot to unpack in this section:
- John casts Blood of Eden as the aggressor and the Nine Houses as the victims.
- Planets outside Dominicus that are inhabited and under “stewardship.” What do you think that means?
- John tells Harrow she might have heard of Blood of Eden by another name.
- He reveals that 25 years ago a “charismatic leader” rose and “upped their game.”
- He says that he and the Lyctors know about them, and adds that he suspects they were behind Cytherea’s action at Canaan House: “That’s a damned sight more terrifying to me even than old nukes they have in storage somewhere” (p. 155). Pin that.
- He could have changed Cytherea’s mind, given time. Pin that, too.
- One thing he can’t figure out is how Blood of Eden could have joined forces with Cytherea. “BOE hates necromancers and necromancy. It’s their fundamental tenet. And Cytherea? She would’ve been their bogeyman” (p. 155).
- John throws Harrow off her game by asking about her parents before bringing up her conception.
- He knows they’re dead: “the secret you had broken yourself attempting to keep hidden from the rest of the Houses, from the rest of your own House” (p. 156).
- “You were awake during your first time in the River, and you performed necromancy, and believe me when I tell you only one other person has ever done that their first time in. Keep in mind that she was an adult necromancer who went on to found the Sixth House” (p. 156). That’s Cassiopeia.
- Harrow confesses the child murders, and John is astonished: “To all intents and purposes, your mother and father committed a type of resurrection. . .They did something nigh-on impossible. I know, because I have committed the same act, and I know the price I had to pay” (p. 157).
- Instead of being horrified, he calls her “a walking miracle. . . a natural wonder.” And when she reminds him of, you know, genocide, he . . . finishes his cookie.
- Then he formally absolves her of the original sin that created her.
- The dynamics of this entire scene are fascinating. Note John’s reactions, his veering from confidant to Necrolord Prime to the Almighty Lord of Projection when he admonishes Harrow from feeling any guilt whatsoever because no one can judge her!
- Who is Eden (of BOE), Harrow asks. “’Someone they left to die,’ said God wearily. ‘How sharper than the serpent’s tooth, et cetera . . . once you turn your back on something, you have no more right to act as though you own it’” (p. 159). Remember this.
- Eden? Someone “they” left to die.
- The quotation sharper than a serpent’s tooth is from King Lear, Act 1, Scene 4, and it refers to the pain a parent feels from an ungrateful child.
- So . . . Blood of Eden is one of John’s ungrateful children?
- And who turned their back on whom?
Chapter 15 Skull Header: Ninth House. Time: Same. 2nd person.
The Body stays with Harrow, to Harrow’s “enormous” comfort. She dreams of her, too. And occasionally speaks to her.
- The Body says, “You don’t fear dying. You can tolerate pain. You are afraid that your life has incurred a debt that your death will not pay. You see death as a mistake” (p. 160).
- When Harrow asks what else can it be, she answers, “I don’t know. I died, once . . . no, twice” (p. 161)
- When Harrow asks what color her eyes used to be, the Body says, “She asked me not to tell you.”
- I don’t know what to add, except the inevitable Pin it.
Chapter 16 Skull Header: Fifth House. Time Same. 2nd person.
Harrow refines her cipher and starts a new diary, in which she writes her impressions of her fellow Lyctors, starting with Ianthe. But first: the chapel and Cytherea’s tomb! There are nine arches in the chapel, one for each House, and there’s a bracket in each one, some of them holding a rapier. These are the rapiers of the Lyctor’s who have died. Harrow is drawn to Samael’s rapier (his offhand weapon, the chain, is in the Tomb in the Ninth House). Harrow notices that Cytherea’s body has been moved incrementally, and she hears noises that Ianthe says she doesn’t hear.
- Ianthe: “Unworthy of trusts. Suspects me mad.”
- She could have written more:
- Ianthe’s eyes haven’t changed back to pre-Lyctor lilac since the River
- Her replacement arm doesn’t work right.
- She cries at night (how does Harrow know this?)
- Eats mostly apples and red meat, sleeps too little, is jealous of God
- Knows too much (a bit of the old Harrow peeks out!)
- Three steel-edged columns support the chapel, each “a cacophony of exposed wire under smoked glass” encased in bones “with glistening strands of fat wrapped around some of the threads of copper” (p. 163) which calls back to the copper garden in ”The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex.”
- Harrow has seen everyone but Ortus in Cytherea’s chapel.
- Augustine (whilom Quinque)The First, Saint of Patience (Why?)
- Killed own sibling
- Poor relationship with Mercymorn
- Massive understatement.
