Title: Tempests and Slaughter
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publication Date: February 2018
Two Sentence Synopsis: Young mage Arram Draper has more power than he knows what to do with and a real thirst for knowledge that sets him apart from not only students his own age, but also the older students. Luckily, he makes fast friends with two other young mages of immense skill: a girl with remarkable kitchen magic skills named Varice and one of the emperor’s nephews, Prince Ozorne.
Review: I have been waiting for this book for so long! I think I first learned of Pierce writing it when I was still in my undergrad. Actually, I know that’s when I learned about it because I remember sitting in my room of the on-campus townhouse I lived in with my best friend, reading Pierce’s website and excitedly shouting for my best friend to look at the site, showing her that Pierce was writing a new book based in her Tortall universe. Not only that, but a book about the great mage Numair Salamin, a character introduced in the Immortals quartet.
A great and powerful mage but also a kind, caring, if a bit odd with his head in the clouds, Numair was a very interesting character unlike a lot of the other mages Pierce had written about in the past. His character opened up so many possibilities as to his background, especially as throughout the quartet he and Daine run into other mages he used to know and even be friends with. I wanted to know everything about Numair.
In my eyes, Pierce absolutely rose to my expectations. I know she can write amazing male characters — though there’s no POV male characters in her Tortall universe as of yet, in her Circle of Magic series she did an amazing job with Briar Moss — and young Arram Draper did not disappoint. In her books featuring female leads, Pierce does not shy away from some of the more embarrassing parts of growing up and going through puberty, like Alanna’s first period in the Song of the Lioness Quartet. I wondered if a young male lead would get the same treatment and Arram absolutely got it. There’s no shying away from Arram’s passage through puberty, including his first experience with erections.
Readers familiar with he Immortals quartet have also met Ozorne and Varice. Seeing those characters as students alongside Arram is fascinating when compared to their adult selves when Daine meets them. Though he’s the Emperor or Carthak in the Immortals quartet, Ozorne begins Tempests and Slaughter as a prince who is quite far from inheriting the throne. As the novel progresses, several of the princes ahead of him die and eventually he is second in line. Combined with a smug and self-important teacher at the university, Pierce creates a sense of foreboding surrounding the young prince, as readers already familiar with his character know what he grows into. In keeping with Ozorne’s adult character, we see that even in his younger years, he loves animals, but especially birds. Pierce also doesn’t shy away from Ozorne’s less pleasant traits, like his racism towards Sirajits; his father was killed by a Sirajit and he developed a deep hatred for all Sirajit people.
Though the book is really male heavy, Pierce still writes wonderfully varied female characters. Varice epitomizes all things feminine although she defies her parents with her skill and interest in cooking magic. She loves to cook and create perfect meals along with being perfectly put together no matter the occasion. We also have the wonderfully written female master mages from the slightly grumpy but still caring Sebo who teaches Arram water magic and introduces him to the crocodile god Enzi; Faizy, a young woman on the way to becoming a master, is brilliant and connected to the world around her and is the first to really introduce Arram to wild magic, even if she’s not the one to give it a name for him; and several of the women slaves who fight in the gladiator arena are giving depth beyond being tough fighters.
We see great detail given to many of the secondary characters, whether they be mages in the university or slaves in the gladiator arena. The characters are all way more than two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, even though that would have been an easy route to go.
In all of the Tortall books, Carthak has only been seen briefly in Emperor Mage, the third book of the Immortals quartet. Coming into this book readers would have a general idea of the country. Ruled by an emperor, Carthak is a hot country with a central river that runs through it, kind of like Egypt. Unlike Tortall and many of the countries on that continent, Carthak still has slaves. Finally, it’s home to a renowned school for mages. Pierce builds on these foundations and creates a vivid and vibrant country filled with a variety of people and a rich culture that includes gladiator fights and an array of different tribes outside of the major city. I love Pierce’s world building so much.
Some reviews complain of this book being a bit meandering, but I mostly disagree. The key word here being mostly, because that is where I did take off the half point. Although I loved the book so much and wanted to read it all in one sitting because I love Pierce’s easy writing style, it could have been cut down a little bit. I can see where some readers might think that the level of attention to detail is a bit overbearing. Perhaps not Tolkien level of overbearing, but maybe a little much for young readers. I absolutely recommend this book to everyone and everyone. If you enjoy YA high fantasy, I have zero doubts that you will enjoy this!