The second time I read Gideon the Ninth

Spoilers

Some details came out only on the second read-through. The end of chapter 6, for example.

As they pulled themselves into the shuttle, the door mechanism sliding down with a pleasingly final whunk, she leaned into Harrow: Harrow, who was dabbing her eyes with enormous gravity. The necromancer flinched outright.

“Do you want,” Gideon whispered huskily, “my hanky.”

“I want to watch you die.”

“Maybe, Nonagesimus,” she said with deep satisfaction, “maybe. But you sure as hell won’t do it here.”

And toward the end of chapter 33:

“No”, [Judith] said. “If he comes back to life again, I will be ready. And I won’t leave her now … nobody should ever have to watch their cavalier die.”

This, by the way, is the chapter where Ninth and Sixth go to Teacher and find what’s left of Second. Teacher raises the topic of the Emperor becoming vulnerable:

[Judith]: “… The Emperor is coming … the King Undying.”

Next to Harrow, Teacher gurgled.

“You draw him back—to the place—he must not return to,” said the dead man, with a thin and reedy whistle of a voice around the blade in his vocal cords. His whole body wriggled. His dead eyes no longer twinkled drunkenly, but his tongue slithered. His spine arched. “Oh, Lord—Lord—Lord, one of them has come back—”

This leads to everybody present assuming that Cytherea’s plan is to lure the Necrolord to the planet and, presumably, kill him. Harrow still thinks this at the very end.

Harrow found herself saying, distantly, “Why can’t you go back? It seemed to be the whole of Cytherea’s plan.”

The Emperor said, “I saved the world once—but not for me.”

In between these two points, Gideon overhears Cytherea gloating about a different plan, although she doesn’t get a chance to update Harrow.

“This way he’s lulled into a false sense of … semisecurity, I suppose. And he won’t even bother coming within Dominicus’s demesne. He’ll sit out there beyond the system—trying to find out what’s happening—right where I need him to be. I’ll give the King Undying, the Necrolord Prime, the Resurrector, my lord and master front-row seats as I shatter his Houses, one by one, and find out how many of them it takes before he breaks and crosses over, before he sees what will come when I call … and then I won’t have to do anything. It will be too late.”

I also appreciated the lightness of touch with which Tamsyn Muir uses the cliché of ‘ironic misunderstandings prolong the enemies-to-lovers arc’.

She remembered one thing: Harrowhark saying you dullard—you imbecile—you fool, all the old contempt of the Ninth House nursery back and fresh as though she were there again. Harrow the architect, sweeping down the halls of Drearburh. Harrow the nemesis, flanked by Crux. It wasn’t clear what in particular Harrow was haranguing her for, but whatever the reason, she deserved it. Gideon had tuned out all the rest of the necromancer’s tirade, her head in her hands. And then Harrowhark had balled up her fists—breathed hard once through her nose—and gone away.

Of course Harrowhawk is calling herself a dullard, imbecile, and fool.

“One flesh, one end” reads metaphorically: “Our fates are joined as if we shared one body.” For example:

“What would you do if you discovered Camilla was a murderer?”

“Help her bury the body,” said Palamedes promptly.

“Sextus.”

“I mean it. If Camilla wants someone dead,” he said, “then far be it from me to stand in her way. All I can do at that point is watch the bloodshed and look for a mop. One flesh, one end, and all that.”

After we learn what Lyctorhood entails, the meaning becomes, “We share one body, so naturally we share one fate”. But now I wonder if it means, “one of us lives and one of us dies”?