A teenager who can follow unseen paths into new realms, a magic academy filled with hidden passageways and secrets, a looming danger, and an angsty ex-best friend drama?? Y'all, I need you try this book.
Plot/Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Unique take on magic: ★★★★
A Hundred Vicious Turns is the kind of young adult fantasy that I LOVE discovering in the bookstore. When I saw this cover in the stacks, I was intrigued. Then I read the blurb, and I was hooked. It's not often you find a queer YA fantasy with a dark academia atmosphere, multiple realms, and the concept of endless magical doors. (That last one is a particularly favorite trope of mine.)
Rat Evans is the heir to two magical bloodlines in the Northeast United States. They are a relatively timid and nervous teenager who has Been Through Some Stuff. That stuff happened last summer, with their ex-best-friend, Harker, and involved some dark magic, a tower, and some truly terrifying things that Rat would rather forget.
(Rat can never forget. They see the Tower in their dreams.)
But the summer is over, and Rat is enrolled at Bellamy Arts, an exclusive boarding school for the magical bloodlines to hone their magic. Rat doesn't practice magic anymore and actively tries to suppress their affinity for maps and mapmaking, but they know that Bellamy Arts the safest place for them to be—they need an impenetrable home base with wards that keep everyone—and everything—out. So off to school they go, with the plan to ignore their magic and just survive their way through the experience.
But Bellamy Arts and the scary things in Rat's past aren't going to let Rat coast through school unscathed. And neither is the unexpected appearance of Harker, whose hatred for Rat seeps from his pores.
The clock tower is chiming, the walls are closing in, and Rat's seeing doors and passageways out of the corner of their eye that no one else is able to see... and the corners are beckoning.
Don't open a door that you can't close...
Ahhhhhh this was so much fun, folks. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut and, as a testament to how much this novel gripped me, I stayed up way past my bed time to read it.
The great: the concept, the setting, and the wholly unique take on magic structures and societies tied up in an interesting multiverse/realm concept that had me in a GRIP. I also loved the angsty drama between Rat and Harker, and the delicioussss slow burn friends-to-enemies-to-reluctant-partners-to-??? that they had going on. I came for the magic, I stayed for the relationship drama and the serious desire I had to discover what was going on at the heart of this story.
The not-so-great: Ok, this debut had some struggles. The worst offender was the clumsy balance between the Big Plot (Rat's relationship to the tower, the antagonist, and the doors into realms) and the entire rest of the novel(the school, the side quests, the scene transitions, the "filler" for depth). There was so much to unpack with the Big Plot that the rest of the novel did suffer a lack of supplemental depth, explanations of the mundane, scene descriptions, and just soft content to pad the real-world attempts of the academy setting. To me as a reader, I didn't care overly much about the filler—it would have catapulted this review from a 4-star to a 5-star favorite, but I didn't need that to make or break my general enjoyment. I loved what I got with the unique magic + Rat's personal journey + the relationship drama.
Overall, a very exciting YA debut from a queer writer to watch. Eagerly looking forward to the second book in this duology so that we can get some answers—I can't wait!
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.