I don't remember much except a young woman travelled to a boarding school where she learned magic. Some mystery and intrigue throughout, and at the end of the book there was some sort of conflict that opened a rift in the world. I'm pretty sure it was referred to with the word rift, and it's possible that it was in a tower?

I've been looking for ages but don't have enough to do a proper Google search. I read it sometime before 2010, but am not sure how old it is. I'd guess UK or US as it seemed very Eurocentric.

  • Maybe Nutall's schooled in magic series. Think the 1st ends in the MC creating a black hole.
    – eshier
    Mar 19, 2023 at 22:42
  • 1
    Seems like there's no point in learning magic except to cause these rifts. Mar 20, 2023 at 2:53
  • @eshier Nuttall's Schooled in Magic is not pre-2010. Also, I've currently read 23 out of 24 books so I didn't know about the black hole :(
    – Stef
    Mar 20, 2023 at 8:00

2 Answers 2


This could be Caroline Stevermer's A College Of Magics. Young woman (Faris) learning magic at a school (Greenlaw), check. Rift (called that by name) at the end, check. The main character climbs a tower staircase to reach it - though skimming through the relevant passages it seems like space is strange or ambiguous and she's forcing it be a tower so she can move towards the rift.

Faris shut her eyes and let the stair fill her mind's eye. The spiral was as tightly furled as the stair in Hilarion's house. Hilarion, warden of the west. They had climbed the warden's stair, come to a place where there was no more climbing. [...]

Perception and will, Faris thought. [...] No more climbing on this stair. So climb a different stair.

[...] With loving detail she recollected the stair to the pepper-pot tower, on the way to the spire and the northern anchor.

And a bit later:

Touch showed her the rift before her other senses perceived it.

It's an alt-history European setting, early 20th century as opposed to anything using medieval imagery. The "wardens" name-dropped in the description are major magical figures, some of the plot has to do with one of them being missing or dead if I recall correctly.

  • Hi. 19th or early 20th century does not sound 'fairly modern'. Do you mean modern-as-opposed-to-medieval or something like that, or did you mean to say "20th century in feel or early 21st"?
    – Basya
    Mar 20, 2023 at 11:43
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    The former - it's definitely not contemporary but I think characters travel by train, that sort of thing. It was published in 1994, if nothing else - a 21st century setting would have been speculative at the time! Google tells me it's specifically early 20th century, with one review saying it's "turn-of-the-century Paris". Mar 20, 2023 at 13:51
  • Thank you for the clarification.
    – Basya
    Mar 20, 2023 at 16:21

This sounds like it could be Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Equal Rites (published in the UK in 1987).

Eskarina Smith (Esk) is born expected to be the eighth son of an eighth son, and so destined to be a wizard. Since the mistake (that she is a daughter, not a son) is spotted too late, she inherits the wizard's staff and accompanying powers.

As the Disc's first female wizard, she is supported in studying magic at Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University by local witch Granny Weatherwax, despite being refused a place. At the core of the university is the 800-foot Tower of Art

An apprentice Wizard (Simon) opens a portal to the Dungeon Dimension, and the staff (in an attempt to protect Esk) knocks out Simon, leaving his mind in the dungeon dimension, from where Esk tries to rescue it.

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