Not so much theories as me mentioning things I loved.
The ‘Gideon AU’ scenes were just the absolute best (not even just the coffee shop AU… BARI-star, HAH!). I LOVED getting more of Abigail and Magnus. I yelled very loudly when they were killed in Gideon, because Magnus was my fav, but Abigail is the real MVP of Harrow. Give me more boss-ass academics who are kind and motherly and happily married instead of stuffy and uptight. There’s not a lot of non-toxic love in these books, but Abigail and Magnus are good role models. But also getting more of real!Dulcinea and alive!Protesilaus was really great, since we, uh, never actually got to meet them before. (Marta Dyas and the whole Second House can go jump off a cliff).
On that note, thank God (heh) for more of Palamedes and Camilla. And that ending! I noticed on my rereads how often Muir primes us to think of Palamedes’ eyes as lambent grey and it’s totally all for that last line of Harrow.
I never thought I’d love Ianthe, but listening to Moira Quirk’s narration made me worship at the altar of Ianthe’s sass. Ianthe is also given more space here to be herself, and she’s so fascinating. She doesn’t mourn Naberius but she is fiercely against the idea that Coronabeth might be endangered in any way. In book 1, Muir did a clever bit of misdirection making the reader think that Corona was the powerful twin, but here we realize more that it was always Ianthe protecting them both, keeping up the ruse that they were both necromancers. It also makes sense why Ianthe would hit on Harrow–the challenge, the loneliness, but also the fact that Ianthe can tell that Harrow is damaged. I think Ianthe/Harrow would be an extremely emotionally manipulative and possibly abusive relationship and I’m glad Harrow wasn’t more susceptible even in her lowest points. (I did, however, love Ianthe’s incredibly passive-aggressive move of making Harrow’s hair grow really fast).
Perhaps my favourite part of the book, however, was the unexpected gut-wrenching emotionality of Ortus the Ninth. Muir took a throwaway character from book 1, gave him all sorts of ‘unmasculine’ traits–he’s cowardly, unfit, and apparently a bad poet–as if he could just be dismissed and laughed at. And then she makes him one of the bravest and purest characters in the entire series. On a reread, you realize that he only seems like a loser because Harrow unfairly thinks he is. The others are actually interested in Ortus’ poetry; they also like him as a person. No one else makes fun of him. Abigail and Magnus especially treat him with kindness and seriousness (and even jokes: “Ortus, stop hitting on my wife!”). Ortus rises to the occasion at alt-Canaan House–he protects Harrow as much as he can. And then there’s the summoning of Matthias Nonius, where all of Ortus’ creative efforts and passion call forth their means of rescue at the darkest hour. (“Why am I speaking in meter?”). Also love the fact that Ortus and Protesilaus are super competitive about… poetry. The last scenes, when Ortus and the others were preparing to follow Nonius to fight the beast, and they finally bond over P’s poem… it actually brought some tears to my eyes.
I actually don’t have that much to say about the big reveals at the end with Gideon. They were great! I loved having her back, I love the whole crazy scheme that led to her being alive, I have so many questions and can’t wait for Book III. But I wanted this post to be about the things that made me emotional, and in the end, that was mostly Abigail and Ortus.
One final thought about the memes: some people have said they were annoyed or bothered. Most of the time, I didn’t even pick up on them. I’m socially stunted when it comes to a lot of pop culture. I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly listened to Eminem, for example. So I can’t really comment there, except that I think it’s funny that John is stuck a thousand years in the past.