Book Reviews · Writing Mentors · YA-related

Book Review: “Tempests and Slaughter” YA Fantasy by Tamora Pierce

HOW IT BEGAN…

Ok my friends, this…this is going to be a doozy of a post, indeed! I’ll explain why a bit later. First of all, a few of you responded to my poll from the post two weeks ago, where I asked what content you’d like to see on this blog in 2021. I kept the post up for longer in hope of getting more responses, since initially it was a small group. Then, I just accepted – it is what it is, those who respond get to have more choice on what appears here.

Many responses said, you would like to see more Young Adult Fiction content, and more book reviews, and also more of my writing, and more beginner writer tips. The first thing that popped into my head was an excellent book I read last year that is YA fantasy, so I decided to start with that!

This is a doozy of a post because, the whole thing began when I was 12 years old. I was a bookish, stick-legged girl who was always looking for a good book to read. One day, my friend called me up and said, “Chai, you HAVE TO read this book! It’s part of quartet of 4 books, about a girl who wants to become a warrior. She disguises herself as a boy to get into the court, to train as a knight…”

I read book 1, and the rest is history!!! I can’t even tell you how much this book *permeated my soul* as a teen, haha. I read it SO MANY times and have reread it as an adult and still love it. I own a copy of the quartet in one volume, and was once tempted to buy multiple copies just so I could collect all the covers of each of the 4 books. That’s how much this quartet swallowed me up. Here it is:

Image result for alanna of trebond
First books I ever read by Pierce – “Song of the Lioness” quartet

Funnily enough though, that’s just my intro, because – that’s not the book I’m reviewing today!

The book I’m reviewing today is also by Tamora Pierce, a prolific YA writer who is known for her focus on strong female characters. The second quartet I read after the Song of the Lioness quartet was this one, and it introduces the main character in the book I’m reviewing today:

Image result for alanna of trebond song of the lioness fanart
“The Immortals” quartet – where we first meet Arram Draper, AKA Numair Salmalin

REASONS I LOVE HER BOOKS

I hate to say this, but after having read these 2 quartets as a teen, later books I read by Tamora Pierce didn’t hold up for me. I was disappointed by her Trickster series, by her Protector of the Small quartet, and others. So, I was surprised and pleased when I picked up her newest book, Tempests and Slaughter (2018), and found myself just as delighted with her work as I had been before.

Some of the reasons I love her books:

  • Her characters are flawed and realistic
  • Her characters go up against quite a few challenges – evil sorcerers, their own flaws, other characters’ conflicting needs and motivations
  • Her young adult characters truly feel young adult, and none of her stories are dumbed-down or cliche.
  • Her magic system is easy to understand, but also variegated.

    A word for worldbuilding: It’s good. But honestly I find her characters to be stronger, and I personally enjoy that character-driven sense, when many fantasy books get -too- caught up in worldbuilding! Like yes, show us the world, but what happens next, why should we care? Pierce makes you really, really care about these characters!
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Tamora Pierce

HER NEWEST BOOK, Tempests and Slaughter

When we first meet Arram Draper, he’s a Black Robe Mage in The Immortals quartet, and he’s training young Veralidaine Sarassri on how to use her wild magic. Wild magic is very rare, and it enables Daine to speak with and understand animals’ speech. Arram Draper is her teacher. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil her story or his.

Ok, so let’s finally dive into this book. Arram Draper is the youngest mage at the Imperial University of Carthak, where students of many ages and talents come to hone their magic, called their Gift. He’s only 10 years old at the book’s start, and he pretends he’s 11 so that the other students might take him more seriously. His magic is really powerful, always exploding things, and he gets in even more trouble when he befriends arguably the most politically powerful student in the whole school – Ozorne, the Emperor’s son!

Many shenanigans ensue between Arram, Ozorne, and their friend Varice, the female group of the trio. But, this story is much different from Harry Potter!

In Tempests and Slaughter, our protagonist is very confident, very magically powerful, and very stubborn. Some of his adventures include helping a sortof urgent care clinic during a plague that sweeps through the poor portion of the city, clashing with people of higher class and with more money than him, and freeing a slave who is a gladiator at the local arena. Arram is compassionate, fiery, and awkward, which makes for a lot of accidentally funny situations where we get to laugh at him, rather than with him, a bit.

I’m going to break my review down more, but before I do that – Here is an official summary of the book:

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Tempests and Slaughter cover

“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 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 realizes 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.”

Synopsis from Pierce’s official website
Image result for numair fanart
Art by waterysilver on Deviant Art – Numair Salmalin

WHAT’S TO LIKE

I enjoy how this book shows what daily life for Arram is like, while also progressing sinister, sneaky plots. Time proceeds at a manageable pace; we see him age from the 10 years he is at the book’s start, to a few years older. We see him learn from his mistakes, defy his teachers, learn from his best teachers. We see puberty and its struggles, and how he deals with that. I found it interesting and funny to read Pierce tackling male puberty, because I’m used to her young characters being female, and in a female body myself, I found those puberty tales funny, painful and relatable. She makes Arram’s puberty story very human, funny, and painful too, so I think young men reading this book would enjoy it (including of course some adolescent-style joking about body parts, of course).

Another thing I really liked in this book that stood out to me was, the female character of Varice. Varice is friends to both Arram and Ozorne, and she IS a feminine, delicate girl who enjoys decorating herself in jewelry and makeup, but at the same time, I see her being strong, smart, showing off her magic, navigating the subtleties and dangers of talking to important people at court and at school, etc. She’s both strong AND full of feminine wiles and sensibilities. I found this a refreshing breath of fresh air!! So many female characters in YA, especially fantasy – and even adult fantasy genres – the women are either strong and stout, able to fight aside the men, OR they like makeup and gowns, etc. but are damsels in distress. Newsflash – real women aren’t like that! Pierce makes Varice a great example of reality.

A third thing I enjoyed about this book was the main plot. Pierce weaves the subplots and the main plots very well. I won’t say much more than that, for fear of spoilers.

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE

At first, until later in the book, Master Chioke seems like a bit of a cliched, arrogant teacher who doesn’t like the main character. Filling the Snape sortof role, to make a Harry Potter analogy, but minus Snape’s big backstory. Sometimes I wished while reading this, that Chioke would show a bit more nuance. But as the book goes on, the main plot proceeds and reveals more details that flesh him out more.

WHAT’s NEXT?

This review is way too long, so I’ll stop here. I feel it was a very scattered review, and my apologies for that. Sometimes quiet days make me feel sleepy. But I hope you all check out some of Tamora Pierce’s books, if you’re at all into YA, whether you are an adult or a teen.

If you have ALREADY read Tamora Pierce’s previous books, I recommend this review, which shares more of how Tempests and Slaughter connects to the other books, how characters we see grown there are kids in this book, and some intriguing questions. But I would warn you to NOT read that review UNLESS you’ve already read previous books by Tamora Pierce.

Next up: A little slice of my work! *dances nervously*
Then we may dive into Marge Piercy and Haruki Murakami reviews, touching upon my previous posts about discovering them, and their interviews. Or, something else! Who knows??

Until next time,

Chaitanya

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