I mentioned recently that the long (loooong) awaited new Tamora Pierce book was finally out. I got it from my library, and then (because life is busy) spent a couple weeks reading it. So how did Tempests and Slaughter, Book One of the Numair Chronicles, turn out after all this time?
Well…I should say that very few things could live up to the amount of build-up that came before this book. It reminds me of the third season of Sherlock. The answer to the worst cliffhanger I’ve ever seen had so much pressure behind it, I had little hope that the pay-off would actually work. The fact that it did was, in a meta kind of way, as satisfying as the actual answer. But I mention this because of its rarity…and this is all a big, long, almost apologetic and avoidant lead-in to saying that, after all these years of waiting, Tempests and Slaughter was, well…okay. Not a bad book! But only okay.
The tale focuses on young Arram Draper, who will someday grow up to be the Numair we know from earlier (but chronologically later) Tortall books. (Some spoilers to follow, but only if you haven’t read the Daine books.) Arram is a student mage at the great Carthaki University. He is troubled by the gladiatorial games held in Carthak, and by the acceptance of slavery within the empire, but he loves his classes and excels at them. He becomes friends with Ozorne, a minor prince of the realm, and Varice, a lively, beautiful girl Arram harbors a crush on.
I’m not sure where to stop this summary, so I guess I’ll just stop here. The dilemma points to what is in fact the weak point of the story–there’s not much story. The premise is lovely, but there’s little plot, no driving direction to the book, no strong climax to pull threads together. It’s somewhat like a Harry Potter book without Voldemort. After all these years of waiting, this book felt more like a set-up to (the promised) book two, when presumably some hinted conflicts will finally come to the forefront.
Arram is a likable character, honorable and genuinely excited by his studies. I did like reading about a magic-learning character who wants to learn. So often the trope is for the main character to be largely disengaged from learning (creating opportunities for incidents through mishaps and school stress), perhaps with a friend (hi, Hermione!) who is more scholarly. Arram has his share of mishaps, usually because his magic is too strong, and I liked his earnest desire to learn. Continue reading “Book Review: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce”