Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
Series: Swords and Fire #1
Published by Orbit on October 24th 2017
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.
The Tethered Mage was a very enjoyable read with an interesting magic system.
Individuals in this world develop a tell tale mage-mark (a ring on their iris) as they develop their magical ability. There are different types of abilities that may manifest and some display at a younger age than others. But regardless of ability, if a child displays the mage-mark, they must be enlisted as a Falcon. A “jess” is put on their arm to control their magic. The person who places the jess on the Falcon becomes their Falconer with the ability to turn on or suppress their magical abilities with a word. While the intent is to help the Falcons maintain control (because once they lose control, there is no turning back, they become consumed in their magic), it can also be seen as a way to control those with magical abilities and use them for the empire’s purposes. They become tools for the military. Naturally, this will create some dissent.
The story focuses on a pair of women joined together in an unlikely Falconer/Falcon relationship, something neither of them wanted or expected in their life.
Zaira is a fire warlock, one of the most dangerous and destructive types of mage. She is also unusual in that her mage mark was more subtle and she managed to go undetected until adulthood. The drama around integrating her as a Falcon, where she has to submit to certain rules and expectations is too much for a woman who has lived on her own, accountable to no one but herself. She takes “fiercely independent” to an all new level, and will not be “tamed” easily.
Amalia was raised as the heir to the most powerful woman in the empire and has lived a life of luxury. She has her own set of challenges after she by chance happened to be the one person who could place a jess on Zaira before her fire could threaten lives. Due to who her mother is, and her position as heir, she has the challenge of not appearing to belong or report to the Falcons, but also do her part as Falconer to Zaira.
The two women are quite different in so many ways, with starkly different backgrounds. Zaira has been a loner, lived on the streets and speaks her mind with no concern about appearances or etiquette. Amalia has been raised to be a master politician and has lived a life of luxury. One thing they do have in common is determination and strength of character. I enjoyed them both quite a bit.
There is definitely a romance in this, while at times it may have gotten a bit more wistful than I might have liked, overall, I did enjoy it. There is also a good bit of intrigue. Arden is on the verge of rebellion and determining who is pulling the strings and why is part of the fun of the book. Amalia has to figure out who can be trusted and what the motivations are for some of the events that are threatening to trigger a civil war, especially at a time when a hostile country is moving troops to their border.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. Enough that if the next book was available, I would have wanted it right away. It had a great balance of characters, intrigue and magic and just left me wanting to read more.