Tamora Pierce: ‘Everybody thinks fantasy is so safe. Are you kidding?’

Her tales of female knights have made her a favourite for girl readers since the 80s. She talks about bringing ‘the rawness of reality’ to her fiction

Tamora Pierce faced a conundrum when she began writing her latest young adult novel, Tempests and Slaughter. Ever since she published the groundbreaking quartet of novels The Song of the Lioness in the 1980s, she has been renowned for making her characters seem real. Yes, her girls might be able to talk to animals, fight gods and lead armies, but they also get their periods, raise children, worry about their bodies and have their hearts broken.

Tempests and Slaughter, though, focuses on a young boy. For years, Pierce has been asked to write a male hero and here he is: Arram Draper, the child who will grow up into Numair, the powerful mage from her previous Immortals series, and a fan favourite. But ...