Tempests and Slaughter (Numair Chronicles #1)
By: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
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.
Guys, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this book. I’ve been a Tamora Pierce fan since I was about ten and first discovered the Alanna books, and I largely credit her with helping me survive middle school. As such, when I heard there would be ARCs of Tempest and Slaughter at YALLfest, I pretty much grabbed Em and screamed ‘I NEED IT’ at her. And, like the amazing co-blogger she is, she made sure I got one.
For context, Tempests and Slaughter is a prequel of sorts. We first meet the main character, Numair Salmalin, in her Wild Magic series, where he is introduced to Daine and then takes her on as a student. He’s a lanky, awkward, sarcastic thirty-something who happens to be one of the greatest magic users in the world, although in this series he’s on the run from his once-friend the Emperor of Carthak. His feud with Ozorne becomes a major plot point in Book 3, where Daine gets embroiled in it. But, in Tempests and Slaughter, we first meet him as a ten-year-old named Arram Draper, who was sent to study in Carthak because of the already formidable extent of his magic.
For readers already fans of Tamora Pierce, this is definitely one of her works. The pace is slow, with a lot of world-building, but in a way that’s clearly laying a path for more intense drama further on in the series. It reads a lot like the first Alanna/Kel books, with lots of descriptions of Arram’s life as a student–the classes he takes, the structure of the university, and the current politics of the day. But, although the pace is very slow and methodical, I enjoyed it. Part of my enjoyment, though, was in seeing ‘easter eggs’ that show up in Emperor Mage–meeting Lindhall and his pets, for instance, or Ozorne’s master Chioke. A lot of background that is hinted at in later books is being carefully elaborated on, even while being placed in a framework that will feel very familiar for readers of Tamora’s knight books.
One thing that kept me interested was the building of the relationship between Arram, Ozorne and Varice–a triangle that adds to the tension in Emperor Mage, but apparently starts when they’re all 11-13. I really liked the chemistry–Ozorne, verging between benevolent and autocratic, but generally looking out for Arram, even as Arram entertains Ozorne and appeals to his better half. And Varice, the balance in between them, is sweet and sunny, so adept at gracefully defusing a situation that you might forget she’s just as formidable a mage as either of them. What fascinated me is how well Tamora fills in the gaps–I enjoyed their relationship as children, but I can also see exactly how they ended up where they did in Emperor Mage, the ways in which their perfect bond is absolutely going to fracture.
I’ll be honest, I also loved Arram’s character. I mean, Numair was one of the characters I really adored–funny, sarcastic, joking, but in a way that made it clear his smart mouth was one of the ways he guarded a heart that cared deeply. Baby (well, middle school/teen) Arram makes me feel like someone needs to protect him from the world. He’s so innocent, with such a deep well of empathy, that it makes my heart hurt to guess what Tamora has in store for him. I adored his sense of wonder and curiosity about magic, the ways in which he always worked to make everyone’s life better. He’s the scrawny little nerdboy that just can’t help but make your heart melt. (This is, by the way, demonstrated in the book via various little scenes of high school ‘dating’ awkwardness. Arram can’t help but attract girls, but he doesn’t really know what to do with them, and it’s awkward and hilarious and adorable).
But, especially further on in the book, there’s a dark undercurrent that feels like it’ll come to an explosive finish. The Emperor’s heirs are mysteriously dying, whispers and plots and lies abound, and Arram has more than a knack for attracting divine attention. Adding to that, Tamora Pierce continues with strong themes dealing with slavery, women’s rights and the abuse of power. But what with the slow pace of this book, I thought that this would be at least a trilogy–nope, there’s just one more book in the Numair Chronicles. I’m more than a little excited to see, not how things end (I already know that), but the journey.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.