by Melissa Caruso
Series: Swords and Fire #1
Published on October 24, 2017 by Orbit
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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.
War looms on the horizon. A single spark could turn their city into a pyre.
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Now this is what I call fantasy. I need more people to be excited about The Tethered Mage so I can fangirl with them.
First, can we talk about this magic system?! Now I have a love-hate relationship with magic users being second class in a world because sometimes it just isn’t executed well and they become the “magic sidekick” in the story. In Caruso’s world, that’s not the case. You see it through that lens at first based on how the world is introduced but learn about the intricacies of magic as well as the system in place. It was fabulous and I cannot wait for the sequel because I need more magic and mages and POWER.
The story itself is just as interesting, composed of a web of character dynamics and politics that create so many questions and curiosities for a reader such as myself that you just have to devour the whole thing. The Tethered Mage focuses on Amalia, the only direct heir to a strong family, who gets mixed up in the “capture” of a rogue mage, Zaira. They become paired through a turn of events and Amalia becomes the other woman’s Falconer. The bond provided a lot of conflict between the two young women that totally worked to the book’s advantage. These are flawed characters in the best way, both strong but both very different both in personality and upbringing.
Those differences worked in their favor as the book tackles a multitude of political scheming. Trying to keep track of everything was a bit all over the place for me. So much was happening and with so many names tossed out, it took a while for me to really immerse myself into the world where those connections came quicker.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book, but I had a bit of an issue with the pacing. I ended up reading more for the interesting world (especially at the beginning) and less for the writing itself. And after a while it felt like the story was dragging in general. It ended up falling into the tendencies of epic fantasies which I’ve come to expect to be long winded. But I wouldn’t necessarily consider The Tethered Mage to be an epic fantasy? It’s on the fence, I’d say.
Now that this review has started becoming long winded too, in short: read this book. The world-building is fantastic and the characters are both interesting and well-developed. If you’re a fan of political fantasies then this will definitely be right up your alley. All in all, a great first book and I’m really excited to see where it goes in the sequel!