Tortall Just How I Like It || Tempests and Slaughter Review

Initial Thoughts 

Ughhhh I still have so many questions that needed answering WHY DID IT HAVE TO END?! But mostly two things. 1. I am biased to almost all things Tamora Pierce so the rating here could have easily been 5 stars because yes I effing enjoyed the book. But 2. While I absolutely adored Arram living a Harry Potter lifestyle during a fantastical medieval setting, what I was mostly left with was the desire to reread the entire Immortals series again and the desire to move on with the plot because THINGS HAPPEN OMG at the end. BUT THE QUESTIONS!

Alright I’m done.


TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER

by Tamora Pierce
Random House, February 2018
Fantasy, young adult
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

Carthaki-Bound!

You’ve got to understand this about me: I’m a die-hard Tamora Pierce fan. Back in the not-so-distant past, I went so far as to write fanfiction for certain scenarios that were never expanded upon in the Tortallan series. By the time I’d finished-slash-devoured The Immortals quartet, I was so completely enamored by the idea of Numair’s character and his meeting up with the Alanna gang that for a long time I couldn’t bring myself to read anything else. And then I started writing fanfic about it. And then I started sharing that fanfic. And then I began to get really into the details.

Fast forward almost a decade since the rumors of a Numair book has been in tow (no, seriously, I’d been promised one since 2010, dammit, and I’d heard about a possible Numair novel in the works as early as 2007…), and I can finally let out a sigh and a squee because YES, Pierce has done it once again and I cannot wait for the next book already!

Tempests and Slaughter delivers where it counted. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be Harry Potter meets the medieval times plus gladiators and slavery. You have your medieval magical school which is Carthak University. You have your golden trio of Arram, Varice, and Ozorne (though honestly, Ozorne is hardly humorous and extremely prejudiced against a certain race, and it’s Arram who’s the super nerdy know-it-all), and you have a Chosen O–actually, nope. Nah. It’s not that kind of story.

What Pierce did well was make her magical school a workable, plausible one. If the world had magic during medieval times, I’d totally buy this homage to a school system with modified and differentiated curricula (HAH! I’m using educational terminology, take that, nay-sayers!). I mean, who wouldn’t want to teach very promising and enthusiastic students on a one-on-one basis? Only in an ideally magical world, amiright?

I absolutely loved the characters in the story. Pierce has had so much writing experience under her belt by now that getting the details in is seamless for her. She always writes such interesting personalities and backgrounds, and she always delivers on strong female characters, regardless of whether the female is a kitchen witch, a slave/gladiator, or an elderly magic teacher. There are also familiar characters that have appeared in her previous books as well, and it’s really great to see them. That said, now I have to reread The Immortals series again, because there’s so much allusion to that series that I keep wanting to pick up previous books to find characters so I could make sure I knew who they were. Cannot. Deal.

That being said, I did find myself wanting more. A lot of this first book of Arram’s/Numair’s story focused on his time growing up in Carthak’s only magical school (the only other one that could boast a similarly high standard of magical education at this point is the City of the Gods in northern Tortall). At this point we really only get a glimpse of how the characters were like, what the political climate is, and how the culture and setting greatly differed from Tortall’s familiar and favorable world. Not much really happens as far as overall conflict until near the end of the novel. Not that I minded too much, but still, I would have loved to have seen more progression on the plot and wouldn’t have minded a curtailing of Arram’s in-depth studies.

Overall, though, as a fan of Pierce’s work–especially that of her Tortallan series–I’d heartily recommend this. It would not necessarily be bad to read this before getting into the other books, as timeline-wise, this probably happens concurrently or a little after Alanna: The First Adventure. Maybe I should throw in a reading guide order of the Tortall series at some point…that might be a nice idea.

4 out of 5 cookies! With all of the leading up to the next book, I absolutely cannot wait to see what Pierce has up her sleeve next!


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Skill and Slavery || Gilded Cage Review

gildedcage-review

Initial Thoughts:

Hot damn, but this was a very good book. It was DARK by the end, and now I’m bummed because I have to wait for the second book, but omg, that ending though. I can’t trust anyone in this book! And I definitely should have told myself not to get attached to people. TOO LATE DAMMIT.


GILDED CAGE

by Vic James
Del Rey, February 2017
YA fantasy, dystopia
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

gildedcageOur world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Down with the Monarchy, Down with Equality

This book took me a bit by surprise. Not so much because I’d expected it to be bad, but that I’d expected something as heady as slavery and politics to be a slow read and not at all the fast-paced narration I’d encountered in Gilded Cage. So when I started reading, there were many things that I had to soak in and think about, things that I didn’t really see coming, and characters that definitely made me go “OMG X IS REALLY Y HOW CAN I TRUST THIS LITTLE SHIT EVER AGAIN?” by the end of the book.

Luke’s little sis and her friends were careering round behind the house shrieking at the tops of their voices, while some unforgivably awful C-pop boy band blared through the living room window.

