*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Tethered Mage
Author: Melissa Caruso
Publication Date: October 14, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
This was a great book that I would have absolutely adored as a teenager. It’s so reminiscent of everything I read and got addicted to in high school. Reading The Tethered Mage was a pretty nostalgic experience for me. Although this book has been classified as adult fantasy, it’s definitely solidly in the YA category. It’s got a youthful narrator who is coming of age, it’s got innocent romance that blooms throughout the story, and the majority of it’s key characters are young or very youthful. It reminded me a lot of various Tamora Pierce books I read voraciously throughout my young reading life.
Lady Amalia Cornaro is the heir to her mother’s thrown. She is set to be a political leader and has a life set out ahead of her. A huge wrench it thrown into her path when she accidentally becomes a Falconer, tethered to a powerful fire mage, Zaira. Their relationship is tumultuous but these two are tied together for life. Their story is full of disaster, with sparks of friendship, and romance with other thrown in their providing glimmers of hope. The world they’ve both always known is threatened and everything verges on the edge of collapse as war looms in the distance. Amalia is trying to find herself and forge new friendships in this turbulent world. She is attempting to emerge from under her mothers shadow but with the ever present and unknown threat closing in, she’s risking everything, even her life, to try and make a change for the better.
I really like Amalia as a character. I think she’s got a lot of tenacity and fire. It’s no wonder her paired Falcon is a fire mage. She comes from a life of privilege, yes, but she is deeply empathetic and desires to learn as much as she can from whomever she can. She wants to use her position for good, but learning how best to do that does take time. She’s young and makes many mistakes, but she want to succeed and works hard to show everyone what she’s made of. She’s a take-charge kind of girl who possesses a lot of perseverance and moral strength. Her mage, Zaira, is wild and strong. She presents herself to be tough as nails and unforgiving. She is unyielding and often reckless. But as we get to know her, there is a soft side under that shell. She’d never admit it, but she’s as loyal as she is rebellious, connect most with those who show her true devotion and honesty.
The plot as a whole is quick and interesting. There are high stakes deceptions, threats around every corner, and an intricately weaved conflict that wages and builds as the novel progresses. The world that Caruso has created is vast and multi-faceted. This Empire is political and magical. The people within it try to balance both to create a civilization that is safe and secure. Difference societies have different views on what that means which is a point of contention throughout the novel and is a strong factor is the push towards war. I’m curious to see how this story continues in the subsequent books in the series. I think this world has a lot to offer. I’m a new fan.