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Swords and Fire #1

The Tethered Mage

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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.

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.

438 pages, Paperback

First published October 24, 2017

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About the author

Melissa Caruso

9 books710 followers
Melissa Caruso is the author of THE TETHERED MAGE, first in the Swords and Fire trilogy, out now from Orbit books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 951 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,464 reviews9,619 followers
September 30, 2017
I had a great time with this book! There was never a point that is was boring, at least not to me. =)

**Maybe some minor spoilers**

Amalia Cornaro is out one evening getting a rare book when she runs into a fire mage and a Falconer.

Zaira has been in hiding all of these years because she doesn't want to be a slave to the city. She has lived in some horrible situations as a result.

Amalia was trying to save her from some ruffians when she set off her fire and was on the brink of burning the town down. These mages can lose control and kill everything. The Falconer that was there asked Amalia to put a jest (was it called a jest?) on her wrist to stop her powers.

Little did Amalia know, this was going to change her life forever. Once someone puts the bracelet on, they are bound to the mage and said person is now a Falconer. It's almost like having a real falcon in captivity. They have these people in their army of course. They get taken at birth and put into a special place to learn with a Falconer. They are treated like little kings and queens but they aren't free. Most Falconers let them free for a good amount of time but they have to always be watched because some of these mages have accidentally killed their parents and others as children. It's pretty sad all the way around. Everyone is trying to do the right thing. Well, accept the idiot that uses them for war, but most of them are happy.

Amalia's mom isn't too happy with this situation. Amalia is to be heir to her mother's throne and her mother is a force to be reckoned with, seems like all of the other higher ups are terrified of her.

Amalia can't live with the Falconer's for this reason so she visits Zaira and tries to do everything she can to make her happy. She doesn't like the situation they are in and just wants to do what she can.

I loved Zaira, she was funny and well, she had her problems. And she loved a dog =)

Anyway, the Falconer that Amalia had run into that night is named Marcello and I just fell in love with him. So did some other people =)

There is a lot of political garbage going on in the book. Everyone pretty much wants to kill everyone else and take over.

Amalia, Zaira and Marcello are put into some really tough situations but they all did good for the most part. I wanted to smack them a few times but I digress. Zaira wanted to set everyone on fire which she was allowed to do at times. =)

Oh and Marcello also has sister that's a mage. She hit it off with Amalia because they were both book lovers and inventors etc. I loved her too =)

I loved these characters and they had me freaking stressed out at times but it all worked out, mostly. There are other side characters in the book that were evil and awesome in equal parts.

I am looking forward to reading the next book!

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this book.*

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
311 reviews1,329 followers
September 29, 2017
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 know 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 truly 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.
Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
259 reviews4,895 followers
April 5, 2019
Heyyy friends! Quick update!

I did an interview with Melissa in my live stories on Instagram (@reverieandink)! Check it out here: www.instagram.com/reverieandink or www.revereandink.com for the full thing!

Pst... her writing advice is incredible!



I'm not going to do a full review because I am SO backed up, but here's a quick summary of my thoughts -

Obviously, I loved it, but do note that it's a slower book. But not a bad slow by any means - it was so well written and immersive with tension around every corner. Lush in every way. I felt absolutely entranced with the world, and I'm a huge sucker for court politics - which is a LARGE focus of the story. (I've been dying for a good political fantasy for a long time and this totally fits the bill). Also, I have to say - I SUPER loved the MC. It's rare that I connect to one this much, but Amalia's character was so well written, you can't help but root for her. Her ARC was fantastic as well - I loved seeing her rise up and be the absolute badass she is, amidst crisis after crisis.

Honestly, I have zero complaints, and I keep hearing about how amazing book two is. So, off I go!

(Secretly hoping for more Vaskandar. And Ruven. Eyoooo.)
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,607 reviews1,481 followers
May 20, 2020
Sale Alert: Kindle Daily Deal 20May20 for $2.99

Have you ever bought a book just because you really liked the cover? I fall into this trap every once and awhile and I will say that I sometimes it bites me in the butt but at least this time the inside of the book was about as substantial as the outside.

