Title: Tempests and Slaughter
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 2018
After literally 8 months on hold, I finally got my hands on my library’s audiobook copy of Tamora Pierce’s Tempests and Slaughter. (I spend nearly two hours of my workday commuting. Most of my reading these days, that isn’t for CPs, is in audiobook form) I cannot tell you how hyped I was about getting back into the Tortall universe. I re-read the Song of the Lioness and the Wild Magic Quartets several times a year. I’m pretty sure I sold my heart and soul to Pierce as a kid. The magic and adventure in her worlds were a favored refuge to someone who was an ugly duckling for years. So let me tell you finally getting to see baby Numair Salmalín, i.e. Arram Draper before he gets his fancy new proper mage name was the best Christmas treat.
I want to start with the fact that you in no way need to have read any other Tortall books to jump right into this one, but knowing the end of the story added a richness to the experience. I wondered if Pierce would be able to make the Empire of Carthak with all the rich history we know from all her many books come through without feeling like an info dump, but as always I should never have doubted Pierce. The many cultures and traditions of Carthak, even the problematic ones like the realities of empire, and slavery, really come alive through the eyes of Arram Draper a precocious young mage from Tyra, sent to study at the school of mages in Carthak after he sets fire to one too many of his parent’s workshops.
The knowledge that this small, awkward maglet becomes one of the most feared black mages on the continent, and a steady teacher for our heroine Daine was fantastic. You can see threads of the honorable man he becomes in a child who is sick with fear for his gladiator friend, Sarge, who is forced to fight in the arena.
Everything about Arram’s early struggles to make friends as the youngest student ever admitted to the school really resonated with my experience as a gifted kid who was put through a lot of grade skips and advanced classes growing up. Right down to those nerve-wracking ones where they’ve given up trying to find other students to teach with you and it’s just you and the master. I was really happy that, unlike me, Arram soon finds a pair of other gifted kids Prince Ozorne (the leftover prince who becomes the emperor Mage), and Varice (A gifted mage and self-proclaimed kitchen witch whose affection both boys vie for). Both Ozorne and Varice challenge Arram in different ways and one can see the effect all three have on each other as they grow through the book
The main focus of the book is on the boys Arram and Ozorne, who are roommates, and for a long time nigh on inseparable. But as the pair experiences different tragedies and triumphs there is always the foreboding sense of knowing, how it all ends, the yet unknown betrayal, the run into exile and Numair’s student bringing about the end of the reign of the Emperor Mage. It’s like when you’re watching the star wars prequels and the imperial march starts playing. It was exactly the shiver down your spine you needed while enjoying what is otherwise a very fun book about 3 kids in a magical school full of delightful things such as lightning snakes, crocodile gods tricking you into caring for mystical firebirds, mysterious yet benevolent old mages muttering cryptically, and of course baby mage disasters such as flooding your classroom and uncontrollable fireballs.
I was also very interested to see Arram taking an interest in healing, in my memory of adult Numair, he was the slightly mad scientist and Alanna was the healer, learning that Numair actually has years of healing training and is bowing to Alanna’s greater affinity and skill was a fascinating insight to their relationship.
In Tempest and Slaughter, there were times when it almost felt like one of the Emelan universe books, which have so much more focus on magic and mages. Rather than on the kind of sword and adventure stories, Tortall focuses on. Now that I say it I know Arram with his fascination with wild magic would kill for a day in Winding Circle, he and Tris could even take their noses out of books for a moment to play in the lightning together. Oh boy, if I’m not careful that will be a whole fic I need to write, so back to the book review.
Read Tempest and Slaughter, it’s a fantastic romp through another one of the rich cultures Pierce has so lovingly crafted. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book so we can see what great betrayal awaits our star-crossed pair, the Emperor Mage and his best friend and advisor, destined to be each other’s doom.
If you are new to Pierce’s work or also a life-long fan tell me about it! I’m dying to gush about this book some more, and need only the slightest encouragement.