Arram Draper has always gotten himself into trouble. As an exceptionally talented mage, he'd accidentally light his house on fire when he meant to light a candle. So, his family sent him to the Mage's University in the foreign country of Carthak. With amazing mentors to guide him and great friends to support him, he's quickly swept up in the culture, politics and drama of his new home.
I have been patiently (read: completely impatiently) waiting to read this book! I've been obsessed with Tamora Pierce since I was in middle school. When I heard she was finally writing a new book, I about died. I practically begged the publisher to give me an Advanced Readers Copy to review and promote, but they decided to let me read Tess of the Road, which I was another awesome opportunity. I was worried about finding the time/money to get this book in, but I had a friend give me a copy as an early birthday present and about died of happiness. I could not wait to jump back into Pierce's beautiful, crazy world.
And on that note, let's jump into the world of Tortall and it's neighboring countries. One of the strongest points of Pierce's writing is her sense of place. The world she's created through her many series is incredibly fleshed out, there are diverse political drams, religious elements and, of course, lots and lots of magic. While her other books have focused on the country of Tortall, this book focuses on the country to the south, Carthak. It's a brand new landscape with new rules but it was easy for me to slip back in after all these years.
The book focuses on Arram as he grows older and learns more about his gifts, the gods and the dangerous politics of his new home. He is sweet and well-intentioned but can sometimes be petulant and selfish. In the end, though, I relate so much to his ambition and empathy towards everyone he meets. His two best friends, Ozorne and Varice, are equally compelling characters. Again, they are heavily flawed characters, and even knowing what I know about every character as adults, I felt completely invested in their stories.
As I said before, the characters and the events of this book play heavily into Pierce's early series. As such, the plot is particularly intriguing, knowing where the story is eventually going and seeing where these puzzle pieces fall in between. However, the brilliance of the storytelling is that, if you haven't read any other novels that take place in this world, you'll still be able to understand everything going on and feel invested in the story. It may even give you a unique edge to read the later novels.
Overall, is this my favorite Tamora Pierce novel? No, but it's so hard to choose! This book is a beautiful entrance back into Pierce and her world. It was so amazing to be back. It felt like one of those revival TV shows that all over the place now. Except it was wonderfully done and refreshing. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of Tamora Pierce or who may be interested in beginning a fantastic journey.