Every once in a while, I read an adult fantasy book that stops me in my tracks, that re-invigorates my passion for the genre and the magical possibility of words. The Nine was the latest in my growing list of adult fantasy favorites. It had charismatic and vulnerable characters, a stunning plot line, and immersive world building.
On the streets of Corma there are whispers about a magical book that writes itself, that could change the fabric of the universe. But if only it were that easy. Rowena is just trying to pay off her mother’s staggering debt and live to see another day, but when a dangerous delivery introduces Rowena to dangers out of fairytales, she becomes even more curious about the book that was stolen from her. The infamous Alchemist has a reputation for being cold, but when Rowena seeks his help, he realizes that he’s deeply entrenched in the same situation of danger and dogma. How will these two escape the fanatical pursuit of this book and the multiple dangers thrown at them from human and creature alike?
What immediately inspired my love for this book was the scenery and premise. A world in which science and religion have been incorporated? There are elements of steam punk, physics, and religion all swirled up into one deliciously sweet combination of lush world building. There are both subtle mixtures of fantasy, as well as science that just make the entire world leap from the pages.
And the premise! It just captivates your mind long after you finish the book. You begin to wonder, what if this were really the case? There are all these beautiful thematic parallels between a certain degree of powerlessness in science and religion, a necessity for belief, and a void of knowledge that is impossible to grasp. What path are we on when we cannot begin to make sense of its beginning and ending? Infinite questions exist about what lies above and below us.
Characters are a huge deal breaker for me, but Townsend introduces us to a cast of characters who are colorful and who gracefully come together. It’s like watching one of those metal balls swing slowly towards the line of its comrades, the momentum drawing our eyes. Much like this mesmerizing sight, the characters enchant us. They are both charming, witty, and vulnerable – checking off all of our qualities for lively characters. At least for me, I need charming, but also fragile characters to fall deeply in love with.
Both the world and the characters come together in this intricate clockwork puzzle. Each part of the plot sheds light on each other, intertwining in new and surprising ways that suddenly make sense. Even the layout of the book, with the chapters broken up by both days and characters, as well as these intermission chapters, takes us on a well-planned out journey.
The Nine started off good and got even better, demanding I stay up until the very ends of the night to finish this gripping book. I am hooked and I am beyond pleased that this will be a series. Give me all of them now, because the ending sets up such promise for a thrilling sequel. This is a world built on detail and dogma, with characters you love because of their vulnerabilities, and that throws us headfirst into a rat’s nest of plot twists and revelations. It wraps us up in a thrilling undercurrent that builds until it breaks with the last page and plants within your heart a desire to go back to the beginning again.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss.
What would you do if you were in a fantasy world?
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