Sunday, 9 September 2018


Hello, muffins! Long time no read. I hope you've all had a wonderful *cough* four months since I posted last. If you're inferring from the fact that I'm posting again that the first draft of Selkie Book is finally (finally FINALLY) finished you are a very clever muffin indeed - and you are correct!


95,000 words, 322 pages, bucketloads of snow, some ships, some icebergs, some bears, some rather more unusual creatures, a sprinkling of moon magic, and a warm, gooey centre of intersectional Feminism - oh my! My tenth novel since becoming a published writer. Let's hope it finds a home and I can share it with you... soon-ish. I may post a snippet and some other stuff next week, if the spirit moves me.

In the meantime, though, a book review!

The legend begins.

In the ancient halls of the Imperial University of Carthak, a young man has begun his journey to becoming one of most powerful mages the realm has ever known. Arram Draper is the youngest student in his class and has the Gift of unlimited potential for greatness . . . and of attracting danger.

At his side are his two best friends: clever Varice, a girl too often-overlooked, and Ozorne, the ‘leftover prince’ with secret ambitions. Together, these three forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. But as Ozorne inches closer to the throne and Varice grows closer to Arram's heart, Arram realizes that one day – soon – he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, fans of Tamora Pierce will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom's future rests on the shoulders of a boy with unimaginable gifts and a talent for making deadly enemies.

NOTE: This is as close to spoiler free as I can make it and still maintain coherency; anyone who's read the Immortals Quartet or the Protector of the Small books ought to be just fine. If you're a Pierce newbie, it'll depend on your personal tolerance for hints. You've been warned, my lovelies.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get a copy of TEMPESTS & SLAUGHTER on NetGalley - Tamora Pierce's latest young adult book, set in her famous Tortall fantasy universe.

Obviously I was ecstatic since, as longtime Dear Readers know, Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet is the reason I'm a young adult novelist. Ms Pierce is *that* influential. And for those of us who worship her as she deserves, it feels like about a decade since her last full-length novel release (in reality, MASTIFF, the final book of the Beka Cooper Trilogy, her last series set in Tortall, came out in 2011).

But TEMPESTS & SLAUGHTER was giving me a slightly conflicted feeling because it's the first book of the Numair Chronicles - a prequel trilogy about the early life of one of her beloved characters from her Immortals Quartet, Numair Salmalin, otherwise known as Arram Draper.

Why the conflict? Because Arram/Numair's early life is actually covered pretty thoroughly in books I've already read (and re-read and re-read again). He is the second most prominent character of the Immortals Quartet - which is probably my second favourite of all Ms Pierce's Tortall series - and his history is a pivotal part of the plot. The books tell us where he grew up, what he did and who his best friends were, as well as just how those relationships developed. It's a central part of the plot.

I don't have any objection to getting more depth and information about Numair! I love Numair! But I did have kind of squinky feeling about heading into a whole new series of books where I needed to invest myself in the characters and the plot when I knew, going in, exactly how it was all going to turn out. How it would end. I worried I just wouldn't be able to get into any of it, that it would feel hollow, or inevitable. More like a collection of Easter Eggs than a real story.

Well, I shouldn't have worried. Tamora Pierce's exceptional strength as a storyteller has always been her ability to create the most beautifully realised, well-rounded characters - and then build relationships between them on the page which allow them to evolve and develop in direct relation to each other in all these unexpected, simply unforgettable ways. It's miraculous. And as a result, this book sucked me in from the very first page.

Compared to many of her works it's not a high action epic, though there is plenty of incident within it, ranging from training mishaps caused by Arram, whose power is simply too great for someone so young to fully control, through unexpected encounters with animal gods, all the way up to an attempted slave revolt. Arram even gets an unusual animal companion in classic Pierce style.

But this isn't a book that's about plot. It's a book deeply rooted in relationships, in watching relationships change and grow - and the relationship between Varice, Ozorne and Arram was so unexpectedly sincere and joyful that I couldn't put the book down. It didn't seem hollow. It seemed multi-faceted and nuanced and fascinating and, honestly, my heart broke a little bit for all of them. My knowledge of all these people's eventual fates only added depth and poignancy.

Meeting younger and less hardened versions of other such significant characters as Tristan, Chioke, Princess Mahira, and Lindhall, and having the chance to see the beginning of Ozorne's rise as well as the beginning of his descent was merely the icing on that compelling cake.

Which is a good thing, because this book ends just when things are rising to a point of high tension. Arram has made a fateful decision about his future, feelings between two of the central trio of friends have finally been declared, and Ozorne is beginning to display not only signs of the violent instability which will later have such disastrous consequences for Carthak and the whole world, but also a kind of burgeoning ambition that makes me suddenly re-evaluate his motives throughout the book. Arram is still Arram - he hasn't picked out his rather more ostentatious mage name yet - and he's still a mere student at the university, along with Varice and Ozorne.

I was stunned when I realised the book ended there. It felt, to put it mildly, a bit abrupt. But on thinking about it, I know why the writer chose to finish at that point: in a strange way, the events which finish the book are the beginning of the end for Arram's life as he has known it. The next book, surely, will chart his final examinations at the university - the acknowledgment that the odd young Draper boy is, in fact, the most powerful magic user in Carthak - as well as Ozorne's rise to the throne of Carthak. And anyone who's read the Immortals knows how that goes.

This book was the idealistic dream of three friends who only wanted to be together, to learn magic, and to live in peace far from the violence and machinations of the court of Carthak. I suspect that the next book will be a crashing and non-stop battle with reality for Arram, including that world-altering event Pierce fans know is coming and both dread and anticipate.

I HOPE so, anyway, because the part of the story that has always interested me most is Numair's escape, his arrival and early years in Tortall, and his eventual meeting with the influential people there which leads to all the events of the Immortals Quartet. For those events to be done justice, they really want a whole book. And, even knowing how it all turns out? I definitely want to read it RIGHT NOW.

If you're a Pierce fan, let me know how you feel about this book in the comments! Otherwise, tell me what you'd like to see in a post about selkie book (aesthetics? Playlist? Snippets?) and I'm more likely to put something together for next week :)


Phoenixgirl said...

I hope you'll still see this even though I'm commenting months later, but I just re-read Tempests and Slaughter and realized I'd never commented on this post...

Before this book came out I remember you were worried that Tamora Pierce would try to make excuses for Ozorne, but as you said in the post, she did an expert job with a very complicated character. The reader can see why Arram and Varice like him, but it's also made very clear that he's already more obsessive and unstable than they're willing to admit.

A lot of the traits we see in the adult Numair are recognizable in young Arram, especially his insatiable curiosity about all things magical and scholarly (and now we know where he learned to juggle!). I'm looking forward to seeing him develop further into the character we know. I want to find out what happens with Musenda, too - I squeed when I realized who he was!

Zoë Marriott said...

I've seen it, Phoenix! :) Thanks for commenting. I still can't quite get my head around Mesenda, I think because I always saw Sarge as a bit scary and I immediately wanted to squish Musenda. Congnitive dissonance!

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