- Augustine warns Mercy to stop her “bad old tricks of decades past” or he’ll tell John (p. 166).
- This is a serious warning. As in “I’ll kill you” serious.
- He tells her to keep away from him, to “stop messing with Cyth’s body,” and to stop playing her “rather dangerous game.”
- To which Mercy wails that she hasn’t touched Cytherea (p. 168). This means that whatever else she’s been doing, she’s gotten the message,
- He also tells her that her situation is tenuous and that John would excuse him if he killed her: “You have rendered yourself unloveable . . . He’s sentimental over you. But don’t forget that he’s spent the last ten thousand years on a perpetual search-and-destroy mission out of, as far as I can tell, purely symbolic retribution. John is never as sentimental as you think” (pp. 167-168).
- They found Blood of Eden 5,000 years ago. There’s another enemy John has been hunting for 10,000 years, for, Augustine says, symbolism?
- “I wouldn’t set myself up as his replacement A.L. He doesn’t need another bodyguard, and even she was significantly more lucid than you are” (p. 168).
- Augustine is all surface and no substance: “Cinereous was at least correct: ash also looked solid upon first glance, but was insubstantial filth on contact” (p. 166). Well! I think we know how Harrow feels about him.
- Favours Ianthe.
- Except when it comes to swordplay, because Ianthe can’t wield a sword with her replacement arm.
- Harrow rides Ianthe about sucking up to Augustine, and Ianthe calls smoking on a space station a power play, and intends to start, herself. She thinks that Augustine will protect her from the Resurrection Beast.
- “We’re puppies, you and I: I with my lame paw, and you with three legs missing insistin you can make it on your own. And God help us both, because we are surrounded by wolves” (p. 170).
- She’s not wrong about the wolves. The Mithraeum is deeply dangerous.
- The Li’l Brudder meme is not to be missed, even if you don’t like memes.
- Spirit magician.
- Augustine says the real spirit magician was Cassiopeia, who “vanished into a large intestine, unravelled by a troop of ghosts” (p. 171).
- Augustine has made the barriers that protect the Mithraeum from the River. John says, “He could plunge half a city into it, if he wanted.”
- “I like to follow energy trails back to their source. Revenants in particular are fun that way. Resurrection Beasts feed like revenants” (p. 171). They eat thalergenic planets.
- “Usually revenants can only inhabit things connected to them in life . . . you’ve formed a bond with that thing through habit and genetics, it’s your soul’s preferred housing . . . The card up the sleeve of the revenant, and the Resurrection Beast, is that it can inhabit anything it’s got a connection to. Anything thanergetically connected with their death . . . even things that touched the murder weapon, though the connection’s fairly weak there and the revenant would have to be particularly bloody-minded” (pp. 171-172). Also, revenants and Resurrection Beasts can draw on the thanergy generated by the things they kill.
- On first reading, you think this explanation applies only to Resurrection Beasts. It does not.
- Murdering planets, God explains, will deprive Number Seven of food and slow it down as it approaches the Mithraeum.
- The Resurrection Beast will send its Heralds, which drive Lyctors insane, even as the main part of the Beast will stay in the River. The Lyctors leave their bodies behind and fight the Beast in the River. The body left behind will protect the Lyctor with the cavalier’s skill and without any of the fear the Heralds provoke in the conscious Lyctor.
- Ianthe habitually mocks Harrow by imitating her in a high-pitched voice, “for which you would one day jerk her white and beating heart from her colourless ribcage and eat it dripping before her. You did not examine eat it dripping as you maybe should have done” (p. 165).
- Why does this feel prophetic?
Chapter 17 Skull header: Eighth House. Time: Same. 2nd person.
This chapter continues Harrow’s notebook with her description of Mercymorn. John tells her that the saints were named for the qualities of their cavaliers. Augustine says that Christabel, Mercy’s cavalier, was delightful and kind, but lacked “the intellect you’d ordinarily find in a sandwich” (p. 177). He gives Harrow a bit of ancient history: he and Alfred were the first Lyctors and founded the Fifth House. “Mercy is the oldest lag except for me, and she was out hammering at the Eighth House before the paint was even dry on the Resurrection” (p. 176).
Then there’s Ortus the First who wants Harrow dead.
- I’m sure that the ancient history — who was a disciple and who was a Lyctor and when, will all be important at some point. Therefore, it’s worth noting.
- Not forthcoming (to say the least)
- Poor relationship with Augustine.
