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Monday, March 26, 2018

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release date: February 6, 2018

Series:  The Numair Chronicles, #1

Source: For review

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Arram Draper is 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 trouble. 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 realizes that one day--soon--he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie. 

I can't tell you how incredibly happy I am to have another Tortall book again! My 12yo self cannot contain her bliss. Tamora Pierce is my absolute favorite YA high fantasy author from my own childhood/teen years. (My favorite adult? Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series.) I can remember trips to the library where I would stalk her section to see if anything new had come out. (This was pre-internet/computers for me. I had no other way of knowing when things were published or in the works.)

I've been trying to remember all the details about Numair, but honestly, I came to this pretty fresh. It's been years since I re-read them, and I don't have the time (motherhood!) though I would've loved to. I own ALL of them!

Here, we meet Numair, a.k.a. Arram Draper, when he is a young tween and follow him as he grows into his young teen years.. He's basically the runt of his magic school due to his age, and even more so after he inadvertently floods a classroom during a lesson and is promoted to study with the advanced masters. He joins a small group of other gifted students who are younger than average, Varice Kingsford and Ozorne Tasikhe, one of the Emperor of Carthak's youngest sons. The trio form a fast bond since they're all rather unusual: Ozorne for his status and study of war magic, Varice for her beauty and likability and talent with cookery magic, and Arram for his depth of power relative to his youth.

At the very beginning of this novel, Arram accidentally falls into a parade of gladiators before their battle and is rescued by Musenda, one of the best gladiators. Arram has a great aversion to the blood sport, especially after he watches a fierce female warrior butchered during this first event. This theme continues throughout the book and relates to other themes of slavery and racism, as Ozorne has a blood feud with the tribe of people who murdered his father, who incidentally was leading the military against an insurrection.

Other undercurrents throughout the book deal with the gods and misuse of power, as in Arram's training, he learns to care for the river-life. Through this, he becomes favored by the crocodile god Enzi and looks after a divine sunbird called Preet that Enzi stole from Mithros. It's impossible not to love Preet and Enzi, as Pierce's non-human characters are always believable and fully realized. Though Arram has an extraordinary amount of power, his affinity leads him to life-preserving and life-respecting types of magic, -- so healing and wild magic, though the majority of the University doesn't respect wild magic as such; all of which contrasts greatly to Ozorne's instruction in war magic though Ozorne does also have a passion for animal care with Master Lindhall (recognize this name, readers of the Immortals series?). This opposition, I expect, will have a much bigger impact in the next novel, but for now, Arram's care leads him to cross paths with a serial murderer, one that might even be aiming to put Ozorne on the Emperor's throne. And since Ozorne's one of the only friends Arram has, he is determined to find out who is behind it all...

I couldn't put this book down! I loved reading about the magic school and Arram's learning. It's really hard to call him Arram now and not Numair as we know him. It's also very different to find Arram/Numair as a kid who has low self-confidence, is vulnerable, and very shy versus his adult counterpart who is, well, not. Very interesting to be viewing the backwards character building. Still, it's endearing to get into Arram's head and watch the process of growing into his Numair persona. Plus, this is one of the few times in Pierce's books that we deal with explanations of puberty from a boy's perspective.

However, there are few things that could be problematic for readers and long-time fans in this novel. 1) This is a highly anticipated story and done in reverse order than many of her other stories. Also, Pierce hasn't really written many boy characters and so far, none in the realm of Tortall (except a Nawat short story, if I can remember correctly). This is her first real young guy character from Tortall, and he's beloved as an older character. So, does she get this character building right?

2) New readers and old readers have differing expectations. Old readers are looking for Pierce to cover how he grows up in Carthak and gets exiled for some crime, has a romance with Varice that ends badly-ish, and all of this drives him to Tortall with a reputation as one of the most powerful black robe mages. New readers are looking for more explanation and easier understanding as they don't have the Tortall tapestry of stories to rely upon.

Here, I thought Pierce did her expected character building, taking a very young preteen Arram and having him learn, mature a bit, and then by throwing a problem at him that he is a key part of solving. Sure, the problem seems to be much more in-depth than ones Keladry or Alanna faced at the same relative age (bandits? a case of magical possession?) but when considering Arram's "go-big or go-home" talent, it's plausible. The one thing other reviewers have pointed out is that this book goes fairly slow, both for new readers to stay patient with all the extra details, and the long-time fans to get antsy for answers to the details we do know about Numair -- none of which are answered in this book, which is frustrating. Therefore with only a second book expected, fans are worried that it will be a LOT to cram into the next book. We'll have to see, but I think she'll have to write a third though that does not seem to be the plan. I'm anxiously anticipating the next to find out what she does with all of these loose ends, though there's been no official pub date yet, but the second is tentatively set for 2019. What did you think of this prequel to Numair?
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.


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