War looms on the horizon. A single spark could turn their city into a pyre.
Don’t miss this week’s podcast episode where we had the chance to sit down with Melissa Caruso to discuss this book!
Melissa Caruso’s debut The Tethered Mage with a world built around magic. In the Serene Empire any who show the mage mark are put into service and powers are locked away, only to be unlocked by their Falconer. Political intrigue ensues as Amalia unwittingly becomes a Falconer to an angry and powerful mage-marked woman and must bridge the gap between the city of Ardence and her own Empire.
A big theme in this story is one of freedom vs. protection and how much of one should be given up in favor of the other. The Falcons (magic wielding people) are essentially slaves due to something they could not control. While they receive the benefit of a comfortable life and most are generally happy, they have no option once their mage-mark becomes apparent but to live within a fortress of sorts and are only allowed to leave in the company of their Falconer, a person assigned for life to both protect them and protect the world from them by keeping their power locked away unless it is necessary to use it.
Is it okay to put these human beings under these restrictions all in the name of safety? In the case of Zaira (our main characters Falcon), her fire is uncontrollable. When it kills someone, the fire continuously grows and does not stop unless the Falcon calls it back or their Falconer locks away their power. But you lose all sanity and the fire will burn out of control. This showing that the magic people are not the ones in control is nice change of pace in the fantasy genre.
Amalia has a few times where her decisions or reactions don’t always fit into character. Amalia seems like the shy book-geek who always in a moment of crisis seemed to stand up and be a leader. With her personality away from others doesn’t fit with the all smart and powerful leader. She does get better as the book progress, and does become more leader like consistently.
Prince Ruven is a very punch-able person.
The romance is well done in this story. While it was there, neither of the characters was better than the other. No Damsel in Distress, no boy toy. They are both equal good people just doing the right thing.
Overall I enjoyed this book very much for the way the politics are set up as well as the potential destruction that is a fire warlock. I am sooo ready for the next one.
I have seen several good reviews from people that say that they don’t generally like books that focus a lot on politics but they still liked, or even loved, this book. I think this is because the politics are well presented in a way that is easy to understand.
I have to admit though, that it did occasionally get a tad tedious. The book started out really strong and with a great pace but for some reason around the halfway mark and a little after, I struggled to keep reading. The story itself I did like, especially the things going on under the surface such as the exploration of how much freedom should be taken away from the mage-marked without their consent and I especially enjoyed the main character’s, Amalia, mother.
La Contessa is a fascinating character. She holds one of the seats on the governing body of the Serene Empire, the Council of Nine, and she is very good at her job. She is insanely intelligent and calculating and somewhat manipulating. What I loved most about her was how she treated Amalia. They could easily have had the exact same mother-daughter relationship that you’ve seen a million times in fantasy books where the mom is pretty much just a bitch. But La Contessa obviously has affection for her daughter even though she never lets down her guard and never lets you forget who she is.
Zaira on the other hand, the fire warlock that is linked with Amalia, I did not like. I get why she had such a bad attitude and I can’t even say that she was wrong. Maybe it was just because every time you see her through most of the book, she spends more effort making snide remarks and just generally hating everything that I found myself annoyed with her. As her and Amalia got closer by the end of the book though, I get the feeling that this will be to a lesser degree in future books.
My last note is that while this is categorized as adult fantasy, there are some YA vibes to this book and maybe one or two tropes typical to YA. Even if you are not into YA though, if you are interested in the story, I would not let that stop you from giving it a shot.