- Contentious cavalier
- Anatomist (understatement)
- Mercy has memorized everything about the human body, which Augustine says would be useful only to kill other Lyctors, “and the rest of us never evinced any interest in that” (p. 178).
- Harrow has it better, physically, than she’s ever known: heat, food, comfort, etc. She has only two problems: she’s not a full Lyctor, and Ortus wants to kill her.
Chapter 18 Skull header: Fractured Second House. Time: indeterminate. 3rd person.
Chapter 18 starts with a death: Judith Deuteros, and Ortus and Magnus Quinn tending the body. Judith had been shot. Judith’s cavalier Marta Dyas tells them that they were in the imaging trial (the one with the big skeleton monster) when the trial ended and Marta emerged to find Judith dead, and the Sleeper going back to its coffin. She followed and tried to break the coffin open but failed.
Ortus recites some poetry to comfort her, which works (to Harrow’s surprise). She also reports that she got a glimpse inside the coffin before the Sleeper climbed in, and saw a standard infantry two-handed sword.
- The Sleeper used a carbine rifle, an antique. To us, it would be a semi-automatic rifle with a six-round magazine. Judith was shot eight times, but the first shot was fatal. Which means that the Sleeper shot a dead body, reloaded, and shot some more.
- Magnus suggests the Sleeper was panicked, but Ortus says, “I have often heard that anger may carry one beyond the initial act of murder” (p. 181).
- “At their approach, Dyas drew herself up to her full height, and she looked at Harrowhark, not Abigail. She said, with uncharacteristic frenzy: ‘Why am I here?’”
- At first blush, you think she thinks she’s under arrest, but then she adds, “I want to know — I just want to know — “
- “Dyas was saying, low and fast, and this time to Harrowhark herself: ‘Is this really how it happens? You know of no hope for her? . . . Don’t know why I thought . . . No’” (p. 182).
- Marta describes the Sleeper: “Breathing apparatus over the face — orange hazard suit — oxygen hood” (p. 183).
- Where have we seen this sort of arrangement described before? Have we? No worries if you don’t remember, just bear in mind the conditions that would require this kind of outfit.
- The very different reactions that Harrow and Marta have to Ortus’ recitation of his poetry tells you a great deal of the prejudice with which Harrow views Ortus. “Harrow regretted not making him take a solemn pledge of silence, to walk the place as the mute and intimidating bulk his father had been; but only a very obedient idiot of a cavalier would have stuck to that” (p. 184)
- Tell the truth — didn’t that make you smile?
- “’It looked like a standard-issue infantry sword.’ She added, with Cohort precision: ‘A two-hander’” (p. 185).
Chapter 19 Skull header: Second House. Time: Ten months before the Emperor’s Murder. 2nd person.
We’ve jumped back four months to chronicle Ortus the First’s attempts to murder Harrow. The first time is a few days into Harrow’s residence at the Mithraeum: Ortus, in the kitchen, with a sword. And Harrow learns two important details: Ortus is impervious to pain, and he can drain her necromancy and collapse her defenses. Mercymorn saves her, scolds Ortus, and tells him to try again when she’s not around. After he leaves, she asks Harrow what she did to provoke him and when she learns that Harrow did nothing, she says, “with perfect unconcern,” “Oh. Then he just wants you dead.”
- Lyctors don’t need food but they do need water.
- The narrator’s voice is particularly strong here. “He used the butt of his sword — it would be lying to say that you now regularly called it the pommel . . .” (p. 188).
- “It’s not fair of you to try to bump them off when we’d get in trouble for it. They can die well enough on their own, you toad. This one’s all of twelve years old” (p. 189).
- “Look!! She can’t even heal … told him her integration had retarded … said she couldn’t stanch ...” Mercymorn is really something else. But she’s not wrong: Harrow’s problem is that the integration of her cavalier’s soul and her own hasn’t gone right, and she doesn’t automatically heal.
- She suggests to Ortus that is would be neater to knock Harrow out and pop her out of the airlock, but Ortus says that he does things face-to-face, to which Mercy answers, “I am not trying to be cruel . . .but that is what got you into trouble nineteen years ago” (p. 190).
- Something happened nineteen years ago. For some reason, that number is familiar . . . We’ve heard that before. What else happened nineteen years ago?
- Ortus has beautiful green eyes.
- He wants Harrow’s sword. Harrow refuses.
- “Next time, try this at night! When I’m sleeping! If I see you hurt her I have to intervene, or Teacher will lose his nana” (p. 191).
- Remember how we predicted that everyone at the Mithraeum was horrible?
- What does it mean that Teacher will lose his nana?
