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Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso (Swords and Fire #1)

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The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso // VBC ReviewThe Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire #1)
Melissa Caruso
Published: October 24, 2017 (Orbit)
Purchase at: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

In the Serene Empire, those who possess strong magic develop a mage mark that shows itself as a colored ring around the iris of the eye. Those who begin to show the mark are taken to live in the Mews and are known as Falcons. The person who tethers their magic with a jess is the Falconer. Once the bond between the Falconer and Falcon is formed, there is no breaking it. The Mews was formed with the idea of protection, of keeping safe those with a lot of magic from being used against their will.

Not everyone sees it this way, however. Zaira has been hiding her magic her whole life not wanting to be, what she considers, imprisoned. When she inadvertently releases her fire magic during a confrontation, and with no other option as her magic runs rampant, Lady Amalia Cornaro jesses her.

The Cornaro name holds a lot of power within the Empire, and now having the magics of a Fire Warlock at their disposal some say they have too much power. Tensions arise between Ardence and Raverra, as Ardence wants to leave the Empire. Zaira and Amalia will need to work together in order to avoid a war that someone is determined to bring to fruition.

At its heart, The Tethered Mage is about the questioning sense of loyalty and trust. Not only viewed from the sense of upheaval between Ardence and Raverra, but most notably between Amalia and Zaira.

Zaira’s magic is primarily a weapon. If things escalate to the point of war, Amalia will be called to unleash Zaira’s power, which in turn could kill hundreds of innocents. Disobeying orders calls her loyalty into question, but following those orders makes Zaira lose trust in Amalia. It’s complicated and, at times, confusing, but that’s the point. War is messy. Politics is messy. Melissa Caruso does a great job in conveying this throughout.

I loved that readers get to go through the trenches along with Amalia as she tries to stop war from happening, and to stop herself from being the trigger, and Zaira from being the weapon. Amalia is slated to take over her mother’s spot on the Council of Nine, the ruling body of the Empire, so I supposed you could say this is kind of her training. She makes mistakes along the way for sure, but she’s an intelligent young woman, who takes up her mother’s mantle with much aplomb and does the best that she can given the circumstances, and by the end her character matures exponentially. I am very interested to see where she goes from here. One of the only negatives I could say is that it seemed a little too convenient how much people were willing to talk to Amalia, given who her mother is, I would have pegged her for a spy from the beginning, but that’s just me.

While all the characters were certainly noteworthy, the magics / world created were downright awesome. We’ve only scratched the surface in what we’ve seen so far with Zaira’s being the most explored magic, but there’s also artifice and alchemy branches of the Falcons that I look forward to discovering more about.

The Tethered Mage is a promising start to a new series. It takes magic and political intrigue and mixes them together in an extremely readable and interesting new series. There are many twists and turns throughout the story as Amalia and Zaira try to suss out who is behind the upheaval.

Sexual content: Kissing

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