The time of the Equals. First off, I did want to point out that one of the most interesting things for me is that this particular England mirrors more of a modern England than any other time period. There are cars and magazines and TV and technology. Heck, the opening scene follows Luke and his family during his sister Daisy’s 10th birthday, and already from the first few paragraphs we are shown that the Hadleys seem to be a regular family living a routine, regular life. Luke is attempting to study for his exams, his older sister Abi is reading a smutty romance novel, and his sister Daisy is partying with her friends. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

Until, of course, we are told a page or two later that this seemingly ordinary English life is fitted within a city drenched in a history of slavery. And it is still happening as of the beginning of Gilded Cage. Instead of open rebellion against such injustice, Luke takes it in stride and mostly for granted up until his parents sign the entire family up into ten years of enslavement. Then things begin to change for the Hadley family.

Let me tell you, those first few pages in Chapter 1 were already a doozy. Imagine an England where citizenship is not allowed to non-Equals unless they consign themselves into a decade-long servitude. Imagine these non-Equals taking it for what it is and not opposing the government, because what can the Skilless really do against the Skilled Equals, whose mysterious powers are beyond their understanding. It’s pretty heavy stuff, and right then and there I was already on the mindset that things were about to get pretty dark, pretty damn fast.

“Oh, shit” indeed, Varric.

The book largely tells the story of Luke and Abi, brother and sister whose parents decided to take their entire family into the slavedays, where they and their family enter into a period of slavery in order to fulfill their citizenship obligations. Abi, evidently the smartest of the three siblings, has managed to sign her entire family up into servitude at Kynestone, the household of one of the most powerful Equal families in England. It looked like a cushy 10-year position for everyone, except for one thing. By some stroke of misfortune, Luke is separated from his family and taken to Millmoor–a town where slaves are treated like animals. Working conditions are poor, difficult, and very long at Millmoor, and to Luke, it’s only the start of what looks like the most miserable ten years of his life.

Enter the various points of view that really helped with the pacing. I had initially thought the main POVs would be that of Luke and Abi (and quite possibly Daisy, because many reviews mention her a lot), but the book itself had many more characters that were given chapter POVs. It really added a more in-depth look of the inner workings of the Skill and the characters who wield them. It also gave a more in-depth look at some of the character motivations on both sides. After all, it isn’t just Luke and Abi roaming the pages, there’s also Silyen, Euterpe, Gavar, and Bouda. At first I thought this would become problematic, considering a lot of these secondary character POVs only showed up once or twice, but honestly, their chapters helped to form the bigger picture of the world of the Equals.

Beside him, her own exams long since completed, Abi was lost in one of her favorite trashy novels. Luke gave it the side-eye and cringed at the title: Her Master’s Slave. She was nearly finished, and had another pastel-covered horror lined up. The Heir’s Temptation. How someone as smart as his big sister could read such rubbish was beyond him.

And on a related note, I totally related to Abi. Completely and utterly.

“It’s an ability, origin unknown, manifesting in a very small fraction of the population and passed down through our bloodlines. Some talents are universal, such as restoration–that is, healing. Others, such as alteration, persuasion, perception, and infliction, manifest in different degrees from person to person.”

“Magic, you could say?” Silyen offered.

Then there’s the Skill itself. As of Gilded Cage, not much is known about how it manifests in a few people, and what the limits of the Skill are. Some Skilled people are clearly kill-able, yet the how is still a little vague. In some cases, the plot conveniently kills off Skilled people in a fire. Yet others are burned and mutilated, yet somehow within minutes and quite possibly seconds, they are right as rain. There was a bit of explanation about why some siblings had a great deal of Skill while others didn’t, but it was only briefly touched upon, and not altogether fully developed. It will be interesting to see how the Skill continues to be unraveled within the later books.

In the Philippines, Skilled priests regularly repelled dangerous weather systems that threatened their islands. What were Britain’s Equals capable of? Abi wasn’t sure.

The fact that the Skill manifested within the rest of the world makes this magical system even more interesting!

…word must have gone round the whole of Zone D.

And Luke had talked it into existence.

Thinking about that made his head spin. It was almost like Skill–conjuring up something out of nothing.

“There no magic more powerful than the human spirit,” Jackson had said at the third and final club meeting. Luke was beginning to dare to hope that was true.

I couldn’t say which place had been the most interesting part of the book. On the one hand, I thought Luke was getting more action within the story, having been mistakenly thrown into Millmoor as opposed as being stuck in the Jardine household. On the other hand, a lot of political bullshittery hit the fan within the Jardine household that I almost wished Abi had taken some sort of initiative and went out of her way to find out more about the household she served. I mean, there were parts where Abi did do something, but I thought she’d been sidelined as a character who pined for someone unattainable and slaved away as a secretary. She’s much more than that, and I really hope she gets a bit more into the plot in the next book (and from the look of things, it sounds like she will be!).

Be warned: This book ends in a cliffhanger ending. And you might want to cry just a bit if you get attached to certain characters. Because OMG HEARTBREAKING THINGS HAPPEN.

You tell ’em, Meredith!

4 out of 5 cookies! Did I think the pacing work for the book? Yes, I did! Did I enjoy the politics behind it? Surprisingly, I did! Honestly, I thought Bouda Matravers played a great game, though she wasn’t the only one with far-reaching ambitions. Do I want the next book now? Ugh. Don’t talk to me about another trilogy. Because of course I want the next book now.

This book counts as #5 of the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


gildedcage-bouda

Did you read this book? What did you think?