TITLE: Tempests and Slaughter
AUTHOR: Tamora Pierce
SERIES: The Numair Chronicles
RELEASED: February 2018; Random House Books for Young Readers
GENRE: YA Fantasy
KEY INFO: magical schools, coming of age, world-building, romance, friendship, political intrigue
REPRESENTATION: characters of color (side), gay male (main)
slavery, empire, violence, poverty, dead bodies
Synopsis: 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.
I’ve been sitting on this review for exactly one month because I loved Tempests and Slaughter so much that I didn’t even know how to begin reviewing it. What could I say about the absorbing world-building, my solid relationships with the characters, and the wonderful imagination and writing of Tamora Pierce that would do the book justice? I still have no idea so let me count all of the ways that I loved this book…
🖋️ Discovering a new-to-me author
Tempests and Slaughter is my first Tamora Pierce book and I was thoroughly surprised at how much I fell in love with it. I never quite understood the hype surrounding Tamora but having now read one of her books I can definitely see why she is so beloved by fans. When I first requested Tempests and Slaughter I didn’t really know anything about the author, the book or the Tortall series so I went into her world with completely fresh eyes and was blown away by what I saw. I didn’t realize that it is part of a wider series so I can’t wait to delve deeper into it as well as discovering her other works.
🔮 Disappearing head-first into a new world
Ever since finishing the Harry Potter series 12 years ago, I have struggled to find other books whose writing made me feel like I was living in that world so I am delighted to say that this is how I felt when reading Tempests and Slaughter. I was not expecting such a rich and absorbing world to reach out and swallow me whole when I first picked this up. Even so long after reading it, I can still picture the characters and the stunning world which this story is set in.
One thing I really loved about the world-building in Tempests and Slaughter was how Tamora built up such a comprehensive world through the characters experiences of both their school and the wider world. I adored joining Arram in his magical lessons to learn alongside him and shared in his growth from a young naive boy who knew nothing of the world to a young man who struggled to live in a world which kept slaves for entertainment, where mages used their powers for evil as well as good, and where gods come out to play. As a side note, I love magical schools so much when they are done well and this is one of the best examples I’ve ever read of a magical school. There was so many interesting descriptions of the different types of magic within the world and it was great to see characters developing their own affinities for and interests in particular kinds.
🍩 Arram Draper, the truest cinnamon bun, & #magicalsquadgoals
I don’t remember the last time that I read and enjoyed a story told from the perspective of a male character, but I adored Arram Draper and I loved watching him grow as a character. Alongside Arram we also have his best friends, the magnificent young prince Ozorne and the gifted, intelligent Varice. I found myself constantly returning to the book wanting to spend time with this trio of friends as well as the rest of the magical cast of Tempests and Slaughter. It was nice to see the teachers at their school playing such a large part in the story, as older characters often get sidelined in bizarre ways in MG/YA books and the story felt all the more rich for its careful balancing between the young main characters and the older teachers who were attempting to guide them through their studies. There are also lots of interesting personal motivations, secrets and gods flying around throughout the story which constantly kept me on my toes.
The one thing that did bug me a little about the story was the, seemingly inevitable, blooming romance between Arram and Varice. It’s a pet peeve of mine when the only girl in a friendship trio ends up becoming a romantic interest for one of the boys. Thankfully, it’s enough of a side romance that it didn’t bother me too much but I was a bit disappointed that this happened.
⚡️ The complexities of coming of age
I think the nuance and astuteness with which Tamora Pierce writes was one of my favourite things about Tempests and Slaughter. I think that some authors fall into the common pitfalls of over-simplifying things for a younger audience and this often results in characters and a story which is sadly flat. Tempests and Slaughter though is a wonderful example of well-written teenage characters who are full of complex feelings, motivations and attitudes which propel the story in interesting ways. Alongside our main characters attempting to navigate their magical education, friendships, romantic and sexual feelings we have them confronting some of the ugly realities of the real world – poverty, slavery, power, competing loyalties and ideological differences, class and privilege. I loved how Tamora Pierce allowed her main characters to experience conflicts with one another and I’m very interested to see how some of the major ideological differences will come to a head in the next book.
Thank you so much to Harper Collins UK for letting me read Tempests and Slaughter for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my review.