- Nana: grandmother. Also “grace” (Hebrew), “springtime” (Japanese), “lady” (Swahili). In Maori it means, “behold” or “look!” which is at least tangentially related to “hark!” in English. (Remember: Muir is a Kiwi.)
- Harrow asks why Ortus the First wants to kill her. “’Who?’ said Mercymorn, indifferently” (p. 192).
- Does anyone remember Ortus?
Chapter 20 Skull header: Ninth House. Time: indeterminate. 2nd person.
In the following months, Ortus tries to kill Harrow fourteen times. Ianthe saves her once, and so does John, but the murder attempts don’t stop. John tells her that he doesn’t believe she misunderstood and therefore failed the Lyctor process, which leads to a discussion of Anastasia, whom Harrow had always thought was a myth, and who John assigned to guard the Tomb. The Tomb, he says, holds a monster.
To divert Harrow, John encourages recites poetry. He recites Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.”
In Harrow’s notebook, under the heading for THE EMPEROR OF THE NINE HOUSES, THE PRINCE UNDYING (WHILOM??? JOHN???) she writes, “Who was A.L.?” (p. 196).
- Harrow has left no instructions for her funeral: “What fitting epitaph for your fragile bones? (Perhaps: Here lies the world’s most insufferable witch.)” (p. 193). Is this Harrow’s opinion, or the narrator’s?
- God’s healing is epic: “the world had whited out for you . . . your body had hissed all over as it sealed, reborn in the hot white light of the Necrolord Prime” (p. 193).
- The conversation John has with Ortus over Harrow’s body is instructive. He asks Ortus to have pity, says Harrow is his responsibility, and calls “this” attack “ham-fisted” (p. 194).
- Despite John’s disapproval, the attacks continue. “He made a pact, with an authority I have no power to gainsay, that he would protect me from all dangers” (p. 194).
- What kind of “authority” could overrule God?
- He asks her to wear a rapier “just in case.”
- “You say you misapprehended the process . . . I don’t believe you did, Harrowhark. I really don’t believe you did. I’ve only seen one person get it … fundamentally wrong … and I hope I never see what happened to Anastasia and Samael again” (p. 194).
- “Out of all of us, only Anastasia got it wrong. She’d researched it too much. Typical Anastasia. She’d seen some pathways in it that simply didn’t exist” (p. 195).
- Keep this in mind. Something “went wrong.”
- “I had a body and I needed a Tomb” (p. 195).
- Thus Anastasia became the Tomb Keeper.
- “The Body had stood at the curtained plex window . . . the mother-of-pearl robe slipping from her supple, naked shoulders, still moist as though just taken from the ice of her grave. You watched a droplet of water trickle down the column of her spine” (p. 195).
- My, my! Memory issues or not, Harrow has not forgotten how much she loves the Body.
- Anastasia founded the Ninth House: “You were profoundly upset to learn that she had been real” (p. 194).
- “Poetry is one of the most beautiful shadows a civilisation can cast across time” (p. 196).
- Harrow, having been subjected to Ortus’ poetry for her whole life, begs to differ.
- It’s a powerful sentiment, divinely phrased, and a truth I completely agree with.
- But . . . “Annabel Lee?” Of all the poets in all the world, John obsesses over Edgar Allan Poe? Are you kidding me?
- At least it wasn’t Rod McKuen.
- A. L. — Annabel Lee? Got it? In the face of John’s abiding love, what does the Body do? That night, she lies down with Harrow to sleep.
Chapter 21 Skull header: Sixth House, fractured. Time: indeterminate. 3rd person.
It rains at Canaan House, and Harrow starts to hear things, banging doors, “murmurous half-heard ghosts” and a “thin background wail” (p. 197). Teacher says it’s never rained like this before. Oh, and Camilla and Palamedes have been killed in the mortuary and laid out on slabs with their faces blasted off. Abigail tries to gather the group, and Protesilaus brings Dulcinea, who confirms the bodies’ identities. Ortus and Protesilaus take an instant dislike to each other, both being large poets, and this is very funny. Abigail asks Dulcinea to bring Silas Octakiseron and Harrow to find Coronabeth and Ianthe. Harrow takes a piece of flimsy that had been in Palamedes’ pocket, she opens it to read: “HIM I’LL KILL QUICK BECAUSE SHE ASKED ME TO AND BECAUSE THAT MUCH HE HONESTLY DESERVES BUT YOU TWO MUMMIFIED WIZARD SHITS I WILL BURN AND BURN AND BURN AND BURN UNTIL THERE IS NO TRACE OF YOU LEFT IN THE SHADOW OF MY LONG-LOST NATAL SUN” (p. 205). Ortus tells her it’s a calligraphic letter “S.” Ortus despairs they can do anything to stop the speaker and, angrily, Harrow asks him if he plans to just die? It’s what his father did, he answers, and Harrow realizes to her astonishment that he knew about the suicides all along. Just as she’s about to reply, a window breaks and a flood of murky water filled with rusted syringes pours in.
