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.
I’ve been a fan of Tamora Pierce novels for a long time. Since middle school actually. Although I think her Tortall books are her best books.
So I knew this series was coming out for a while, I’d been hearing her talking about it for a while. But I wasn’t sure when it would come out. I’ve been out of the publishing loop for a while so I didn’t find out about this book until a couple weeks ago.
I was needless to say extremely excited about this when I found out and bought it immediately.
I have thoughts and I have opinions.
Tamora Pierce is a master at world building. If you want to learn how to build a fantasy world, look no more.
Given that she’s been writing in the Tortall world for over 20 years, she knows this world like the back of her hand. It’s very well fleshed out and very well done.
Having already visited Carthak from her other books, I’m pleased that nothing jumped out to me as a huge inconsistency. Everything seemed on brand for this book and for this world.
I enjoyed getting to know more of the smaller gods in this story and learning new magic that we haven’t really seen too much of in the other books. Magic plays a large role in the Immortals, but not nearly as much in the other books. In all of the other books, the characters primarily do not deal with magic to the same degree.
So it was exciting learning more about other “traditional” magic vs Diane’s “wild magic” (which briefly gets a mention in this book). I’ll be interested to see how this outlook comes out in the other books in this series and how it ties into the Immortal books down the road.
To me, this was a delightful exploration of world building and setting, giving us a more traditional fantasy book than some of her other books might be considered.
I would say that this book is really for fans of Pierce’s previous books, especially The Immortals series. This book brings in a lot of the characters from those books which I think makes this quite delightful.
Now if you’re new to Pierce and just picked this book up, I don’t think you would be lost reading it. This stands alone from the other books, as most of them do quite well actually.
Our protagonist is Arram Draper, to be Numair later on. It’s definitely a YA book, a true coming-of-age novel. This book does a really good job of setting up the world around him, giving you an in depth looking into the characters as well.
If anything, Tamora Pierce is very good at characterization.
The majority of all of the characters are all very well fleshed out. Except for some of his other friends who appeared, but we never really quite got to know them very well- like Tristan. He’s there, but I don’t really care honestly. He and the other girl brought nothing to the book (so far) and I would have been quite happy without them.
One of the things I’ve seen a lot of people mention is that Arram discusses the first time he gets erections and wet dreams. They seemed really surprised at this and maybe even a tad offended.
But given this was the first boy’s perspective book in Tortall, I am not surprised. If you’ve ever read any of her other books, you know that the girls usually always bring up their periods or solider problems as being a girl. So given the flipped scenario, I wasn’t as fazed at this as other people might have been.
As for the two main friends that he has, Varice and Orzone, I did really like their characterization. I’m glad that Varice doesn’t get sucked into a love triangle in between them and instead is safely in one camp.
I have mixed feelings though at times about them. In a way, I felt Varice wasn’t fleshed out as well as Orzone was. And I also kinda thought it was strange that Varice and Orzone suddenly decided Arram would be their closest friend as well. In a way, I can see it, but I almost wish it hadn’t been such a sudden cut and dry thing.
This is where I have my biggest gripes so far with this book. Now don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to be enthralled but I was really disappointed. I still read and came back of course to finish, but if you’re looking for a fast paced novel, you won’t find that here.
I’m so sorry to say that this book dragged on and on.
I believe it has to do though with the fact that this book “quickly” follows Arram from about 10-17 ish years age as he goes through school. A lot of reviews I read compared this to Harry Potter. But because I’ve never read Harry Potter, I can’t agree to that.
But what I can tell you is that Pierce has written more than one school themed book and this did not follow that recipe that her previous books did. For one, she includes a semester schedule, which I don’t recall in the other books. But she’s also covering the majority of his young schooling.
Arram is supposed to be very intelligent and very advanced for his age. You can tell because he gets all the special one-on-one lessons. Pierce though doesn’t let this make him quite into a Gary Sue though. Arram does doubt himself a lot and does have his flaws. Although it glosses over bullying briefly by mentioning the other students are intimidated by him and the teachers more or less prevent the bullying by his separate classes. He does still have bullying.
Regardless, I have my suspicious despite this book being so slow until the last 50 pages, that the other books in the series will not be the same way. I think because this book follows him into early adulthood, therefore setting the scene, the other books will hopefully be much more exciting.
The biggest gripe was the pace and overarching lack of conflict. There is some for sure that keeps the book moving but it is not as fast paced as her other books.
That being said, this is a mastery of character study and introspection and world building. The book does those two very well and if you don’t mind a slower paced book, it is a delightful and entertaining story. I’m glad I bought it and think it’s worth a spot in my collection.
I will be excited for the other books when they come out.