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:

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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:

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“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
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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

My Writing

Sam

This is the beginning of something…I’m not sure what. There might be some mystical reason her hair is white, like she’s a faerie changeling…or not. I’ve been trying to write more YA, and do more third-person POV, since I lean towards first, so…something different.

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Sam Mayhorn was the only person at school with white hair.

It was also falling out.

And she was pretty sure she was the only fifteen-year-old whose mother talked about faeries as if they were real – on a daily basis.

“Today I saw a bluebell-capped one behind the well, dear! Can you believe it? It had golden hair and smiled at me when I was putting the weeds into the wheel barrow. Isn’t that nice? I didn’t know faeries shared my hatred of weeds.”

Sam didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about it, really. She settled for kicking the counter at the pharmacy where she sat, waiting for “the new pill” which the doctor had said “should help the hair loss, but not the color, I’m sorry.”

Doctors. They always said they were sorry, but she could tell by their facial expressions that they didn’t really care. They were too busy worrying about their daughters having sex in college, or the coffee that was being made in the break room, or the lobster they would eat for dinner with their model wives, off of her mom’s hard-earned farmer’s market money.

Life wasn’t fair, and that was that.

“Will you quit it already? Jesus, you’re driving me crazy. I’m almost done back here.”

Sam realized she had been kicking the counter over and over, and stopped. Had those words been for her? She looked up.

The only person near was a tall pharmacy assistant. There wasn’t anyone behind him, so he must have been talking to her. He was carefully counting pills from a bag into a little jar. They looked like they could be her pills. She sat up to see if she could read the tiny word on the pills. Then she stopped, and abruptly sat back down. Hopefully the tall counter hid her red face from view.

The guy was gorgeous.

            Like, yank-your-heart-out-and-hand-it-to-him gorgeous. He was yummier than the male models in magazines or the lead singer of the newest rock band. They were just pictures, fantasies, stupid. This guy was right in front of her.

He was tall, with long blonde hair spilling over the collar of his white coat to fan across broad shoulders. His eyes, behind his glasses, were sea-green with little brown-gold speckles. A few freckles sprinkled his nose, and he had a mole over the right side of his mouth. His mouth was perfectly rose pink and full and it looked very soft…

Sam blushed more and looked away to hide it. There was no way a guy that good-looking would go for her. She knew she had spindly legs and wrists, small breasts, and short hair. Guys never liked short hair, not crazy, boyish bobs that crackled when you lifted your head off the pillow each morning. Not white hair. Not sad, blue eyes with dark circles under them. Nor would any guy date a girl who was throwing up all the time, and didn’t even have the strength to run the mile for P.E.

Plus, she could die any second.

She looked back at the guy and noticed his slender hands. His crooked tie featured little colorful cartoon guitars, and he had black cross earrings in both ears.

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Announcements · In the Family

My friend is getting published!!!

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Author Elizabeth Roderick

Author Spotlight Elizabeth Roderick  <<— GO check it out!!

My friend just got published! She’s writing about mental health and struggles in the YA genre, which I think is super unique and much needed. So many people out there struggle with mental issues and don’t get accepted. She’s also written an Adult Erotica Crime thriller, which has an amazing, hot cover! Please check out her interview.

Her first title, Love or Money, comes out in January 2016. You can see her WordPress blog here.

loveormoney

My Writing

Avalon Book Reviewing Site

Dear friends!

I’ve been kept busy working on my new book review website. It only has one post so far, but I’ve been doing a lot of work with the html, background, etc., and it has taken time. I’m happy to announce that I got the book from one author that I requested from, and am now reading their book. Hoping to have a review of it out by the end of the week!

Please check it out if you have any time: Avalon

Until I’ve got that review out, my posting might be shorter. But I will post a bit more today, since I’m overdue for a post now.

Until next time,

Chaitanya

How Writers Write · Musings · YA-related

The Melding of the Minds, Part 2 – My Story

Good morning, everyone! Today is a good day. Sometimes I have trouble thinking positively, even in the morning, but today feels pretty good so far.

Today, I’m going to finish my little duet on writing one’s gender opposite. My previous post, The Melding of the Minds, Part 1, discussed famous men and women who have written their gender opposite to great popularity. I also shared some insightful, interesting posts from other writers on this topic.

Property of Flickr

I would like to thank everyone who replied and has been following and commenting. I have blogged before, but never about writing, so this whole experience is new to me. Sometimes I feel like I am stumbling along in the dark on a cobbled road, with witnesses! So excuse me if I occasionally let out a yelp as I stub my toe. One thing I’m really loving about writing this blog is discovering new blogs about writing. Just now, I stumbled onto Ingrid’s Notes, which I look forward to perusing after I finish this post. There are a lot of you guys out there! It’s great. I’m having so much fun reading the many perspectives of different writers – from so many varying backgrounds and places, doing so many neat things in this wonderful craft we call writing.

