Goodreads: Tempests and Slaughter
Series: The Numair Chronicles #1
Published: February 6, 2018
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.
I’m going to start out by saying that I have never particularly cared about Numair as a character from Pierce’s other Tortall books. That is, I have nothing against him, but he’s never been up there in my unofficial list of favorite characters or anything, so I’m not a fan who was interested in this book specifically because it’s a Numair origin story. I’m interested in the book because I’ve been a Tamora Pierce fan since I first discovered her Protector of the Small series in middle school and I wanted to see what new fantasy adventures Pierce would serve up. I was not disappointed. Tempests and Slaughter is an engrossing, richly imaginative story that reminded of why Pierce is such a pillar of the young adult genre.
Tempests and Slaughter really has everything Pierce fans have come to expect of her work: complex characters, rich world building, dazzling magic, and a cute animal sidekick. The only real difference may be that the protagonist is a man, which stands out only because Pierce is also known for her badass female characters. However, there are still badass female characters here as side characters, and I was kind of intrigued to see that Pierce put the same thought into representing the male experience of puberty that she puts into the female experience of puberty in her other series. I can’t say I’ve really read a book where a boy wonders about waking up with an unprompted erection before.
I think I may have been most captivated by the world building in the novel, however. Obviously Pierce has several stories set in this universe, primarily in Tortall, so the in-depth exploration of Carthak is fascinating. I also enjoyed the look inside a mage university, a change from the knight training in the Alanna and Keladry books, and the look at subtle politics that are probably applicable to any type of academia (for instance, the general academic dismissal of traditional tribal magics and gods).
The plot is admittedly a bit meandering, but on further reflection I decided that many of Pierce’s books have a tendency to just sort of portray the day-to-day lives of the characters, and I like it because it’s interesting. Numair’s “thing” at school is that he’s the youngest mage at the university and has to deal with feeling out of place and facing jealousy from other students. There is sort of an overarching plot tied to the Carthaki political situation (readers learn more about Ozorne in this book!), but I think it’s really going to play out more later in the series.
Bottom line: I loved this book. It reminded me why I love Pierce and why I love YA fantasy. Sometimes my YA reading choices disappoint me, even though I am very fond of YA, but novels like this show just how good YA can be. Tempests and Slaughter is definitely going to be a contender for my favorite books of 2018 list at the end of the year. Also, if you’re not a Tamora Pierce fan yet and wondering if you need to have read her other books to understand this one, the answer is no; you can start right here.