# of Pages: 455
Time it took me to read: 5 days
# of pages a day to finish in a week: 65 pgs
Rating: 5 out of 5
Long before Tortall ever knew him as the master mage Numair Salmalin, he was a boy named Arram Draper, one young mage among many at the University of Carthak. Arram always knew he was more advanced than his peers, having been the youngest in all his classes since he began school. But when an extraordinary event draws the eye of every master mage in the academy, his life is changed forever. He is placed on a unique course of study along with the first real friends he’s ever had: Varice, who is as beautiful and charismatic as she is powerful, and Ozorne, last in a long line of heirs to the throne of Carthak, but the first mage born in his line for generations. Arram finally feels at home at the University as his studies become more advanced with every term and he grows into his power. As they grow, Arram and his friends must come to terms with the fact that things are not always as they seem, and despite each of them holding extraordinary power, sometimes one is not always in control of their own destiny.
So, as a fan of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe for over a decade, when I heard she was releasing a prequel about one of my favorite characters in said universe, I knew I had to have it. Despite her books being categorized as “middle reader”, I truly don’t think that one will ever be able to “grow out” of Tamora Pierce’s stories. This review may or may not turn into a fangirl rant about Tamora Pierce, and if so I apologize in advance (sorry not sorry).
I’ll start out by saying that anyone who is a fan of Song of the Lioness quartet or The Immortals quartet will love this story. Even though this book takes place many years before these series, it somehow feels right that this story has been written after them, as it is rich and matured perfectly. I believe there is no other character in all of the Tortall universe who deserves a series detailing his backstory than Numair (Arram).
For those of you who haven’t read Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals quartet (which, by the way, you absolutely should go out and do), it’s a series about a girl named Daine who has a very unique kind of magic, called wild magic, that allows her to communicate with animals and even, as her power is harnessed, transform into them. The series follows her and her teacher, Numair Salmalin, likely the most powerful mage in the world, through their adventures. In this series, Numair is a fully developed master mage, while Daine is his untrained pupil. In Tempests and Slaughter, we go back to Numair’s childhood, before he was powerful enough to have chosen a mage name, and is merely Arram Draper, the son of a tailor.
The biggest compliments I think I can pay this author regarding this book are a) I think only Tamora Pierce could make a book all about going to school exciting, and b) all I wanted to do upon finishing this book was go back and read The Immortals again, even though I’ve definitely read them within the last two years. Pierce’s books are just ones that you can return to over and and over again, and it just feels like going home. The Immortals and Song of the Lioness are up there among the ranks of the few series that I’ve read in their entirety more than twice.
Arram, as he grows from a young boy to a young man, is a wonderful character who you cannot help but admire. He is intelligent and determined, but at the same time absentminded and nerdy at times in a way that is totally relatable. Seeing him with his best friends Varice and Ozorne is wonderful, as they are unique and compelling characters in their own rights, but bittersweet and heartbreaking if you’ve read The Immortals (I promise, that’s the only spoiler I’ll give).
And, like I said earlier, despite the fact that this is literally a book about a kid going to school, it is fast paced and engaging throughout. The same could be said for Harry Potter and Hogwarts, but the difference is this book is really about the classes and the teachers and the actual magic that is happening. Harry Potter is a series that takes place at a school: Tempests and Slaughter is a book about school.
And a note about the Tortall universe in general: the world that Pierce builds is just stunning. The different countries, Tortall, Carthak, Tyra, the Yamani Islands, all are rich with their own histories and cultures. This universe also has its own unique gods and magical creatures, all of whom are known and worshipped to varying degrees. Despite being books for “middle readers”, Tamora Pierce does not do any sort of “dumbing down” or avoiding of difficult subjects in her stories. She discusses all the most difficult parts of growing up, both for boys and for girls, such as getting your first period and, erm, unfortunately timed erections for pubescent boys. She also includes characters of all races, genders, and sexualities. In fact Alanna the Lioness, who’s story I was exposed to at age 12, has multiple sexual partners throughout her story, all out of wedlock, and she is never shamed or has any personal guilt about not being “pure” when she finally does decide to settle down. Tamora’s stories gave me something so very valuable as a young girl that is pretty difficult for me to put into words, but I’ll say simply as this: Tamora Pierce taught me that women, no matter what their backgrounds or personal opinions, are all powerful in their own way and deserving of nothing but respect. And I will always thank her for that.
Anyway, I know that devolved into a fangirl rant, and again I’m not sorry. Moral of the story, if you haven’t read Tamora Pierce before, get your butt out there and pick up Alanna: The First Adventure. And if you have read Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books before, but it’s been a while, never fear: Tempests and Slaughter is a great way to dive back in. Though I’m always going to recommend reading the Tortall books in the order that they were published, one is perfectly able to start reading these books for the first time chronologically with Tempests and Slaughter. It’ll certainly get you engaged and excited to read all the rest of them.
If you liked Tempests and Slaughter, try: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Defy by Sara B Larson
Graceling by Kristin Cashore