Prequel to Tamora Pierce’s fantasy series “Immortals”
Content warning: slavery
I was an avid reader of this author’s books when I was young, especially the “Song of the Lioness” and “The Immortals“. A few years ago I was interested to see that a new prequel series for “The Immortals”, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it. My fantasy book club is full of Tamora Pierce fans (in fact, one of our questions to join our group is about Tamora Pierce!) so I decided to nominate this book for our next meeting.
“Tempests and Slaughter” by Tamora Pierce is a young adult fantasy novel and the first in the “The Numair Chronicles”, a prequel series to “The Immortals”. The story is about a young boy called Arram Draper, the son of a merchant, who is accepted as the youngest student at the Imperial University of Carthak. Ambitious and talented, Arram struggles to control his immense power and when he is accelerated through his studies, he struggles even more to navigate the politics of the older students and the mages who teach them. When he makes friends with Ozorne, the “leftover prince”, and the underestimated Varice, the merchant’s son is set on a path to becoming the most powerful mage in the kingdom and enmeshed in political intrigue.
This is gently paced book that explores the magic and worldbuilding of the Tortall world in even greater depth. Pierce has always been an inclusive writer, and this book is even more so. The story follows the typical magic school format, however the school is novel in that classes are individualised and students progress at their own pace. I really enjoyed how Pierce links the skills and self-restraint Arram learns connect with elements of the plot, and I especially enjoyed the chapters where he was working with animals. Pierce revisits locations throughout the city as Arram ages and matures, and together with Arram the reader begins to view the city and the kingdom with a more critical eye.
It has been a long time since I read “The Immortals”, so it did feel like I was re-entering the world with fresh eyes. One thing I struggled with a bit with this book was to identify who the intended audience was: older fans of Pierce’s works, or readers of young adult fiction today. Pierce wove in a lot of elements into this story: magic, murder mystery, political intrigue, and social issues (including class and slavery), and sometimes the complexity meant that the focus felt a little blurred.
An enjoyable story that steadily unfurls and lays the foundations for “The Immortals”.