Title: Tempests and Slaughter
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Numair Chronicles #1
Arram Draper is the youngest student at the University of Carthak. Thanks to his powerful Gift and boundless curiosity, he’s learning more than he ever could have imagined. And he’s even found unlikely friendships with two other prodigies: Ozorne, who has connections to the Imperial family, and Varice, who wants to specialize in kitchen magics. But underneath everyday life at the university, sinister plots are brewing against the Imperial line.
This is the magical equivalent to the Alanna and Kel series. Arram’s magical curriculum actually has fairly little detail aside from the class names and broad generalities about what he studies. There isn’t much more here about how the Gift works or the techniques people use. What the story focuses on is more the school life, and the types of assignments Arram takes on, like learning healing firsthand at a plague center when disease strikes.
It helps to have read the Daine quartet beforehand but isn’t strictly necessary. Ozorne is a good friend to Arram, but he’s got some noticeable personality flaws that only worsen as the other heirs start dying off and pushing him closer to the throne. And his mother is crazy (possibly from grief, or possibly she’s just always been cracked), but she has enough power that no one can do anything about it.
I especially liked the mythological bits that sneak in, like Enzi, the male crocodile god. He’s probably helping Arram, in his own way, but he’s also a crocodile with a crocodile sense of humor. Preet, of course, is another highlight. I don’t wonder that she’s getting as educated as Arram in all the classes she attends with him.
I disliked the whole “let’s have a sex education talk” bit at the beginning. The book’s barely started, and pretty much the first thing that happens is Arram having erections and going through puberty. Given that the rest of the book is him so wrapped up in his studies he’s barely noticing girls, it’s especially out of place. I’m here to read an adventure, not a sex ed lecture.
Some of the cameos felt a little forced, too, although some of them were fun nods. I think the Coopers show up as the authors of three different books. Another character wasn’t obvious until his name gets revealed, and once that happens the story switches to using the more familiar name.
Overall this is another mostly solid chapter of backstory. There isn’t a whole lot done or resolved in this book, as it’s mostly Arram’s continuing education, but it’s setting up a number of things that will be more important down the road. I rate this book Recommended.