This chapter combines horror and comedy in equal measures. Also, here is where everything starts to come together (starts, I say. If you’re still confused, you’re still fine).
- “The rain stank like engine lubricant and blood; it tasted indescribable” (p. 197).
- “Harrow had never seen Sextus or Hect except from afar” (p. 198).
- We know that’s not true.
- “Finding other magicians at all was becoming difficult: the day-jewel and night-rock Tridentarius twins were so elusive that Harrow grew confused even trying to remember when she had last seen them” (p. 198).
- Oh, Dulcinea and Protesilaus! Doesn’t your heart break to see how gently Pro tends her?
- Dulcinea introduces herself by referencing her pulmonary drain, the one Palamedes invented for her when he was 15.
- “The Sleeper, who sleepeth not. Perhaps a better name would have been … the Waker” (p. 201).
- There will come a time you will groan at this.
- When Ortus asks what can be done against the Sleeper, Dulcinea answers: “the only thing you can ever do, when faced with an enemy too great for yourself. . . . Fight like a trapped animal in a sack” (p. 201).
- Words to live by. Words that I predict will resonate eventually.
- Protesilaus recites his own verse, and “Harrow’s cavalier swung his head to confront this act of spoken poetry. He looked like a man who had stood on the bailey, beheld his enemy at the gates, and found them manifold and terrible. He stared as though the Seventh cavalier had revealed himself to be the Sleeper, done awful and inadvisable acts with Ortus’s mother, and compared Matthias Nonius to two shits” (p. 201).
- “It must have been traumatic to see his only cultivated personality trait co-opted by someone who looked like the hero of his very own epics” (p. 202).
- Abigail notes that neither Palamedes, nor Camilla, nor Judith, bore defensive wounds. They all died without a fight. “I am beginning to suspect I know where the danger lies. Or at least, I’ve got a perfectly baseless assumption, and every scholar knows that this is where you begin” (p. 203).
- Dulcinea: “Is this how it happens, Lady Pent?” Abigail, gently: “No. It’s not.” “Does it get — better than this? Do you know?” (p. 204)
- What is Dulcinea asking for? Judith had asked Harrow, and now Dulcinea asks Abigail.
- Dulcinea: “’Goodbye, Palamades, my first strand — goodbye, Camilla, my second...One cord was overpowered, two cords could defend themselves, but three were not broken by the living or the dead.” Harrowhark suddenly felt something, in her core, though she did not know precisely what it was. Somehow in Canaan House her ability to feel had been blunted” (p. 204).
- What do you make of Dulcinea’s farewell? Is she speaking of the three murdered, or is there something else?
- Harrow feels something “in her core.” The body remembers.
- What do you make of the note? Apparently the same person wrote the one about the eggs.
- It’s addressed to two “mummified wizard shits” the author promises to burn.
- “burn and burn and burn and burn” sounds like Ianthe speaking about Naberius’ soul, doesn’t it?
- The author promises to kill “him” quick because “she” asked for it.
- “long-lost natal sun” — this is someone who has at least heard of Dominicus called the sun.
- For the S, look it up in Reading the End’s gloss of Harrow. If you aren’t consulting the gloss, you’re missing quite a resource. Seriously, the memes are amazing.
- “Harrow,” he said curtly, “you are not the only person who can add up two and two, and arrive at four” (p. 206).
- Their relationship is changing. Ortus is becoming more and more assertive. What’s up with that?
- Anndddd….here comes the water. Does it remind you of anything? What else is wet and stinking?
Chapter 22 Skull header: Seventh House. Time: Six months before the Emperor’s Murder (unlisted, but it follows Chapter 13). 2nd person.
The night after killing her 13th planet, Harrow dreams that she’s dressed in her old Ninth House vestments, at dinner with the Body, when the Body tells her to wake up. She does, looks out into the hallway, and sees the body of Cytherea coming for her. She locks herself in her rooms and jams a chair under the doorknob. The body shakes the door before giving up. She tells Ianthe that Cytherea is walking, and Ianthe says, “Tell her I want my arm back.”