Political intrigues aren’t really my cup-o-tea. I’m more action/world building oriented in my fantasy but the Tethered Mage did a pretty decent job of holding my attention even so.

Amalia is heir to a powerful position on the council of nine. They pretty much run the Serene Empire. Her mother has spies everywhere, is two steps ahead of everyone and has been testing and training Amalia her entire life to be the most powerful woman in the Empire one day.
“You’ll do fine, child. Just remember who you are.”
Who I was, or who she wished me to be? My throat tightened. “I’m not good at these games. Not like you are, Mamma.”
“Then don’t play. Figure out what you are good at, and make that the game.”

Amalia however just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time and ended up saving the city but at a cost. She is now the proud Falconer of a Mage. Which means she has bound a powerful mage to her and can turn that mage’s magic on and off with a word.

Zaira is the powerful mage in question and she isn’t really happy about being saved and having a falconer. So at first there is some dissention between them. No matter how pretty the cage it is still a cage. Zaira takes awhile to warm up to she is somewhat of a brat through most of the book but the enemies to friends transition is one I usually like in a book

There is a bad guy or a few actually but the main bad guy probably won’t play into the story much until the next book. Ruven is a mage that can control your body. With just a touch of his skin he can seize control and cause pleasure, pain, numbness, healing etc. He was creepy, like over the top creepy.

There is a good guy Marcello and I can’t believe I’m going to say this but he is too good. I was actually hoping that he was tangled up in the plot somehow to make him a little more three dimensional. He just seemed too good to be true for most of the book and he is also the inappropriate love interest for Amalia. I feel just so-so about the very subdued love story that was thrown in.

Overall the book is too long. It just seemed to keep going and going and I was ready for a wrap up to the story about 2/3rds in. I liked Amalia but most of the other characters I didn’t form any emotional attachment too. I really wanted to explore a little more of the magic in this world and would have liked to have done some training with Amalia and Zaira while in the Mews (the place all mage marked live).

I’m hoping for a little more action in the next book in the series and not as much bickering. While well written I would have liked to cut at least 100 pages out of the book overall.

thank you to netgalley and the publisher for the digital copy
February 1, 2019
First of all….cover love ♥

Two girls from different backgrounds are bound together in an act to save themselves unbeknown of their consequences.

The empire has seen long lasting peace and is in control of the Falcons. Those are mage-marked warlocks that are separated from their families if they show a special marking after birth and brought to the Mews. Some of their magic abilities can get out of control and therefore they are kept away.

Amalia, the heir to her mother’s throne goes out into the town Raverra to look for a book. Sometimes she just has to get away from growing council matters and her mother's lead. As Amalia meets Zora with malnutrition in the streets, she is trying to befriend and help her. Zora turns out to be a Falcon and has been living low in the streets to avoid being taken to the Mews. But the streets are a dangerous place sometimes and the two of them get tangled up in a battle with other factions. In an effort to help Zora control her powers, Amalia puts a bracelet on Zora’s wrist. For now, they end up safe.

It does not take long for Amalia’s mother to be informed of the incident by a witness and she is furious. Amalia is sent to the council to explain herself. As it turns out, she is now bound to the Falcon for life due to the exchange of the bracelet and is sent to find Zora, bring her back and train with her.

Amalia and Zora are like day and night and Zora’s unwillingness to corporate poses a challenge. As some political drama unfolds sidelining the plot, the two of them are forced to work together and end up finding a huge secret. One that can cost not only their lives but that of many innocent people as well.


This novel was a mixed bag for me and settled at middle grange overall. I liked the beginning and the end the best, the middle was a little slow. The world of Eruvia and its council is full of magical flair. The weaponry, the bracelets and the surroundings set a charming magical tone and the writing was done well. Reading about the Mews and the children was heartbreaking. I definitely want to find out how it all continues and I will pick up the next book in the trilogy soon.

More Reviews here:
Profile Image for Starlah.
393 reviews1,597 followers
January 11, 2022
In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled; taken as children, and forced into the Falcon army. Zaira has lived her life on the streets, hiding her mage mark to avoid being forced into the army. But her magic is a rare and dangerous one and when she accidentally lets it loose, she becomes a quick target.

