RogerBW's Blog

The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex, Tamsyn Muir 04 September 2020

2020 fantasy novelette, prequel to the rest of the Locked Tomb series. When a study sealed for 400 years is to be opened, the young Palamedes Sextus and Camilla Hect are part of the investigating team. But someone has been in there since it was sealed.

This is barely beyond short story length, and there's not much room for subtlety of plot; while it's framed as a mystery the solution is more a set of plausible things to happen in this necromancy-based setting than it is deducible from the information given. Really, it's more of a study of character, particularly of Palamedes, combined with some effective pokes at library bureaucracy.

But it's not an ideal route into the novels: in particular without having read Gideon the Ninth you won't have had any sort of introduction to the setting, so most of the details will have no framework to fit into and will become just pleasant decoration. It's much more a way of revisiting characters one already knows about, in an earlier stage of their lives.

At the time of writing this is still available on

Series: The Locked Tomb | Next in series: Gideon the Ninth

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 10:06pm on 05 September 2020

    I went and read the first book after reading the short story.

    I find the whole set-up of the story deeply disturbing and the flow of the narrative irritating. Why are they teenagers? In what sense is this a YA novel? The only adolescent thing about them is their immature and irritating emotions.

    The whole plot feels like that dratted computer game MYST with characters poking about in an abandoned research facility twisting things and poking things until something happens. Only bloodier. With added angst and bones.

    The things that are implied about the background are interesting and the things happening in the foreground mostly aren't.

    And now I've gone and bought the second book. Why do things like this keep happening to me?

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:29pm on 05 September 2020

    Most people don't agree with me that Gideon is a YA novel, but as I've said in the blog posts about it and Harrow I think Gideon takes on many of the trappings of generic dystopian YA and Harrow subverts them.

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