Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
Publication date: 20 September 2018
Page count: 432 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Tamora Pierce was my J. K. Rowling (along with, well, J. K. Rowling) when I was a kid and her books are one of the reasons I grew up to be the reader and the person I am today. My library had copies of the Song of the Lioness quartet and a few others scattered here and there, so I actually missed out on so many of her books and didn’t realise it until later on in life. That being said, I didn’t know Tempests and Slaughter was a prequel to her Immortals quartet, chronicling the early life of the mage Numair Salmalín. My reading experience wasn’t hindered by the fact that I haven’t read The Immortals, but I absolutely plan to do so as soon as possible, along with all of her other books because Tamora is my queen.
Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.
Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.
In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.
If I had to describe Tempests and Slaughter in one word, it would be ‘charming’. This book is so different from pretty much anything else I’ve read recently — it is made up of short bits and pieces of Arram Draper’s life studying to become a mage. It may take readers some time to adjust to the style of this novel, as there really isn’t much of a solid plot, but it’s worth sticking with if you’re struggling initially. We get a lovely, meandering tale across three years of Arram’s schooling filled with magic and friendship, along with plenty of hurdles along the way. He makes friends, learns a huge range of magic, and grows up in a world surrounded by mages and magical creatures but there isn’t a unifying plotline throughout the book. It took me some time to mentally adjust to this type of storytelling, but it has all the markers of Pierce’s wonderful style in her earlier books. Fans of her writing will not be disappointed in Arram’s tale, and new readers will be fall in love with the wonderful world and characters.
Of course, the main focus of the story is Arram. Starting around the age of 10, the book covers four years of his life at the university as he jumps leaps and bounds over his fellow students. Arram very much falls into the ‘chosen one’ trope, but he’s such a sweet and humble character who has plenty of difficulties along the way so that you cannot help but love him — he’s definitely not perfect. I love his close relationship with Varice and Orzone, despite the fact that his friends are far from perfect, as well as with other characters like Preet — my favourite, which I doubt is a surprise to anyone who has read this — and his instructors. Tempests and Slaughter has a wide, yet rich cast of characters who will charm and infuriate you. In terms of side characters, I really loved Sebo and Lindhall, two of his instructors, as well as Musenda the gladiator — they play roles of varying sizes in Arram’s life, but each has an important impact on him and his development. Arram’s interactions with other characters of all levels of power and intelligence enriches the story and his character.
I am not surprised by the fact that I loved Tempests and Slaughter — it is pure magic. This book so perfectly captures the wonder of reading fantasy that I felt as a child, a feeling that has been missing from the genre for years. Although there are dark themes in the book such as slavery, disease, prejudice, and homophobia, Tempests and Slaughter brings back the sense of wonder and joy that fantasy is starting to lose as more grim titles gain popularity with readers, including myself. Every time I looked up from Tempests and Slaughter, the world seemed a little brighter. I’m planning on diving back into Tortall and reading/rereading Pierce’s books.
CW: slavery, some gore, bullying, animal death
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