Lady Amalia Cornaro is an heiress and a scholar and was never meant to be a Falconer - someone who can control a mage - but an accidental encounter bounds the heir and the mage together. With war looming on the horizon, the two girls begin to navigate the treacherous world of politics.

I was really happy to see this fantasy world deviate from a fairly stereotypical plotline. I liked that the main character has multiple goals so the story felt more complex and not as linear. I enjoyed our main cast of characters but there were a handful of side characters that did fall a little flat for me.

My favorite thing about this book was its political intrigue. It was immense and fascinating and wholly encompassing. The story had very rich world-building. And I was interested the whole way through.

Since the story did open up with a pretty action-packed scene, I think I continued thinking there would be more, but the story is very heavy on its politics. This is a political fantasy story. I also wasn't the biggest fan of the writing style. It was a little too flowery for my taste, but if you generally enjoy really flowery and poetic writing, I think you'll enjoy this writing style.

I liked the enemies-to-friends relationship between our two main characters. I liked the complicated relationship our main character had with her mother. I didn't really care for the romance but I rarely do, and it wasn't a super big part of the story. Overall, I really enjoyed this and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!
Profile Image for Silea.
228 reviews14 followers
August 18, 2017
Can we stop having pale people 'rescue' dark people by kidnapping them and holding them against their will? That'd be great.
February 10, 2023
—2.5 stars—

“There is nothing more attractive than power.”

————about the book————

Age: YA?? (Maybe? I have no fucking clue)
Genres: fantasy
Cliffhanger: nope
Writing: 4/10
Quotes: 5/10
World building: 4/10
Characters: 4/10
Romance: 3/10
My rating: 5/10

‼️spoilers below‼️

———my feelings———

You know when you read books and they’re just kind of bland?
This was that book.
While the setting of the world really interested me, we never got enough actual information about it! No history, no explanations, NOTHING.
What are the witch lords I ask? What is the magic system? Why do people want a war? These are all questions I wanted answered. Did they get answered?? NO
Another thing that annoyed me was the fact that I couldn’t tell how old Amalia was meant to be! I thought she was 18/19 but she acts so naively, I honestly don’t know.
AND another thing. The romance. Far far FAR too instalovey. If you write a series, SPREAD THE ROMANCE OUT. Let it evolve.
(this is turning into a rant so I need to say the things I enjoyed so I don’t feel bad)
I really, really liked Amalia’s mother! She was so clever and always five steps in front of everyone else.
Oh, I liked Marchello’s sister! And quite a few of the secondary characters...

———Characters ———

Amalia: brave and naive, she’s kind and won’t give up on people.

Zaria: headstrong and scathing, she’s a powerful mage but that won’t stop her standing up for the things she cares about.

Marcello: calm and steadfast, but annoying as fuck.


“True power wields a light touch, because a light touch suffices.”

“You do not tell me what I can and cannot do.”

———Random extra thoughts———

I think I made it sound worse than it actually was. (Oops)
But when I’m writing reviews I remember all the things I didn’t like😭
And I just read it though and oh my god this is a long review.

Thanks for reading!🥰

This was just kind of boring ngl
...this was a panic library borrow.
Last time I did that, I ended up with the dead chicken book.
Please be good. Please book please.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
December 18, 2017
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/12/18/...

Looks like my list of best fantasy debuts of 2017 grows yet again, and I have another new author to keep my eye on. Although there’s no magic formula to determine what makes a good novel (not to mention I can’t always explain why certain books simply work well for me while others do not), there are still a few key elements I generally look for, including believable and compelling characters, realistic atmospheric and world-building, and writing that is smooth and easy to get into. The Tethered Mage managed to check all these boxes and also succeeded in delivering an absorbing plot with an altogether rewarding blend of intrigue and fantasy. If this is what Melissa Caruso has to offer for her debut effort, then she will go very far indeed.

