Tempest and Slaughter
by Tamora Pierce
This is a very odd book.
Like many girls in my generation, I grew up reading Tamora Pierce books, and while I don’t read them quite as religiously anymore, there are only a handful I haven’t read. This particular book was making waves before it was even published because not only is it the first time she’s written with a primary male protagonist, it’s also giving the backstory to the powerful and mysterious Numair Salmalin, the love-interest from one of her other series, The Immortals. This book is the first in a series about his youth as young Arram Draper, attending a school for magic.
The problem with any prequel, of course, is that regardless of what happens in the plot, you have a pretty good notion of how everything ends up.
But Pierce seems to have gotten around that by just deciding not to include a plot?
So there’s a lot of world-building (although much of the magic seems more similar to her Emelan universe rather than her Tortall universe where this particular book is set) and a lot of fun character interactions (although no character development), and a whole lot of foreshadowing. But no actual plot.
Like, stuff happens. But nothing ever develops.
I still enjoyed it, because I do love world-building, and Pierce is a talented writer, but… it’s just really odd to read a book without a plot.
Also, Arram was fine enough as a point of view character but he’s a bit of a goody-two-shoes in a way that I found surprisingly off-putting. It wasn’t that his ethics were wrong, in fact, they were very much on-point; it was more that they were unearned. He is a child growing up in a society that keeps slaves, and yet he is alone in wanting to speak out against it? Where did those ethics come from? What made him decide to speak out against what his friends and family who are fine with? And why are there no others that share his opinion? For all that he’s a teenager through most of the book, his ethical perspectives felt a bit like seeing a toddler at a protest rally being cute but clearly not able to truly argue the perspective.
Anyway, to sum up: interesting, but odd, with a few pointed problems. But I’ll definitely read the next book in the series to figure out what (if anything) happens next.