TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER by Tamora Pierce. Review


HarperVoyager. h/b. £12.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Arram Draper is desperate to see the gladiators, even if everyone says he is too young. This may be his only chance to get there before he returns to the academy and he is fuelled by the determination of youth. At the first glimpse of a beautifully adorned elephant he knows he has made it, but for Arram the games turn out to be not exactly what he had in mind. This rare outing with his father and his grandfather, precious because he never really fitted in with his family, exposes the young student to the realities that had always before been cloaked in glamour. He may not have enjoyed the battle, but that does not mean he is not brave.

Autumn term comes around too fast and he finds himself back at the School for Mages, the gladiators and the horrors of battle behind him… for now. But it is not all smooth sailing. Despite his young years Arram is strong. Stronger than he can control, it seems, as his power breaches the safeguards of the classroom. It is not the first time he has inadvertently proven his potential, but will it be the last?

This first book in the Numair Chronicles is the languid setting of Arram’s tale, a boy who we are assured will become the most powerful mage of his kind. It moves at a satisfying pace, allowing ample time for the reader to immerse themselves in this world and become situated in Arram’s life as he takes the first steps towards becoming a man and becoming a mage with all the privileges of healing magic and the burdens it comes with.

Through the eyes of Arram, young and naïve in the ways of the world as he is, Pierce explores slavery, with all its brutality and heartbreak, in a gladiatorial setting, striking a delicate balance between explicit detail and unspoken implication, which will introduce young readers to the true cruelty of human history as they share Arram’s realisation and abhorrence of the practices of his society.

With such page space dedicated to setting the scene for the young protagonist’s life to come, we are promised a new saga on an epic scale from one of young adult fantasy’s favourite authors. Those already familiar with Pierce’s previous works set in Tortall will enjoy this character’s new beginnings, and newcomers will not be hindered by a lack of background knowledge.