Tempests and Slaughter

- Tamora Pierce

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy 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 begins to realize 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.

Series / Genres:

My Review:

almost perfect:

“Please don’t say that,” Arram begged. “If you won’t tell me why—”
I will not. You have a destiny. You aren’t allowed to know it.

If I was rating this based on how excited I was to have another series in this universe, it’d be five stars all day. I can’t go beneath four, this is too precious, but I am aware I’m highly biased.

Tempests and Slaughter feels like a step between the Tortall and Emelan universes with a dash of Harry Potter. Young mages at school with powers beyond their years. Really the only thing holding this book in the Tortall universe is the already established characters. If Arram, Ozorne, and Varice were unknowns, it would be easy to believe we were in Emelan. Likely because the only school/training we’ve seen in Tortall has been knight or Puppy training, I more easily associate university/magic training with Winding Circle. All of the lightning magic certainly supported the allusion, as did Arram helping the potency of the dried plants used in healing to have more strength, totally channelling Tris and Briar. Add in three young students getting into scrapes and tackling advanced magic and suddenly we’ve arrived at Hogwarts.

I could easily have read page after page of Arram’s daily lessons and awkward situations. Lucky for me, the meandering plot provided just that. I’m not entirely sure if there was a purpose here, but I was happy to keep reading. There never seemed to be a climax or a significant plot point or a true ending, but suddenly it was over. I thought it was just the end of another chapter but when I turned the page, that was it.

The Sarge appearances were wonderful, I wish there were more. I’m hoping we get to see more of him, and maybe some insight into his departure, if the second book in the series is ever published. And more Lindhall, so much more Lindhall. Actually, I wouldn’t say no to more of all of Arram’s teachers. I will say, this book has convinced me to like Varice, a task I thought impossible after Emperor Mage. Tristan and Gissa also make an appearance. Gissa is a bit of a non-entity but Tristan is every bit as terrible as you expect after reading Wolf-Speaker. I enjoyed the sly nods to the original Cooper family from the Provost’s Dog series – learning Beka and Farmer must have named a kid after Rosto was a true highlight.

Unfortunately, Tempests and Slaughter trips over several mistakes so common in prequels:
➟ You can’t go back in time and give the characters all the information they obviously don’t have in the future. Wild magic, animal gods, the Graveyard Hag. All incredibly conveniently experienced or discussed throughout the book.
➟ The exact opposite is even more frustrating – you can’t establish new lore or information in a prequel that’s never mentioned again.
➥ Lightning snakes?! Way too magical and incredible to never be mentioned again in nineteen published works within the Tortall universe.
➥ All of Arram’s devotion to healing and “repaying the Gods for our Gift” and do we ever see Numair heal anything? In fact, in Wild Magic, his exact quote is:

The problem is that as a warrior-mage my talents are limited, and I have no healing magic at all.

We’ve got almost 500 pages here that stand in contradiction to this. I’m not sure if the plan in the rest of the series is to somehow erase this knowledge or skill but I have no idea how you would even do that. And if you do, why did we spend so much freaking time reading about Arram healing over and over again, forcing himself to be in heartbreaking and nauseating situations that would have no bearing on his future?
➟ You can’t keep pushing more and more foreshadowing on us when we already know what happens. There would be nothing wrong with just letting Ozorne be a sweet boy or teenager and have what happens later turn him into the monster he becomes. You don’t have to keep pushing the ‘Ozorne the dick’ narrative every time he’s mentioned. Even with how starved for friendship Arram was when they met, he wouldn’t have remained friends with Ozorne year after year if he was always a massive douche.

So yes, there were a few problems here. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment of another addition to the Tortall universe or new insight into Numair’s history. I’m keen for more but am not holding my breath. I know the publishing date for this one was postponed several times and we’re already past the expected publication date for the second book with only a rumour that August 2021 may be what we should be anticipating. Pierce has left herself a lot of loose ends to weave together to make sense before the end of this series; I’ve got high hopes and my fingers crossed.

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