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 by Melissa Caruso
I haven’t had much luck when it comes to finding new fantasy novels from NetGalley. Not sure why that is, or why I keep checking, but I gave The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso a chance. It’s her first novel, so I was expecting it to be rather rough. Well, The Tethered Mage knocked down all of my expectations, and perhaps I shouldn’t judge NetGalley so harshly in the future.
Even though her core concept behind magic users being bound by jewelry is far from original (see also Wheel of Time and Sword of Truth series), she’s able to use it in a completely different way and weave a unique story. The Tethered Mage is the story of the Lady Amalia Cornaro, sole heiress of her family who is destined to be one of the Council of Nine in Raverra of the Empire. However, she’d rather dress in boy’s clothes and run around the seedier areas of town to find rare books on magic. During one such excursion, she stumbles across a fire warlock about to burn down the entire city. There happens to also be a Falconer in the area, who asks her if she would put a jess on the warlock to seal her power. In doing so, she has bound the warlock to a new fate of being her Falcon, with Amalia now a Falconer. However, it’s a bit of a problem for Amalia to be a Falconer since she’s a noble. Falconers live with their Falcons in the Mews. She really can’t.
This situation is only further complicated with the fact that the new Falcon is an adult, not a young child. She’s too old to be indoctrinated to accepting her fate as a Falcon, which essentially makes magic-users soldiers and, for the lack of a better word, slaves to the Empire. Of course, that’s not all complicating matters. Rebellion is stirring in the Empire, and Amalia has been ordered to go to the heart of the rebellion with her Falcon Zaira and either stop it or burn the city to the ground.
It’s not just Zaira who is tethered to her role in the Empire, but really every city-state in the Empire is on a tight tether. While it may be good as a whole, it doesn’t mean everyone is happy or everyone is willing to go along with the Empire’s whims. That part may have been a little predictable, but nothing else in the plot was. In fact, I could not put the book down. No matter how tired I was at night, if I started reading it before bed, I was up well past midnight.
Like most fantasy novels, this is not a standalone, but the first of a new series. And I have to say, I’m eagerly anticipating what new political mess Amalia stumbles into next.