‘Tempests and Slaughter’ by Tamora Pierce; Fabulous First Book in a New Series, ‘The Numair Chronicles’

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Tamora Pierce’s fans are legion. But if you haven’t read one of this master of fantasy’s many books, this is the perfect time to start and the perfect book to start with: “Tempests and Slaughter.” It’s the first book in a new series, and it’s a prequel to some of the other books about the Tortall universe.

As with all of Pierce’s books, the characters feel quite authentic, and each of the three main characters is unique.  Each one demonstrates very human weaknesses and strengths. Pierce is fabulous at hinting at events to come through characters’ actions and dialogue — just subtle hints at deeper character traits.

The reader first meets the main character, Arram Draper, when he is ten years old. He’s at the gladiator arena with his father and grandfather. He gets into trouble when he wanders off on his own and ends up falling into the arena. A kind slave, Musenda, and a lovely elephant, Ua, help him get back to safety. This event is just the first example of Pierce introducing characters who later become important in the story.

Arram is a student at the School for Mages, where he studies magic and his Gift. He soon comes to realize that his Gift is special and very powerful, and he is rewarded with special classes and studies. He also makes two very special friends, Varice and Ozorne. The three students’ backgrounds and talents are very different, but they become best friends — inseparable through their student years.

Varice is a master at kitchen magic while Ozorne, an heir to the Emperor’s throne, albeit a distant one, is interested in battle magic. He wants to avenge his father’s death, and he hates those from the country where his father was killed. Arram loves animals and wants to be a healer. Despite their differences, the three are determined to stay together always.

The plot is filled with twists and turns, and while there are many characters and many threads of the plot to consider, just like one of Varice’s creative and scrumptious meals, all the different parts come together deliciously. This first book in the series has a lovely ending, with just a hint of irony in the very last sentence — another subtle, or not-so-subtle, teaser of things to come.

For a book that will keep you enthralled and rapt, definitely start “Tempests and Slaughter” by Tamora Pierce this summer. And be prepared for the next book in the series!

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Random House Books for Young Readers, the publisher, for review purposes.

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