Tempests and Slaughter, by Tamora Pierce
Let me begin this review by saying that Tamora Pierce is my literary hero. Not only did she inspire me to become a reader, but also a writer. I think she singlehandedly changed the face of young adult fiction and is the master at writing strong female protagonists. And the tv series based in her beloved Tortall is long overdue, as far as I am concerned, and I am praying something comes of this from Lionsgate.
With all that said, I'm a bit uncomfortable to have to share that her newest addition to the Tortall collection, Tempests and Slaughter, which follows the early years of Arram Draper (the future Numair) as he attends mage school in Carthak, is a bore. I've seen reviews that compare it to Harry Potter, but I didn't really get that sense. It has a different flavour, certainly, and being a huge fan of this universe I did enjoy the continuous world building. But, there was no central plot or conflict to bring this overly long tome together.
The structure is set up around Arram's school calendar, which he starts at the age of 10 and quickly becomes known as a top power. Soon he befriends Ozorne and Varice, both slightly older and ready to bring the magelet under their wing. The three new mages are each very talented and rise through the ranks of the school, soon to be taught individually by their teachers and bypassing all their less-powerful students (to some jealousy, obviously). The three are very close and kind to each other, but Ozorne is an heir to the Carthak throne, and he becomes ever closer to power as other heirs are killed off one by one. This foreshadows conflict which we expect to come in later books in the series.
However, in Tempests we plod along with Arram year by year as he attends classes. There is a lot of description of the classes, and his instructors. There is also a lot of descriptions of his crush on Varice, and his worries about his "member," which I could have lived without, tbh. So much description without a reason or point.
About two-thirds of the way in, something exciting happens, and I was into it. It's about magic, and the succession of the throne, and murder and secrets. Amazing. Pierce has always been really good about secret plots for the thrones. But then, somehow, this whole plot line just kind of ... fizzled. And the climax was a wtf blink that didn't have anything to do with the awesome secret plot for the throne. I was left soooo disappointed.
Will I read the next book in this series? Of course I will, I'm not so fickle as all that. But all in all Tempests read an awful lot like nearly 500 pages of exposition of another, more exciting book. I would like to read that book next, please.