Review of ~ Melissa Caruso – The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire #1)

Originally posted on Fantasy Book Review

8/10I received a review copy of The Tethered Mage in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Melissa Caruso, Nazia, and Orbit.

I received a review copy of The Tethered Mage in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Melissa Caruso, Nazia, and Orbit.

Less than a week ago I had no idea what to read next. I picked up this book as the cover looked gorgeous and contained quotations from RJ Barker, Anna Smith Spark, and Vic James. I’m super happy that I did and I would describe this book as YA political fantasy with magic – almost like the perfect mix of Gilded Cage and The Lies of Locke Lamora.

The world of Eruvia has had a lasting peace under the guidance of the Empire based in the city of Raverra. One of the contributing factors to how the peace is kept is that the Empire control the Falcons. They are mage-marked warlocks, some of who control magical destruction capabilities that can engulf and eradicate whole cities with ease. Due to the unpredictability and the possible drastic consequences of such magical power- children who show these marks are abducted and taken to a magic-based environment known as the Mews. All who have these talents are assigned a Falconer who can befriend, control, and release the power of these warlocks when necessary.

The opening of this narrative is gripping. It sets up the scenario almost straight away with a rogue fire warlock almost demolishing the city. Luck has it that the heir to the throne, Lady Amalia, was able to stop the total destruction with a magic halting artefact. She didn’t realise this act would bind the two ladies, who could not possibly be more different, for eternity – or until the death of either.

This story truly was a pleasant surprise. I would call it YA. Although we never find out the ages of the two above-mentioned main characters I would estimate they’re around eighteen. There’s unspeakable love, courtly engagements, and a potential rebellion to the north. Although YA, of which I admit I’m not an expert, I found this truely engrossing, intricate and complex. It’s beautifully written. The prose flows in a hauntingly poetic way yet what really stood out to me was the excellent dialogue. The characterisation is well-crafted with many memorable players such as Lieutenant Marcello Verdi and Amalia’s lovely but commanding mother. The enclosed map and cartography seem well designed and crafted although we only visit a handful of places in the world. Although fantasy, it’s tough to know 100-percent what era this is based on. I’d say this is an alternative history version of Victorian times with an Italian vibe. The technology includes flintlock pistols and magical lamps that act as telephone lines. The magic-scheme is great and seemed to be presented in three sorts. The warlocks who can erupt chaos, other mage-marked who use skills to advance science, and a third sort we know less about that is flaunted by some individuals in Vaskandar. We only witness minuscule glimpses of the later but it seems terrifying.

This wasn’t an issue for me but one negative certain readers might have is that the second third of the book is slower and not as action-packed as the others. At this stage, the political web of complexity is being weaved, reworked, and manipulated, and amongst this Amalia and her falcon Zaira are trying to work together, in the hope they can stop the imminent revolution. It doesn’t help that Zaira still doesn’t trust and potentially hates Raverra’s heir.

The ending is stunning. This is a deep story that needs attention. I just hope YA fans don’t think it’s too complex and that adult fantasy fans don’t think it’s too YA. Personally, I thought this was a beautifully written political fantasy drama full of courtly intrigue, powerful enemies, and phenomenal magic potential. I raced through this exquisite debut it 3 days and adored it.

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