A Hundred Vicious Turns

Abrams/Amulet. (The Broken Tower: Bk. 1). Sept. 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419765155.
Gr 9 Up–When Rat is accepted into Bellamy Arts, a premiere magical university, it’s to be expected as heir to an arcane bloodline. Bellamy might not seem like the best place to hide—especially since Rat refuses to do magic—but surrounded by other casters, they are hoping to simply disappear. There is nothing they can do about the doors no one else can see, or about the broken tower that keeps calling to them, but if they can keep from casting, maybe the knight who’s stalked them through the doors will turn to more interesting prey. When their ex-friend Harker Blakely turns up on campus, too, Rat realizes that they can’t run from their past—or what’s beyond the doors—and will have to find answers. Unfortunately, O’Brien leans too heavily on expositional backstory to set up the plot, leading to murky stakes and a circling first half as Rat, and readers, get settled at school with a new group of friends. Rat is nonbinary, and Harker is a trans man, and their friends-enemies-lovers relationship arc is a high point in the novel where many aspects of the plot fall flat. The cast is diverse in race, body type, and orientation.
VERDICT Trans fantasy novels are still a rare occurrence on YA shelves, and this novel will appeal to readers who prefer slower stories. A secondary purchase.

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