The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
Published by Orbit on October 24th 2017
Series: Swords and Fire #1
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 480 pages Source: NetGalley
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In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled -- taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.
Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.
But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.
The Tethered Mage is the first novel in a spellbinding new fantasy series.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Lady Amalia Cornaro did not ask to be a Falconer.
When balefire is starting to consume the city, she acts instinctively. Her choice is to become entangled into a role she knows she cannot have, or let her city burn. There is no choice, and she snaps the restraining jess around Zaira’s wrist without hesitation. New problems arise – Zaira doesn’t want to be a Falcon (a mage of the Empire) and she is not going to come quietly.
There are more pressing things afoot than a disgruntled mage – noble children from the neighboring city of Ardence have been taken and someone has forged a note claiming Raverra is to blame. The city is already restless and ready to break away from the Empire.. When demands to stand down are ignored, Amalia and her Falcon are sent to Ardence as a warning. But it may not be enough.
Zaira is the unspoken heroine of this story.
Have you ever read a book where you thought, “The main character is good, but this book would be EVEN BETTER if this other character was the POV?” That is exactly how I felt about Zaira (our namesake “tethered mage”). She was bright and passionate, witty and disagreeable and I thought she was fantastic. Far more interesting than the baleful Amalia who tucks her tail between her legs and does whatever her mother demands.
That said, all the characters are different levels of interesting. There is nothing wrong with Amalia – I just happened to like Zaira better. Domenic is a great character, as is Istrella. I really went for the “sidekick” style characters in this book more than the main leads.
The fantasy world is incredible.
I’m a sucker for a well built fantasy world. Give me monarchies and magic and great universities and oh my goodness, here, have my heart. Epic fantasy is my niche. I love it. This is a well built epic fantasy.
In The Tethered Mage, Caruso chooses to focus on the political aspects of the story. However, she plays great attention and detail to her magic system as well, which is essential in a good epic fantasy. I found the Falcons to be the most interesting part of the story and am hoping to hear more about them and the Witch Kings in the next book.
It was a little chatty, but I loved it.
The Tethered Mage took me a little while to get into. There is a lot of dialogue in this book. Dialogue isn’t really my favorite… I like a good balance, but the writing world is definitely trending more to dialogue. There were good questions asked within the book, and I definitely loved Zaira. I don’t know if I would have been as invested in this book without her.
It’s a bit on the longer side, but that is to be expected in an epic fantasy. The author needs proper time to build their world as well as the regular story, so I forgive the length. It’s definitely not a George R. R. Martin length! I think that The Tethered Mage will appeal to readers who enjoyed Cinda China Williams’ Seven Realms series as well as fans of Elizabeth Bunce’s Thief Errant series.
Personally, I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the spring.