Review: Tempests and Slaughter

Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles Book One)
By Tamora Pierce
Published February 6, 2018 by Random House

Tamora Pierce is a legend in young adult fantasy, and the release of a new book by her is always cause for celebration. Tempests and Slaughter is the latest of a long line of books set in the world of Tortall. This time, we go back to the childhood of the mage Numair. Once upon a time, he was a boy named Arram Draper.

Arram is one of the youngest and most talented students at the Imperial University of Carthak. He’s a very impressive mage in training, and has been moved up to more advanced classes, which Tempests and Slaughtermakes him a bit of an outcast. But then he meets Ozorne, a prince from the imperial family, and the lovely and charming Varice. The trio quickly become the closest of friends.

Tempests and Slaughter has a delightful old-school quality. Recent Young Adult fantasy often has certain hallmarks: breakneck (and sometimes nonsensical) plotting, instalove, and weak world building. Pierce is a master of the genre, and none of these pitfalls are present in Tempests and Slaughter. Pierce takes her time with the story. Obviously, the fact that this is the latest in a long line of books set in this world means that the world-building is adding on to an existing world, but Pierce doesn’t cut any corners. Every element of the world is well thought out.

There’s not actually a ton of plot. It’s mostly about Arram’s day-to-day life at the school. He learns what he is capable of, he grows in his friendships with Ozorne and Varice, and he begins to formulate his world view. Arram is very aware of the injustices of the society he lives in. He comes from a country that doesn’t have slavery, and he is very bothered by slavery in the Carthaki empire. It’s difficult for him to understand why no one else seems to be bothered by this system. He’s also very aware of the problematic issue of gladiator fights. As part of his mage training, he is called on to help treat the injured gladiators, and he’s horrified by the practice of fighting and the fact that it’s viewed merely as entertainment for so many.

There’s only the barest hint of romance in this book, which makes sense considering that Arram is 10 when the books begins. It covers a 4-year period in his life, and as he gets older, there are attractions and crushes, but they are a very minor part of the book. Given Arram’s young age at the beginning of the book, Tempests and Slaughter may appeal to both middle grade and young adult readers. It has a Harry Potter quality, in that you’re watching a child as he grows older. I enjoyed Tempests and Slaughter very much, and it’s inspired me to go back and finish the Tortall books I haven’t read.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.


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