- A normal Mithraeum dinner: “with its partakers all wearing the filmy mother-of-pearl Canaanite robes that clung to Mercymorn like starlight, turned Augustine ethereal, gave Ianthe jaundice, and rendered you a sacrificial parsnip” (p. 207). Absolutely hilarious.
- Waking, Harrow takes up her sword “with the swaddled blade flat on your shoulder, your hands cupping the bottom of the hilt — still the pommel — and you did not strap on the rapier” (p. 208).
- The pommel is now officially a running joke.
- “That walk! That shuffling, disconcerting, slithering walk! The body flung its arms before it for momentum, the legs stiff-thighed and lock-kneed, right-side arm moving in time with the right-side leg, ridiculous, appalling . . . without the head losing its tracking focus on you, those unblinking eyes adhered to yours — and the body splayed and juddered on the ground. Then the corpse began moving inchworm-fashion . . .” (p. 208).
- This is real horror film stuff, like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein horror.
- So we’ve had monsters in a lab and the dead walking in the corridors, trying to break down the doors.
- “After long seconds, recognition flashed in those adulterated blue eyes; you saw understanding replace the grouchy morning crossness; you saw it fade before an overwhelming boredom, and you knew that Ianthe would not help you” (p. 210).
- In a space station full of trashy people, Ianthe is the worst. The absolute worst.
Things ought to be starting to gel for you, plot-wise. Events in the background are beginning to move. The pace will pick up now, so hang on. It gets even wilder.
Courtesy of Reading the End. Occasionally I will note a reference they don’t have.
Here is a list of things I suggested we pay attention to.
Gideon the ninth
- Who are Gideon’s parents?
- “Die in a fire, Nonagesimus.” (p. 47)
- Aiglamene: “Things are changing. I used to think we were waiting for something...and now I think we’re just waiting to die.” (p. 55)
- “You’ll do what I say, or I’ll mix bone meal in with your breakfast and punch my way through your gut.” (p. 60)
- Canaan House: “a House both long dead and unkillable ” (p. 66) — Why can God not return?
- The common prayer: “Let the King Undying, ransomer of death, scourge of death, vindicator of death, look upon the Nine Houses and hear their thanks. Let the whole of everywhere entrust themselves to him. Let those across the river pledge beyond the tomb to the adept divine, the first among necromancers. Thanks be to the Ninefold Resurrection. Thanks be to the Lyctor divinely ordained. He is Emperor and he became God; he is God, and he became Emperor” (p. 81)
- The Eight Houses worship the Emperor; the Ninth House worships the Tomb.
- First mention of “across the river.” The liminal space where the soul goes.
- Those across the River are to pledge “beyond the tomb” to the Emperor.
- The Ninefold Resurrection: we still don’t know what it is, but it sounds important.
- Echoes of “He was God, and became Man.”
- Dulcinea: “The eyes narrowed with intent, and for a moment the face was all business. There was something swift and cool in the blueness of those eyes, some deep intelligence, some sheer shameless depth and breadth of looking…. ’Lipochrome… recessive” (pp. 105-106).
- Palamedes: “Either this entire building was scavenged from a garbage hopper, or I am being systematically lied to on a molecular level” (p. 132).
- “’Down there resides the sum of all necromantic transgression . . . The unperceivable howl of ten thousand million unfed ghosts who will hear each echoed footstep as defilement….” (p. 151).
- “Necromantic transgression.”
- Ten thousand million is ten billion.
- Harrow says, “I never liked that sword. I always felt like it was judging me.”
- Our first “ONE FLESH, ONE END,” on a book flyleaf, signed G&P. Who are G & P?
- The 10,000 year-old note that Gideon finds: “ut we all know the sad + trying realit / is that this will remain incomplete t / the last. He can’t fix my deficiencies her / ease give Gideon my congratulations, howev” (p. 210).
- “ Just hours before, she’d wrestled Harrow down in the dirt, and Harrow had scratched until she’d had half of Gideon’s face beneath her fingernails” (p. 333).
- Gideon asks Harrow what’s behind the door of the Tomb: “There’s a blood ward bypass on the doors which will only respond for the Necromancer Divine, but I knew there had to be an exploit...” (p. 357).
- The note, “CONFIRMED INDEPENDENTLY / HIGHLIGHTED BEST OPTION / ASK E.J.G. /YRS, ANASTASIA. / P.S. GIVE ME BACK MY CALIPERS / I NEED THEM” (p. 368).
- Teacher is a construct. A construct (a puppet) needs a puppeteer, but no one appears to be controlling him. Just what is Teacher? A prototype, but for what?
