Some days really do go from bad to worse. When Digby, a young kid living on his own after the death of his mom, wakes to find crows have torn apart his bag and eaten the last of his food, he sets off to forage some sustenance however he can. Little does he expect that he’ll be captured in the process, imprisoned deep underground, and forced to fight for his life alongside two fellow captives to free himself and his new friends from a worm-worshiping death cult!
Set in a fantasy kingdom inflected with medieval aesthetics and populated by diverse kinds of people—talking worms, humanoids, Frankenstein’s monster-types with bolts for ears, and everything in between—The Sunken Tower jumps into action right away. When Digby, depicted with sallow skin, grayish hair, and carrying a precious book of spells given to him by his mother, is captured by the red-cloaked members of the Blood Death Cult and separated from his book, all hope seems lost. Thankfully, it’s not long before he meets the inhabitants of the next cell over: the powerfully strong and jovial Iana and her partner Crina, who is petite, quick-witted, and entirely depicted in shades of pink and purple. Working together, the three use Iana’s strength, Crina’s planning skills, and Digby’s magical ability to escape the Blood Death Cult, whose members are a nice balance of goofy, scary, and gross.
With its speedy plot and expressive, richly-hued illustrations full of interesting creatures, this fast-paced story is perfect for elementary-aged readers who enjoyed Zita the Spacegirl or the Amulet series. The death cult members who serve as the story’s antagonists are pleasantly disgusting, but rendered not-too-scary through a well-deployed sense of humor, and the ultimate triumph of the friends is certainly satisfying for young readers hungry to see good taking down evil. The inclusion of queer couple Iana and Crina is gracefully done, and the way the two generously take Digby under their wing is a subtle but sweet look at chosen family.
A quick and pleasurable read for graphic novel devotees that could also easily hook in more reluctant readers with its combination of humor and fast-moving plot, The Sunken Tower is one worth adding to all collections.
The Sunken Tower
By Tait Howard
Oni Press, Inc, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Traits: Queer