Saturday 10 March 2018

The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire #1), Melissa Caruso

"Figure out what you are good at and make that the game"
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. 

* * * * 
4 / 5 

The Tethered Mage is a Venetian inspired fantasy novel featuring hefty amounts of political skulduggery - one of my favourite things. It might be a little low on the action despite featuring a heavy-hitting Fire Warlock, but when the fights are there, they're good. Featuring two great female leads, The Tethered Mage is a solid start to a new fantasy series.

We follow the viewpoint of Lady Amalia Cornaro, daughter of one of the most dangerous women in the Raverran Empire and heir to a seat on The Council. Bookish and into creating artefacts, Amalia also has a spine of steel that gets slowly polished throughout the book as her confidence and skill in navigating the difficult political world of her mother increases. Amalia is down a dodgy street seeking out a rare book when she sees a warlock go supernova. In Raverra, mages are strictly controlled by magic bracelets that prevent them from using their magic unless their partner, their Falconer, speaks the release word. The only one able to help, Amalia slaps a bracelet on the burning woman and becomes her Falconer. The problem? Nobles aren't allowed to be Falconers.

"If Raverra wants my fire, she can have it. Let the city burn!"

Zaira is living her life on the streets to avoid becoming a Falcon. Fire mages are the rarest and more prized of them all, and Zaira would rather live her life on the run than be a caged prize, brought out only to inspire fear and wage war. Unsurprisingly, she isn't best pleased with being bound to Amalia. The two have a rocky start. Their relationship is realistic - Zaira has been dirt poor her entire life, Amalia is one of the richest heirs in the Empire. Amalia is good-natured but ignorant, good with books and not with people. Zaira has a biting tongue and years of suffering have made her bitter. 

Unfortunately for them, they are going to have to get along. One of the Empire's former countries is attempting to rebel, as tension rise regarding missing children and raised merchant taxes. A secret group is trying to shake up trouble and make an alliance with the brutal nation of Vaskandar. Amalia, Zaira, and the Lieutenant Marcello Vardi are thrust in the middle, trying to keep peace. The core of this book is based on the relationships between these countries and the political manoeuvrings of their courts. If you aren't into that, this isn't the book for you! Personally, I loved it. It's got assassinations, secret deals, traitors, and plots, all set against the background of a quasi-Venetian Empire. 

"My footsteps echo with the tread of legions. My breath is the wind that fills the sails of armadas. You stand within my dominion"

Perhaps The Tethered Mage is a little too long weighing in at a hefty 450 pages. It could have done with a few more sword fights and Zaira getting to let her powers loose. But it's got skulduggery, plot twists, loveable characters, a sweet romance, a bisexual main character, and chunks of wit, so I'm not complaining! 

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of The Tethered Mage. 

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