- Ianthe: “What displacement, the soul of a planet? What happens when a planet dies?”
- Ianthe: “I’m interested in the place between death and life . . . the place between release and disappearance. The place over the river. The displacement . . . where the soul goes when we knock it about . . . where the things are that eat us” (p. 382).
- Eight steps: preserve the cavalier’s soul, analyze it, absorb it, fix it in place, incorporate it, consume the flesh, reconstruct the spirit/flesh relationship, get the juice flowing.
- God will talk about the Eight-fold word. This is it.
- Colum Asht is possessed by something with mouths for eyes, a long blue tongue.
- “’Gideon!’ he called out. ‘Tell Camilla —‘ He stopped. ‘Oh, never mind. She knows what to do” (p. 404).
- “Harrow said, with some difficulty: ‘I cannot conceive of a universe without you in it’” (p. 437).
- God: “There are things out there that even death cannot keep down. I have been fighting them since the Resurrection. I can’t fight them by myself’” (p. 441).
- God can’t go down Canaan House. Harrow asks him why not, since that seemed to be the whole of Cytherea’s plan. “The Emperor said, ‘I saved the world once — but not for me” (p. 443). He doesn’t answer her question.
- God promises to renew the Ninth House. He asks her to help him hold on to the universe for a little while longer. Or she can go home to the Ninth. He offers her the choice. Update: he lied.
Appendices of Gideon the Ninth
- Thanergenic planets: are powered by thanergy. Only the Nine Houses are thanergenic.
- Thanergy planets: are planets in the process of being killed by necromancy. Every part of the Empire outside the Nine Houses is made of thanergy planets, whose inhabitants are colonized, but aren’t citizens.
- From “A Sermon on Cavaliers and Necromancers”: “Sword marriages aren’t real.” Sword marriage: a necro/cav pair married to one other person.
The Mysterious study of Doctor sex
- Dulcinea writes a letter to “My dearest pals...” Either to Palamedes or to him and Camilla both.
- The Lyctoral letter:
- Darling girl,
Tomorrow you will become a Lyctor and finally go where I can’t follow. I want you to keep this letter when you are far away and think of me and want me and can’t have me, and know that no matter how far you travel, nor how long the years feel, the one thing that never stays entombed is
Harrow the Ninth
- The Mithraeum. The bovine skulls in Canaan House.
- Harrow: “Beloved dead...let me live long enough to die at your feet.”
- Harrow hates the sword, and the sword hates her. Also, it’s her constant companion.
- John: “I mastered Death; I wish I’d done the smarter thing and mastered Time.”
- John won’t let Harrow kneel because, if she knew the whole truth, she might smack him in the face instead.
- From “The Little Mermaid”: the giving of eternity for the chance to live as a human, also the bit about the sharing of souls.
- There are 3 Resurrection Beasts left.
- “You are walking down a long passageway. You need to turn around.”
- Harrow has a physical reaction whenever she hears Ortus’ name.
- Harrow was the 311th direct descendent of the Tomb keeper, and the 87th Nona.
- THE EGGS YOU GAVE ME DIED….
- Something happened when Harrow was 3 that made destruction her constant companion.
- John says there’s a hiccup with FTL travel in that it destroys something to do with time and distance.
- A “thin cry of violence” and five points of light in the shuttle.
- If the Sleeper wakes, no one will survive.
- Ortus is glad he never became Harrow’s cavalier.
- From Harrow 1’s Rules for Living: don’t let the sword cut flesh.
- The two first-established Houses (Second and Eighth) use soul siphoning in their necromancy. I wonder if that’s part of the early history of Lyctorhood and necromancy.
- House of the Emperor, his servants, and his Lyctors.
- Seat: Once Canaan House, now the Mithraeum.
- Skull: no adornment.
- Planet: Earth
- Colors: white and scarlet, martial. Home of the Cohort, God’s armies.
- Characteristics: discipline
- Necro: Judith Deuteros, age 22, (Judith beheaded Holofernes), cavalier: Marta Dyas, age 27, (Marta=martial).
- Lyctor: Ortus, saint of Duty; his cavalier: Pyrrha Dve.
- Canaan House trial: Projection and winnowing (the big bone construct). Pyrrha invented it.
- Specialty: Spirit magic, use of thanergy in battle. They siphon their enemies to strengthen their cavaliers.
- Skull: A Spartan-style helmet
- Planet: Mars
- Colors: Violet?
- Characteristics: wealth and flash
- Necro: Ianthe and Coronabeth Tridentarius, princesses of Ida, both age 21, cavalier: Naberius Tern, age 23, Resurrection-pure line.
