I received Tempests and Slaughter as an ARC, and was super excited. Firstly, Harper Voyager have published some of my all-time favourite books. So, ok, maybe I was fan-girling a little… And I have fond memories of reading Tamora Pierce books as a kid. Unfortunately, I have to be honest and say I didn’t love it.
The problem for me was the writing. The plot itself could have been great: kid goes to magic school, is initially a screw up and an outcast, but then he grows into his magic, makes friends and saves the world. Who hasn’t read a great version of that story? However, the writing here is very formulaic, more like lists of things people did or saw or said, which doesn’t make for interesting reading. And it’s also very slow. Slow to the point where it feels like nothing really happens. But I was thinking about it after I’d read it, and things do in fact happen… it’s quite a trick to make you feel like nothing happens, which it’s happening…
The characters were classic tropes you’ve seen before: the prince, the outcast with magical powers, the female friend. Only, you’ve seen it done better elsewhere. The character development is pretty limited, and the relationships between them develop astonishingly quickly. It just didn’t feel plausible. A prince meets a merchant’s son, who is universally despised at the school and being bullied, and just suddenly decides to be-friend him for no reason? On the recommendation of someone who met him for 10 minutes, once? And the royal family is totally ok with a prince hanging around with commoners? I mean… I don’t buy it. And once they’ve made friends, that’s pretty much it for character development. That’s where they stop.
I have to say, I didn’t dislike the characters. If they had been a little more fleshed out, and challenged in new ways, I think they could have been interesting. But even if this book is for young, young adults – children are brutal little beasts. They want to see something happen to their favourite characters. Usually something gory or heroic. They want them to feel like real people, for which we needed more detail and more growth.
The worldbuilding was ok. Again, it could have been really great, but just missed the mark. I needed more description, more use of the world elements to test the characters and plot in different ways. We needed more politics and drama. I did like the way it had a Roman-feel, and I thought that was new and interesting. If the whole Roman thing had been better developed and was more detailed and rounded, played out more, it would have been excellent.
In Tempests and Slaughter, the author has clearly tried to sandwich in some modern themes. We have gay characters and some brief description of what might happen if they “came out”, as well as some homophobic slang thrown around as insults. We have a class system which is used to put the characters down, and there’s a racial element to it as well. However, none of it is well developed or central to the plot. And then there’s the issues with puberty… I mean, it was just cringy… All this talk of his “member” and what it was doing for the first time… It was hard to read (no pun intended).
All in all, although I liked the characters and felt the plot and worldbuilding showed promise, I thought the writing lacked sophistication and colour. I’m sorry to say, I found it a little boring. If it hadn’t of been an ARC, I would have DNF’d it. It was a bit disappointing.