Set in Raverra, a canaled city reminiscent of Renaissance Venice, The Tethered Mage is the first novel of the Swords and Fire trilogy which introduces us to a pair of young women who come from very different backgrounds. As the only daughter of Lissandra Cornaro, who is also known as La Contessa because of the powerful position she holds on the ruling Council of Nine, Lady Amalia is heir to one of the most powerful aristocratic families in the Empire. But unlike her mother, Amalia doesn’t have much of an interest in politics, preferring to involve herself in more bookish pursuits, secretly tracking down and acquiring rare texts in her spare time.

But on a fateful day while returning from one of her book-hunting excursions, Amalia happens to stumble upon a thin and bedraggled young woman being harassed by a group of thugs, prompting her to step in and lend a hand. Of course, that was before Amalia realized the other woman was fire warlock, who’s more than capable of taking care of herself—and burning the whole city down with her. To save Raverra, Amalia makes the split second decision to help Lieutenant Marcello Verdi of the Falconers, the only magical enforcer on the scene. However, by doing so, she has unwittingly broken a law forbidding any members of a ruling family to bind a mage. Whether she likes it or not though, Amalia is now a Falconer, and the political implications of this are profound.

The fire warlock, a young runaway named Zaira, is not entirely happy with the new arrangement either. She’s spent most of her life trying to avoid the Falconers, only to now find herself tethered to, of all people, the heir of La Contessa. For their own safety (and for the safety of the city), mages are typically identified as children and brought under the care of the Falconers in a comfortable and secure place known as the Mews. It’s not a bad life by any means, but for Zaira who has tasted freedom, having her powers controlled and being monitored at all times does not sit right with her. Above all though, what Zaira hates most is being treated like a pawn—and unfortunately, that is exactly what the powers that be have in mind for her, hoping to use Amalia’s connection to a fire warlock to their advantage.

From beginning to end, The Tethered Mage was a joy to read. Though not the most original story ever, the familiar elements still resonated strongly with me because of how well everything was put together. Characterization was excellent, which for a book like this is essential, since relationships make up the bulk of the narrative. And of course, at the heart of this weave of bonds and attachments, our protagonist Amalia acts as the thread that binds everyone together. Readers also get to discover Raverra through her eyes, and learn of the complexities and dangers behind the politics of the Empire.

But first, like I said, The Tethered Mage is all about the relationships. For one, there’s La Contessa, our protagonist’s mother. Initially, her disapproval of Amalia’s hobbies and clandestine trips out to the city made me picture a strict and uncompromising woman, but don’t be fooled. While the matriarch of the Cornaro family is not someone you would want to cross, that exterior harshness actually belies a fierce love for her daughter. On occasion, she even allows Amalia to spread her wings and explore her interests—unless, of course, that interest is Marcello Verdi, whose status as a Falconer puts him well below the station of a Cornaro heir. Still, despite herself, Amalia is attracted to the Lieutenant, and he is drawn to her as well. This might be a good time to mention that I am very picky about my “forbidden love” stories, but Amalia and Marcello’s romance actually turned out to be very beautiful and sweet, especially since it developed so naturally.

And then, of course, we come to the most important relationship of all—the one between Amalia and Zaira, the mage and her Falconer. In my opinion, between romances and friendships, I actually think the latter is tougher to write convincingly. Book reviewers often slam “insta-love”, and for good reason because it’s just not realistic. Friendships are the same way—they have to be earned, and trust has to build. These things take time and can’t be rushed. And while for many readers, Amalia and Zaira eventually becoming friends may have been a foregone conclusion from the start, this doesn’t mean Caruso ever stops trying to make her characters’ journey to trust and friendship as plausible and compelling as it can be. The vast effort and level of detail the author puts into these kinds of things is obvious, and I respect that tremendously.

I haven’t even really talked about the plot yet, but I think it is enough to say I was kept entertained through the entire novel, even when we got the slower chapters which were dominated by Raverran politics. There’s a good amount of tension as well as deftly crafted intrigue in this story, which also throws us plenty of action and danger to keep us on our toes.

