I reviewed Ninth House a few years ago (you can read my thoughts here) but decided to reread the novel last fall. It was such an immersive experience! However, while reviewing my previous post, I realized that I made a grievous error. In my previous review, I mentioned that Darlington is “the nerdy gentleman of Ninth House” and that he and Alex “ have no business being together romantically.”
But I was wrong. So very wrong. Alex and Darlington are deeply in love with each other. They yearn for each other on a Victorian level. Additionally, they are also both murderers who deserve each other.
Galaxy Stern enrolls at Yale and joins Lethe, a secret society, because of her ability to see spirits. Lethe’s main job is to oversee the other secret societies and make sure they don’t abuse their magic. Lethe has four officers Dante, Virgil, Oculus, Centenarian, and Dean Sandow. Alex fills the role of Dante, the newcomer. Darlington acts as a mentor and fills the role of Virgil. Pamela is Oculus, a grad student who helps out Dante and Virgil. While Turner, a black detective, takes on the role of Centenarian. Turner’s job is to cover up any magical mishaps and work his regular cases.
When Darlington vanishes, Alex is left to oversee the nine houses on her own, but when a young woman (Tara Hutchins) ends up dead in New Haven, Alex senses there is more to the case. But when Dean Sandow insists that Alex drop her investigation, she enlists Turner and Dawes’ help. When Alex concludes that the other houses are involved in Tara’s death, she’ll have to crumble her meek persona and restore the Alex who strikes when threatened.
Alex begins this novel struggling under the load of her coursework and her duties to Lethe now that she is without a mentor. She’s skittish and almost runs out during a mundane ritual. But, as Alex delves back into her memories and the faithful day at the butterfly observatory, readers have the chance to glimpse at how this single incident left her a social outcast and brought her to Len, Hellie, and later murder.
Alex yearns for friendship and love, and she thinks she finds that with Len. She also finds herself dealing drugs and stripping to make up the difference. Len’s a fuckboy and only using Alex for sex and cheap labor, so when she meets Hellie -who daydreams with Alex about living in an apartment and working at the mall together- it’s clear that Alex loves her deeply. And when Hellie dies, Alex murders their “friends” out of grief and love.
I don’t believe Alex regrets her actions. Although I do think she never wants to be put in that position again, which is why she accepts Lethe’s offer and moves to New Haven. Alex longs for a new start, going as far as to cover her tattoos and erase the person she was.
But it doesn’t last long.
When Alex learns about Mercy’s rape, she strikes back with no remorse and without fear of the consequences. This is the first time Alex’s persona crumbles, and it’s only a taste of what she’s capable of. Alex, at her core, protects those who are exploited.
So I can only predict the violence she will inflict when she fights her way back to Darlington.
Speaking of the Golden Boy of Lethe, he isn’t the gentleman that everyone believes him to be. In Darlington’s chapters, readers get a glimpse of his life. The way he admires Lethe cares for his grandfather’s house, his cat Cosmo, and the envy and later admiration he has for Alex. But one chapter stands out from the rest, and that is when Darlington recalls his sickly grandfather. During these scenes, Darlington fights with his parents because they see the grandfather’s fortune as a means to support their rich lifestyle, and they plot to kill him and change the will. Darlington alerts his grandfather only to realize his grandfather was fully aware.
After this confession, Darlington’s POV skips to him at a diner, visibly shaken and holding back tears. His POV skips again, and Darlington laments that the next day his grandfather fell into a coma. This crucial scene gets lost in the jumble of events and Alex’s investigation, and I found it odd during my reread. That was until I got to the ending of the novel.
At the end of Ninth House, Alex solves Tara and North’s murders, and while riding this high, she concludes that when Darlington was devoured by the hell beast, thus causing his disappearance, he transformed into a demon. Alex even hears Darlington’s voice the night they attempt to call him back during the full moon, but she allows Sandow and the others to persuade her that she was mistaken.
And when Alex brings these discoveries to Michelle and Dawes, they refute it because the process is unique and requires the “union of sulfur and sin” 450. And according to Michelle the only “sin that can make a man into a demon,” is “Murder.”
The night Darlington was devoured he describes a sulfuric smell, and if he murdered his grandfather, then the two would have easily led to his transformation.
But murder isn’t the only thing Darlington and Alex have in common. Darlington, like Alex, tried to move past his grandfather’s murder-I suspect he lied to himself about it- and become a new person. He devotes himself to his studies, pays the utility bills, and potion-making. Later, when he is offered a spot as Dante, he changes his name from Daniel Arlington to Darlington. So by the time Alex meets Darlington, he has built up the reputation of a gentleman except that his envy towards Alex’s gift is out of character.
Moreover, when Darlington demonstrates to Alex what she’s getting into, he sends jackals to chase her across the mansion on Orange. Darlington justifies his actions under the illusion that he wanted Alex to take her position as a Lethe officer seriously. This scene is straight-up bully behavior and unfortunately, very reminiscent of oppressive governments taking advantage of minorities. ( I think all my Bipoc readers can recall hearing a story of a brown person having dogs set on them).
But I think this is proof that Darlington can be mean if he wishes. And he probably will have to in order to survive hell.
Unlike Alex, I think Darlington regrets killing his grandfather because when he discovers that Alex murdered her friends, he immediately wants to inform Dean Sandow about it. Which I believe was motivated by his guilt, even though it’s a bit hypocritical.
Furthermore, Darlington has a duty to Lethe; he stresses that Lethe is there to protect those caught in the crossfires of the magical houses. So when he wants to expose Alex’s secret, it’s because he believes doing so will protect more people from her. And like Alex, he would have investigated and been outraged over Tara’s death.
Alex and Darlington are well-matched, and I think when Alex dives into hell to meet Darlington, it’s going to be messy. This brings me to a theory I now have regarding Hellie. Alex allowed Hellie to possess her and together enact their revenge. I think that Alex reacted this way because Hellie was Alex’s only friend at the time, but I also think Alex was in love with her.
Alex and Hellie shared a bed, made plans for the future together, and cuddled a lot. And you know who else she also did those things with? Darlington! Okay maybe, they didn’t plan a future together, but they cuddled. And Alex continued to wear Darlington’s clothes, sleep in his bed, and dream of him. Given how protective Alex became of Hellie and how that resulted in murder, I think she will be much worse when she arrives in hell. Darlington’s killer might be dead, but Alex doesn’t stop after taking down the sole culprit.
In conclusion, Alex and Darlington are going to have a Hell wedding. I want to leave this essay off with a very telling dream Alex has early on in the novel.
I hope you are as excited for this ninth house sequel as I am!
until next time friends you can find me living in libros on my tiktok and instagram
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