Back to topic. I’ve been writing and reading gender-opposite for a long time, and I never really gave it a lot of thought before now. There are countless books I’ve read written by women about men, and by men about women, and vice versa. When I used to read a lot of YA, too, I found women writing about young men and men writing about young women.

Young Adult Fiction books

This can be one of the more challenging ways to write one’s gender-opposite. It’s one thing to try and get in the head of the other gender when they’re your age; it’s another to write about a teenage experience very faraway from one’s own. I applaud all of those who do this, and I can imagine it’s a lot of fun.

That’s one of the points I wanted to make in this post. Writing your gender-opposite is so much fun! I find that it’s more fun than writing in my own gender’s point of view, sometimes. The challenge of getting into the character’s head forces me to really ruminate over the character. Who are they and what makes them tick? What is their backstory? Those are such vague questions; as writers, we get to delve into the details with questions such as:

What does this character eat for breakfast?

What is their favorite animal, if any?

What is the character’s pet peeve that they absolutely hate?

What makes this character afraid? Angry? Sad?

I find that the emotional questions are what really gut me and pull me, whether I’m writing my gender-opposite or not. I really love it when people share from their hearts with me. It moves me. It makes me love and appreciate the person more. And, it makes me want to give of myself to that person. My brain and heart tick along and wonder, how can I help this person? What do they need and want that I can help them get? This is how I like to repay heartfelt honesty and genuine sharing. I love it so much, that it inspires even selfish old me to get up and do something for someone else.

I love to create characters because I get to see what is in their heart. I don’t have to talk to them or wheedle it out of them (though I do interview them, sometimes). I DO have to develop it like a regular, real-world relationship though, sometimes. Some characters don’t want you to see in their heads. They want to play around, they want you to write a few scenes about them before you can see what makes them tick.

Other characters are easier to get to know.

The point is, I get to see the contents of the characters’ hearts, and from there, it fuels my writing. The characters who I feel that I really “see” as people, are the characters that really feel alive and are really appreciated by my readers. By appreciated I don’t mean liked, necessarily; I’ve written some unlikeable characters in believable ways, and had my readers tell me that they loved how that character was written, or loved scenes with him or her, even if they disliked the character’s personality or actions.

When I set out to write a character who is a man or a boy (my gender-opposite, in case you didn’t know), I don’t make a big deal about it. I don’t fret over, how can I make this character sound like a male voice instead of a female voice. I focus more on studying what makes my character tick, and start writing.

Later on though, sometimes I do worry about my male character’s sounding feminine. For example, right now I’m working on an epic fantasy book. It features a main male character who is very gentle and serene. He believes in nonviolent communication very much, and tries his best to help people, even those who may have mistreated him. He believes in an optimistic view as much as he can, and he is also a big believer in Fate. All of these serve to make him “in touch with his feminine side”, you could say. He’s in touch with his emotions and forthcoming about them, and enjoys nurturing others.

So, I worry that these qualities which are seen as feminine in our world today will make people think my male MC is a pansy. But I hold by his personality, because there are certain incidents and facts of his history that have made him have those so-called “feminine” qualities.

We come to my challenge then: How to make this male character appealing to male readers, even though he shows more feminine personality traits than male?

Perhaps I’m stereotyping. Really, that’s what it is. After all, there are sensitive men out there. They smash all stereotypes. They do exist! So perhaps I should not worry about it so much.

I have no conclusion to make on this, really, because…I still worry about that male MC. He’s not likely to change toooo much over the course of revising the first draft (or subsequent drafts), unless someone really balks about something in his character. Hopefully, he’ll be a success and loved even though he’s unusual…*I* certainly love him. (That’s another fun topic worth exploring – loving one’s characters as if they are real!)

We may think we have our ducks – er, our characters – all lined up in a row and figured out…even Snoopy thinks so! (Snoopy writes his gender-opposite, too).

Another story of mine features two male characters as the mains. For some reason I feel more confident about their believability and their draw towards male readers, in comparison to my mage character. I think it’s because I was able to get in their heads really well. When I write either of them, it pretty much just flows without too much overthinking.

Funnily enough, these two male MCs that I write more easily were never officially profiled, whereas the mage MC has a long character profile. So here’s another topic I might take up the challenge of: What makes one story flow more easily, and how helpful is it to write stream of conscious versus planning out scenes, dialogue, etc.?

What about you? Have you written your gender-opposite, and what was your experience? What do think about reading something in the viewpoint of your gender-opposite? Are you yay or nay for this type of writing in YA fiction?

Also, votes are welcome as far as what topic I should write on next. Is there something that you’re curious about in the writing craft world? Should I say more on my own stories? Is there a topic you find confusing or rarely discussed that you would like light shed on?

Until next time,

Chaitanya