Tempests and Slaughter
by Tamora Pierce
Publication: February 6, 2018
Genre: YA fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars
Tempests and Slaughter is the first of the Numair Chronicles. I think my most recent Tamora Pierce read prior to this was the Protector of the Small quartet when I was about fifteen, but from what I remember (and what I’ve glimpsed in other reviews while trying not to read any spoilers), Numair is one of the most powerful mages in Tortall. Since the protagonist of Tempests and Slaughter is a preteen when the book starts, I’ve intelligently deduced that this is his origin story.
I expected to feel nostalgic during this book (see: it’s been over a decade since I read anything by Tamora Pierce, above), and I did...to an extent. Some elements of the author’s style and plot choices were recognizable, but her writing has evolved and improved with time. Protagonists with exceptional talents are a common theme in many of Pierce’s stories, and I appreciated that she succeeded in writing Arram as a prodigious child without making him one-dimensional. In part, this was because he seemed so human – he made stupid teenage mistakes, many of which were magnified by his power as a fledgling mage.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the close-knit friendship between Arram and his best friends, Varice and Ozorne. I don’t know how Pierce, now in her sixties, continues to write such believable children. (That’s not to say it’s impossible or even improbable, just that I barely remember what it was like to be eleven, so I certainly couldn’t write a character that age convincingly.) The bond between Arram and his friends reminded me of friendships I had at that age, albeit with way more magic and politics. I particularly appreciated that the book touched on mental illness with Ozorne and his mother (primarily in a “how not to” sense, but still).
The plot was a tiny bit lackluster (hence the four-star rating). The subplots, of which there were several, were all interesting; so was the setup for the series arc. Without getting into spoiler territory, I think the flaws of the main plot involved too much time at the beginning establishing the characters and a climax that felt weak. Still, there’s a definite sense of slowly building tension in a way that feels like watching a car crash in slow motion – all the elements are in place for things to go very wrong in about five different directions, so it’ll be fun to see how that plays out.
I enjoyed this book; I suspect the rest of the series will be even better now that the stage is set and we don’t need so much exposition via the trio’s school experience. I’d absolutely recommend Tempests and Slaughter to other fans of Tamora Pierce (or anyone who likes fantasy and is willing to put up with an elemental magic system and teenage-boy angst in favor of amazing worldbuilding).
Recipe: Tassen Pastries In the book, Arram visits the Carthaki markets with his friends Varice and Ozorne, where they eat tassen pastries while visiting the vendors. The treats are described as three-cornered, with a choice of poppyseed or apricot filling. The trio also enjoy water flavored with mint and lemon, which sounds amazing.
You'll need some kind of laminated dough for this recipe -- I made pâte viennoise (the dough used for croissants), but pâte feuilletée (regular puff pastry) would work fine. Feel free to save about a dozen steps by getting it at the store!
Apricot Filling Ingredients 1 cup dried apricots (packed) 1 cup sugar 1 cup water juice of 1 lemon ½ tsp almond extract
Instructions Combine apricots, water, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved and the apricots have absorbed most of the water. Cool slightly and transfer to a food processor; add lemon juice and almond extract and pulse until a paste forms. Scrape into a container to cool. (Can be refrigerated for up to a week before using).
Poppyseed Filling Ingredients 1 cup poppy seeds ½ cup honey 1 tbsp sugar ¼ tsp salt ½ cup milk 1 egg ½ tsp vanilla extract
Instructions Grind the poppy seeds finely, using a blender, a spice mill, or a mortar and pestle. In a bowl (or in your blender, if you used one), combine ground poppy seeds, honey, sugar, salt, and milk. Pour into a saucepan and heat on medium, stirring often. In the meantime, whisk the egg in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. When the poppy seed mixture begins to bubble, temper it into the egg by adding VERY gradually to the egg bowl, whisking constantly. When at least half the poppy seed mixture has been added to the egg, return all the mixture to the saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until bubbling and slightly thickened. Stir in vanilla extract and remove to a container to cool. (Can be refrigerated for up to a week before using.)
I accidentally made more work for myself than necessary when shaping my pastries, but I did a little research and I’ll save you the trouble! Tassen seem to be based on hamantaschen, a dessert commonly served on the Jewish holiday of Purim, and I found a wonderful tutorial that made shaping these a hundred times easier.
1 box (2 sheets) store-bought puff pastry, or about 1 lb. homemade
flour for dusting work surface
Instructions Thaw puff pastry in the refrigerator, if necessary.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly flour your work area and, working with one chilled sheet of pastry at a time, cut into circles with a diameter of at least three inches.
Scoop your desired filling into the center of each circle (you should use about a tablespoon of filling). Fold one edge of the dough circle toward the middle so that it covers a small amount of the filling. Repeat twice more so that you have a triangle shape – try not to cover all the filling, and pinch the overlapping dough at the corners to seal it closed. (NOTE: Your triangles should look a bit like the ones in the background of my photo below, not the one in the foreground! As you can see on the left, I cut my dough into triangles before finding the helpful tutorial.)
Transfer the assembled triangles to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden. Remove from sheet and cool before eating.