- Lyctor: Cyrus; his cavalier: Valancy Trinit.
- Cyrus drew the sixth Resurrection beast into a black hole.
- Valency thinks that “one flesh, one end” sounds like instructions for a sex toy.
- Specialty: Spirit magic, “animaphilia” — lover of the soul
- Skull: Jewels in the eyeholes.
- Colors: Blue
- Characteristics: courage
- Necro: Isaac Tettares, Baron of Tisis, age 13, (Biblical Isaac foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice, Gideon Isaac foreshadows Gideon’s sacrifice), Resurrection-pure line; cavalier: Jeannemary Chateur, knight of Tisis, age 14 (ref to Jeanne d’Arc), Resurrection-pure line.
- Lyctor: Ulysses; his cavalier: Titania Tetra.
- Specialty: Spirit magic? It’s unclear, but Abigail Pent was training Isaac, so it’s logical.
- Skull: Wears a laurel wreath
- Planet: Saturn? (h/t RunawayRose)
- Notes: The Fourth supplies soldiers and necromancers to the Cohort. The Fourth has large families, since so many die in battle. The Fourth is first on the ground in war.
- Colors: nothing formal, but sensible brown works.
- Characteristics: Intelligence. Temporal power.
- Necro: Abigail Pent, age 37, Koniortos Court cavalier: Magnus Quinn, age 38. Husband and wife.
- Lyctor: Augustine, saint of Patience; his cavalier: Alfred Quinque.
- Alfred, with Christabel, coin the phrase “one flesh, one end.”
- Second disciple in the Resurrection.
- Specialty: Sprit magic, speaking to the dead. Abigail is a famed historian.
- Skull: Wears a decorated headband, possibly a crown of thorns (h/t Ahianne).
- Planet: Jupiter
- Notes: “Koniortos” = “dust” (h/t BMScott).
- Colors: gray
- Characteristics: scholarship, rare book librarian and conservatorship skills, medical expertise
- Necro: Palamedes Sextus, master warden, age 20, (Palamedes: genius Greek soldier in the Trojan War), cavalier: Camilla Hect, age 20. Second cousins.
- Lyctor: Cassiopeia; her cavalier: Nigella Shodash.
- Cassiopeia developed the magma metaphor to explain travel in the River.
- She led a Resurrection Beast into the River and was ripped apart by ghosts in seven minutes.
- Described by John as “brilliant and sensible and careful.” (HtN, p. 97). And a good cook.
- Specialty: Flesh magic, emphasis on science and magic.
- Skull: Clutches a scroll in its teeth.
- Planet: Mercury
- Notes: the Sixth House developed the process of cramming numerous souls into a body. Purpose and application still unclear.
- Colors: seafoam green
- Characteristics: love of beauty, especially the fleeting type. Fans of the beautiful death and heirs with hereditary cancer.
- Necro: Dulcinea Septimus, duchess of Rhodes, age 27; cavalier: Protesilaus Ebdoma, age 39 (Protesilaus: the first Greek to die in the Trojan war). Rhodes: island in the Aegean, site of the Colossus, visited by both Herod the Great and the Apostle Paul.
- Lyctor: Cytherea; her cavalier: Loveday
- Cytherea was one of the 2nd generation Lyctors.
- Loveday was fiercely protective of Cytherea, and the rest at Canaan House disliked her.
- Second generation of disciples, the last to arrive at Canaan House.
- Specialty: flesh magic, with emphasis on beauty.
- Skull: A rose in one eyehole.
- Planet: Venus
- Colors: White
- Characteristics: orthodox purity, dogmatism, “White Templars,” the “Forgiving House”
- Necro: Silas Octakiseron, age 16; cavalier: Colum Asht, age 32, 34, or 37.
- Lyctor: Mercymorn, saint of Joy; her cavalier: Cristabel Oct.
- With Alfred, Christabel coined the phrase “one flesh, one end.”
- First of the disciples after the Resurrection.
- Specialty: spirit magic, focus on soul siphoning. Also hypocrisy.
- Skull: Blindfolded, denoting blind loyalty.
- Colors: black
- Characteristics: devotion to the Locked Tomb.
- Necro: Harrowhark Nonagesimus, age 17; cavalier: Gideon Nav, age 19.
- Not-a-Lyctor: Anastasia; her cavalier: Samael Novenary.
- Specialty: bone magic.
- Skull: lacking a mandible.
- Planet: Pluto.
READERS & BOOK LOVERS SERIES SCHEDULE