N is for Necromancer – Book Review (SERIES): The Locked Tomb

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Recntly my reading rabbit hole has been more of a grave dedicated to necromancer stories – from the YA Fantasy of Deathriser of Darkwood: From the Ashes by Jen Guberman (the first of a duology), to  third book of the grimdark fantasy apocalypse “Giftborn Chronicles” series Even the Favored Suffer by Drew Bailey, to a Whisper of Death by Paul Barrett, another YA-ish Fantasy. The present Queen of the Necromancer genre is the science fiction series The Locked Tomb which I have been consuming as fast as it comes out. Only one more to go, due out in 2025.

And, yes, I have hunted down the short stories the author has released. Tor.com is really good about keeping the files up to read for free (links below). You can read the shorts before the first of the series, but they make a ton more sense to be read after Gideon the Ninth, the first book of the series.

The Locked Tomb Series by Tamsyn Muir

(0.5) The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex (short story – link leads to actual PDF of the story – this is a prequel, best read after 1.0)
(1.0) Gideon the Ninth
(2.0) Harrow the Ninth
(2.5) As Yet Unsent (short story – link leads to the tor.com reactor posting of this short story)
(3.0) Nona the Ninth
(4.0) Alecto the Ninth – to be released in 2025


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BOOK BLURB ON GOODREADS for The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex 

Each of the Empire’s houses keeps secrets, even from themselves. For the bookish academics of the Sixth, every secret is a mystery, and every mystery is a puzzle to be solved or a paper to be published. Deep in the bowels of their house, one such secret is about to reveal itself. The study of the famed academic Donald Sex, sealed since the moment of his death, is about to open, and archivists are ready to dissect what he left behind. They are not ready for the macabre surprise that awaits them.

Enter Palamedes Sextus and Camilla Hect, age thirteen.

MY REVIEW for The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex 

After finishing Gideon the Ninth, I went looking for other portions of the Locked Tomb series and stumbled across this short story on Tor.com.

I LOVE Sixth house – I mean, they are THE Library. What Reader wouldn’t?

And this short story is an absolute delight – part homage to Sherlock and Dr. Watson, part locked room mystery, and part character study of Palamedes and Camilla. Since the short jumps right in, you might want to read at least the first third of Gideon first, just to get a feel for the universe.

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The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


This gothic science-fiction novel, nicknamed “lesbian necromancer in space” by my book club and many reviewers (although the first book has very little space travel), has strong characters, amazing worldbuilding (especially all the variation in necromancer science-magic), puzzle-room solving, a good murder mystery, swashbuckling rapier fencing, Dia de los Muetros level makeup, a bang-up final battle, and so much more.

It did hit my major peeve: the “that is what she said” joke. Used, not once but, twice in the book. I don’t care if the joke is said by a woman. It is a still annoying, overused POS.

A second issue is keeping the characters straight, even with the Dramatis Personas. An important note is the people are not just important as individuals, but as the dynamic within each house. Eventually, I learned everyone and their individual personalities as well as political & personal relationships with each other. The cast of characters is full of unique individuals with different goals.

A lot of reviewers mention rereading books of this series for additional details, and I can see how that would be an awesome second experience with this book in a year or two. The fourth novel of the series (also includes two short stories available on Tor.com) is expected in 2025 and should complete the series … I think.

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She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?


Picked up through local library!

I’ve never read an entire novel in second person before. It makes senses, but, wow, that is a challenge; I can just imagine the difficulties writing and editing the original manuscript, it actually read well.

The story is convoluted, time-broken, mind-broken, necromancer, madness, love, hate, god, sword, new-friends, old-lover-enemies-too-long-together, amazeness. You have to trust Tamsyn Muir to deliver you from the Prologue to Epilogue, which the author nails like a coffin. She adds another layer of skin for the worldbuilding: the first book on planets within the necromancer system; the second book in the edges of space ruled by the necromancers, in the twilight of the forest, the River, where the monsters live that make necromancers scream.

If you liked the first, you will like the second of the series. YOU DO NEED TO HAVE READ THE FIRST BOOK before reading the second.

Loss of one star for “your mom” joke. I hate them. Related in modern slang like “Bet”. Lots of amazing language, some puns, subtle and crude jokes, then modern slang and the your mom joke. I hate the your mom style jokes.

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Culled from Judith Deuteros’ secret report on Blood of Eden activities.

This story was originally published in the trade paperback edition of Harrow the Ninth but is now available as a published, single story, by Tordotcom.

MY REVIEW for As Yet Unsent 

Judith Deutros has been captured by the enemy while gravely injured; so gravely injured she cannot kill herself. Her fellow prisoners survived Canaan House (the events of Gideon the Ninth, in the Locked Tomb series) and have the strong persistence of life which only a necromancer community might endue upon its citizens, refuse to help the master combat-necromancer end her life to keep from spilling secrets.

This short story is available on Tor.com and provides insight of what happens “off-screen” for the non POV characters. Complex, the short provides character development, worldbuilding, and hints for the next story in the series.

Read either between books one and two, or between books two and three.

Plus for me is Camilla – I will lap up any information about Sixth House all day long.

PS – this series would make a good limited Television series.

Amazon Cover


Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…


Each book of this series is completely different and absolutely connected to the other stories. Nona the Ninth does this again with the POV character having a child mentality and a (possible) martyr life – no one is sure who she’ll grow up to be, but whomever that person will be will *likely* become themselves and not Nona, maybe. Ms. Muir is a master of leaving us guessing and speculating and wondering.

And, of course, since nothing is straight forward, there is a second point of view and a reader joins the dream but never quite knows who the dreamer and if the dream is shared … as is the nature of dreams.

Still on the table, are the necromancers good or bad guys? Is it okay to be a bad wizard for a good cause? Is it okay to be a bad guy if there are worse guys around? (Please define worse.) How bad a bad guy can you be while remaining good in comparison?

And will a child love you no matter what?

Book three was harder to follow than books one and two of The Unlocked Tomb, and other reviewers have called it a “filler” story, and I don’t fault them that assessment. I think we could have lived without this addition to the trilogy (now quadrilogy), but Nona the Ninth adds some great backstory … if the unreliable narrator can be trusted, and I trust John as far as I can teleport him.

Overall: Not required reading of the series, but does provide something while waiting for the final book of the series to come out in 2025.

(Read through the library – support your library system!)

3 thoughts to “N is for Necromancer – Book Review (SERIES): The Locked Tomb”

  1. I’m going to forward a link to your page to my daughter. She reads this stuff. Me? I see a skeleton and I run the other way. 🙂
    But you make it sound really interesting, so I know she’ll love the entire series.

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