The queen and trailblazer of feminist young adult fantasy, Tamora Pierce returns to her medieval fantasy universe, Tortall, for the first time since completing the Beka Cooper trilogy in 2011. In "Tempests and Slaughter," the first book in her Numair Chronicles, Pierce tells the backstory of Numair Salmalin from the Immortals quartet, the mentor and friend of the main character Veralidaine Sarrasri.
At 10 years old, Numair is still known as Arram Draper and he's in training to become a mage at the Imperial University of Carthak. Even though he's already been pushed several years ahead of his age, he's bored out of his mind in his classes. When Arram nearly floods the school with his strong but uncontrolled power, the school's master mages decide to give him more private instruction.
This change puts Arram in the path of a couple other especially gifted students: Varice, who he falls instantly in love with, and Orzone, the "leftover prince" — so far back in line to inherit the emperor's throne that he might as well be forgotten. These two friendships are very fated, as any reader of the Immortals quartet knows, especially Arram's relationship with the powerful and influential Orzone.
Pierce's newest book is slow to build but is enjoyable in a Harry Potter-like way as the reader is able to watch Arram grow up, learn about magic and make friends with students and teachers. Arram is a sweet, shy boy who eventually grows to be unashamed of his values and gifts, especially when it comes to defending animals and the people who are enslaved in Carthak. His love and care for animals in particular foreshadows his future relationship with Daine, who he trains in her "wild magic" that allows her to speak to animals.
It's hard to say whether this book would be as fun for those who haven't read Pierce's previous series, but that's easy to fix by simply reading these classic novels that have shaped so much of modern young adult fantasy. On the front cover, author Sarah J. Maas refers to Pierce as "a pillar, an icon and an inspiration" — and that's hard to argue with.
Pierce only continues that legacy with "Tempests and Slaughter," and fans will be left clamoring for more.
"Tempests and Slaughter" contains little to no profanity and only mild sexual references, but does include some detailed descriptions of gore and violence.