All in all, I am pleased beyond all my expectations. If you’re looking for a traditional fantasy that hits all the right buttons of a great debut, I highly recommend checking out The Tethered Mage. I am already craving the sequel.
Profile Image for Emma.
975 reviews975 followers
December 13, 2017

There are some interesting ideas thrown in here but overall the plot, characters, and language are too simplistic to really draw you in. I’d definitely put it at YA level, it actually reminded me of Caraval in tone, dialogue, and the blushes of teen romance. Not for me.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews535 followers
December 1, 2017
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2017/1...

4.5/5 stars

The Tethered Mage was a very enjoyable read with an interesting magic system.

Individuals in this world develop a tell tale mage-mark (a ring on their iris) as they develop their magical ability. There are different types of abilities that may manifest and some display at a younger age than others. But regardless of ability, if a child displays the mage-mark, they must be enlisted as a Falcon. A “jess” is put on their arm to control their magic. The person who places the jess on the Falcon becomes their Falconer with the ability to turn on or suppress their magical abilities with a word. While the intent is to help the Falcons maintain control (because once they lose control, there is no turning back, they become consumed in their magic), it can also be seen as a way to control those with magical abilities and use them for the empire’s purposes. They become tools for the military. Naturally, this will create some dissent.

The story focuses on a pair of women joined together in an unlikely Falconer/Falcon relationship, something neither of them wanted or expected in their life.

Zaira is a fire warlock, one of the most dangerous and destructive types of mage. She is also unusual in that her mage mark was more subtle and she managed to go undetected until adulthood. The drama around integrating her as a Falcon, where she has to submit to certain rules and expectations is too much for a woman who has lived on her own, accountable to no one but herself. She takes “fiercely independent” to an all new level, and will not be “tamed” easily.

Amalia was raised as the heir to the most powerful woman in the empire and has lived a life of luxury. She has her own set of challenges after she by chance happened to be the one person who could place a jess on Zaira before her fire could threaten lives. Due to who her mother is, and her position as heir, she has the challenge of not appearing to belong or report to the Falcons, but also do her part as Falconer to Zaira.

The two women are quite different in so many ways, with starkly different backgrounds. Zaira has been a loner, lived on the streets and speaks her mind with no concern about appearances or etiquette. Amalia has been raised to be a master politician and has lived a life of luxury. One thing they do have in common is determination and strength of character. I enjoyed them both quite a bit.

There is definitely a romance in this, while at times it may have gotten a bit more wistful than I might have liked, overall, I did enjoy it. There is also a good bit of intrigue. Arden is on the verge of rebellion and determining who is pulling the strings and why is part of the fun of the book. Amalia has to figure out who can be trusted and what the motivations are for some of the events that are threatening to trigger a civil war, especially at a time when a hostile country is moving troops to their border.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. Enough that if the next book was available, I would have wanted it right away. It had a great balance of characters, intrigue and magic and just left me wanting to read more.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,324 reviews153 followers
September 28, 2017
Unfortunately this is going to be a DNF. I'm about 40% in and gosh, it's so boring. I liked the idea behind the story, but nothing has happened. There's a lot of talk, political machinations - or talk of it - and I just don't care about any of the characters. Thanks to NetGalley for sending me a copy of this to review.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader

Profile Image for Atlas.
687 reviews27 followers
April 29, 2018
"Figure out what you are good at and make that the game"

* * * *
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.

Read this review and more on my blog: https://atlasrisingbooks.wordpress.co...
Profile Image for julia ☆ [owls reads].
1,559 reviews309 followers
October 6, 2017
1.5 stars.



The Tethered Mage is not what it seems while still literally encompassing everything its title implies. With a good dramatic - and explosive - start, a slow yet steady pace, and good writing, this novel delivers fails to deliver a compelling story. Instead, it has one-dimensional characters, instalove, and underdeveloped world-building.

Melissa Caruso has a lot of potential as a writer. The main concept of this book is a really interesting one, if going by the summary, but the execution fails at making it interesting. There are a lot of politics and little action, almost no character development, and the twists lack impact. Also, the main fuel behind the plot makes me, as a reader, super uncomfortable.

