Tempests and Slaughter: The Numair Chronicles, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Tempests and Slaughter: The Numair Chronicles, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Strong characters, murder fill exciting magic-academy tale.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Tempests and Slaughter is set in a fantasy world, so doesn't directly address knowledge and issues in our world. But many issues and social problems from our history also occur there, and the story brings the reality and human costs home to the reader.

Positive messages

Friendship, loyalty, kindness, and duty are strong forces that help the young protagonists deal with the dangers of their lives. Also hard work, study, and quick thinking.

Positive role models & representations

Lead character Arram is studious, hardworking, a loyal friend who tries to do right. Studying to be a healer, he's compassionate, kind, self-sacrificing. He's troubled that his friends Varise and Ozorne, from a part of the empire that has slavery, see nothing wrong with the practice. Varise is clever, kindhearted, courageous. Ozorne, who's getting precariously closer to the throne as other heirs are murdered, worries about balancing statecraft and society with friendship.

Violence

Some gore, especially involving gladiators and their often fatal injuries. A lot more violence built into the fictional world, especially slavery, brutal treatment of many slaves, including enslaved gladiators whose only escape is death. A series of murders is an important plot element; teen characters may be targets. An enslaved female gladiator who's eventually killed says that that life is better than her childhood of being married off at 10 to an older man who raped her repeatedly.

Sex

Many minor characters involved in romantic relationships and marriages, some with same-sex partners. Several quick kisses and a long-deferred romantic one between two teen characters; there's also some attention to the anatomical awkwardness of male puberty, and numerous references to penises, prostitutes, adultery, promiscuity, couples sneaking off to closets.

Language

Occasional references to dung, piss, turds, anuses.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Adult and teen characters drink wine and other alcohol; mood-altering potions and drugs are part of the healing arts.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tempests and Slaughter is the first book in a new series by best-selling author Tamora Pierce, set in her medieval fantasy world of Tortall. Best known for her strong heroines, Pierce builds this story around a male lead character, Arram, who's 10 (and lying about his age) when we first meet him as a student at the Imperial University of Carthak, where he's developing his magical powers and studying the healing arts. There's a lot going on in this page-turner: war, poisoning, slavery, gladiators hacking one another to death, heirs to the throne getting murdered, lots of magic, a couple of gods who take an interest in Arram -- and likable, kindhearted teens dealing with the challenges of puberty and romance. Issues like slavery are heavy and intense, and there's frequent gore and violence in and out of the arena. But there's also a lot of humor, positive messages, and relatable situations in the adventures of these young student mages.

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What's the story?

TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER finds young, magically gifted Arram Draper narrowly escaping death, thanks to a gladiator, just before he takes up his studies at the Imperial University of Carthak. There, the studious 10-year-old (who says he's 11) becomes best friends with two slightly older students: pretty Varice, who's especially good with potions and looking out for her friends, and Prince Ozorne, a formerly insignificant royal who keeps getting closer to the throne as the other heirs meet untimely deaths. Over the next several years, the three develop their skills, pursue their studies, and keep a strong friendship while dealing with hazards that range from murder and palace intrigue to puberty and crushes, with assorted adults and the occasional god taking an interest.

Is it any good?

Tamora Pierce returns to Tortall with a promising new teen magician series, as young Arram and his friends deal with murderous plots, magical forces, social injustice, and the perils of puberty. Tempests and Slaughter is an exciting, entertaining ride, with serious issues along the way, epic conflicts, frequent laughs, and a satisfying conclusion that sets up the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why stories about magical academies, and the kids who study there, are so popular. What other examples can you think of? How does Tempests and Slaughter measure up?

  • Author Tamora Pierce is best known for her strong female heroes. Why do you think she decided to make her main character here a boy -- and how do you think she did?

  • Does the treatment of slavery in Tempests and Slaughter give you any new insight into that real-life period in U.S. history?  What's life like for enslaved people?

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