4 / 5 Stars
A rich origin story buzzing with magic.
The first thing you need to know is that this is an origin story for a hugely popular series. Tamora Pierce’s ‘The Immortals’ series features the legendary Numair Salmalin, a powerful wizard and a massively revered character by fans.
In ‘Tempests and Slaughter’ we delve into Numair’s early years, when he was simply Arram Draper, a mage with massive potential. It appears fans of the series, and in particular of Numair, have been waiting for nearly a decade for Numair’s further adventures or indeed an insight into his early years, and now they have got it.
I wasn’t familiar with the series, or the character, but the premise interested me. A boy Wizard goes to Wizard school and meets two great friends who would go on to shape Kingdoms. Heard it all before right? Well not quite. This is no Harry Potter. In fact Numair and the world of Tortall were around before Harry Potter, even if ‘Tempests and Slaughter’ were not. If it lends itself to anything, it would be Ursula K Le Guin’s masterful ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’, where we see Ged, a peasant boy with magic, sent to the Island Of Roke to attend a school for Wizards.
I was not familiar with the series and read this as a stand-alone. I think it just about works in this way, but knowledge of the previous books would have enhanced my reading experience. I’m pretty sure Fanboys/girls would have lapped it up and whetted their appetites.
Anyhow, the story focuses on the ‘early years’ of the great mage Numair Salmalin (currently just plain Arram Draper) as he trains at the Imperial University of Carthak and befriends fellow students Ozorne, (who is very distantly in line for the Carthak throne) and the talented and beautiful Varice.
The book buzzes with magic and I enjoyed the magic system involved. The world building was rich, but a little limited, and the world seemed small and confined to a small area, mostly the university and the lessons. I imagine the subsequent novels in this series will expand on this as do the ‘Immortals’ series that came before it.
The characters are great and the relationship between the three main characters is endearing, although you do fear how this dynamic will work in the future (the fans already know!). The characters they encounter on the way from their teachers, gladiators, fellow students (to name a few) are well developed. Even The Gods pop up and interfere which is great fun.
As a stand-alone book I would say that the pacing is a little slow and that the novel is overlong. The plot is light and lacks any real threat or real enemy (although this is simmering in the background) however this is an origin story and part of a series, and I’m sure fans would disagree and allow themselves to be wrapped up in it. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to wizards and magic and thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it does have its difficulties as a stand-alone. With knowledge of the series and its rich history I’d expect this book to be a delight for all Tamora Pierce fans.
Perhaps when I’ve completed the Immortals series, as a Fanboy I will rush back and upgrade its rating to 5 stars! The author certainly has piqued my interest to seek out the other books and I guess that’s the point as well as satisfying her hordes of fans.