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The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire) by…
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The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire) (2017)

by Melissa Caruso

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
It took me a long time to get into this book but I'm starting to wonder if that's a me problem instead of the book's. By the end, I loved it and I'm so ready for the next one...which of course isn't out yet 🙃 ( )
  Catsysta | Aug 5, 2018 |
Lady Amalia Cornaro is walking around incognito when she is enlisted to tether a rogue fire-mage who is threatening to burn the city. But something goes wrong, leaving Amalia unable to yield her role of Falconer to another - a role which, as a noble, Amalia is not supposed to hold, and as her mother’s heir, Amalia cannot make her sole priority.

I kept expecting this to be more gripping - more consistently gripping - than it is. Amalia is under a lot of pressure and trying to juggle conflicting loyalties. As the Cornaro, her choices are constrained and scrutinised. As a Falconer, she’s expected to obey orders and quickly secure Zaira’s loyalty, and neither of them are given the time they need to adjust to this new relationship. Tensions are escalating between Raverra and the city where Amalia attended university, and she knows that she and Zaira may be ordered to threaten, or even burn, a place where Amalia’s friends live.

Yet Amalia approaches all of this with a certain amount of calm confidence. Which is actually quite believable - she has a strong sense of security and identity which come from the relationship she has with her mother, the resources she knows her mother can wield to protect her, and the skills and knowledge Amalia has gathered - but it does undercut the urgency somewhat.

I don’t think this is necessarily a weakness - perhaps just a case of the story almost-but-not-quite meeting my expectations and not-quite doing what I wanted it to.

The Tethered Mage has some memorable characters, satisfyingly-complex political intrigue and rich worldbuilding. (It’s not the first time I’ve come across the concept of magic users being leashed, but the way it is approached here is different.) I’m interested in seeing what happens next.

“Amalia, do you know why I let you run around Raverra without an escort? [...] Why I let you study magical science in Ardence, or allow you to go out dressed like a country squire’s seventh daughter, or pretend I don’t notice when you visit pawnshops in unsavory areas?”
“No, Mamma.”
“To see what you do, given freedom to make your own choices.” Her words cut the air like a thrown knife. “And to see what you learn. Because I hoped this independence indicated a spark of intelligence or ambition that might serve our family well, and that you might prove yourself worthy to be my heir.”
I had thought, perhaps, it was because she wanted me to be happy. “I did learn things.”
( )
  Herenya | Mar 9, 2018 |
Amalia Cornaro is heir to a great family name, wealth, and untold political influence within the Raverran Empire. However, she has been content to leave most of the political machinations to her brilliant and ruthless mother, and concentrate on her studies of arcane magic. However, when a powerful fire warlock threatens the city of Raverra, Amalia finds herself drafted into containing the warlock’s magic, and in so doing inadvertently becomes a “Falconer”, tethered to the fire warlock and responsible for controlling her powers. Thrown into the middle of a political firestorm (couldn’t help myself), Amalia must use everything her mother ever taught her to prevent a civil war within the empire she loves.

This was an enormously fun fantasy novel, and is the first in the new series. Surprisingly, this is also Melissa Caruso’s debut novel. The story, while ostensibly YA, manages to avoid the pitfalls so common in the genre, and delivers an entertaining and suspenseful read. Caruso has built up an interesting and complex world, and her characters are lovingly crafted and more complex than one usually sees in the Young Adult genre. The book reminded me very much of Dragon Age, the Bioware RPG game (which from me is a huge compliment). I especially enjoyed the way magic is dealt with in Caruso’s world, and the push and pull between Amalia, and her “Falcon”, Zaira.

Fans of YA or the fantasy genre looking for a bright new talent should definitely pick up this book.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  irregularreader | Dec 8, 2017 |
This is a very imaginative series, and would make a good gift for a teenager. ( )
  kerryp | Nov 30, 2017 |
Find more reviews like this at The Literary Phoenix.

_______

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. ( )
  Morteana | Nov 19, 2017 |
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To Dad, for always believing I could do it, and to Mom, for showing me how to get it done.
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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"--… (more)

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