Once again, the writing in this is good! It flows smoothly, the pace holds steady, and it doesn’t feel chopped or awkward at all. The opening scene is actually great, as it captures the reader’s attention and hooks you right in. It promises a good and engaging story. Sadly, it does not deliver that.

I have to admit, I was super excited to start this one. The summary sounds really interesting and caught my attention right away, as well as the beautiful cover. So I have to admit I was rather confused when I started reading the book. The entire story is told in only one single POV: Lady Amalia’s. Despite the summary (and the title, really) making it seem like the book focuses both on Zaira and Amalia, that is not true. Amalia is very much the central character, with Zaira being a secondary one.

My main problem with The Tethered Mage has to do with her. It is also why the novel made me super uncomfortable. There is no other way to say it: Amalia captures Zaira and becomes her owner. This is where the title comes into play. Zaira is legit forced to wear a tether, like an animal, and can’t go places without Amalia - aka The Tethered Mage. The author actually goes ahead to say that Zaira isn’t forced to do anything Amalia tells her to, but when Amalia is solely in control of Zaira’s powers and Zaira doesn’t have the autonomy to leave and go live her own life as she wishes to? Well…

There is also a bit of romance in between the politics, although it is not very well-developed. The main focus of the novel is on politics, and there are a lot of royals scheming and kingdoms trying to star wars. Because the pace is rather slow, this only serves to drag the plot along.

In the end, The Tethered Mage rubs me the wrong way. It is definitely not what I expected, but not in a good way. The writing was engaging, but the characters lacked depth and the overall plot did not hold my attention.


Series: #1 in the Swords and Fire series.
POV: Told from Amalia’s POV.
Content Warnings:
Love Triangle:
Cliffhanger: No.
Up Next: The Defiant Heir.
397 reviews213 followers
April 2, 2018
The writing was so well done, I would've thought this was a veteran writer not a debut. I highlighted several passages that I just liked the way she phrased things.

More books need to focus on female friendship and Tethered Mage did it well. Their friendship progressed slowly and felt true.

I easily related to Amalia, a book loving girl who'd rather hole up in her room than go to a party. She's heir to one of the city's ruling families but though she's rich her life hasn't been easy. (I only wish I related to the rich part.) Zaira, the street smart mage needed her own point of view. She was so bitter about being captured it was hard to empathize with her. I did warm to her by the end.

The romance didn't work for me. Mostly because I have no clue what she saw in him. (I can't remember his name) He was most interesting in his first scene, where he came off strong, decisive and a bit mysterious. After that he was too weak and infatuated by her to come off as competent. At least he was nice.

When I heard about the Witch Lord Prince I thought he'd make a good love interest (not that I wanted a love triangle) but it's quickly clear he's firmly in the villain category.

My favorite character was actually Amilia's mom. She's a tough leader, smart, and confident. Though she's strict with her daughter, it's still obvious she loves her.

There wasn't a lot of worldbuilding but I liked the Venice renaissance like atmosphere she created. Magic isn't just your standard elements. There are alchemists who create potions and artificers who make magical devices as well. (And the creepy Prince's magic.) There's no discrimination against women or gays in this world, which was refreshing to see.

The mystery was good, and I didn't see most of it coming. (I did suspect one suspect. Hehe.)


It felt a bit choppy. Time passed between sections but I felt they were too short, jumping from scene to scene.

The only excitement was at the beginning and ending. The "middle" a.k.a. most of the book was rather slow. More was done with the possibility of war and political plotting than magical battles. (But those could always come in future books.)
Profile Image for Kathleen Minde.
Author 1 book39 followers
August 24, 2017
This is never easy to admit, but sometimes I just cannot get into a book I am reading. Whether the cause is poor writing, convoluted plotting, annoying characters, or even just an uninteresting topic, I always find it hard to put down a book that someone obviously poured their blood, sweat, and tears into. But then there are books that really rub me the wrong way.

As much as I hate to say this, The Tethered Mage just did not make me want to keep reading. The first chapter was a good dramatic start. Then it evolved to the drudgery of palace politics and church interference without the clever sting or nuance found in other fantasy novels. The MC, Amalia, seems like a good person and has her heart in the right place when she adopts, I mean, agrees to train, I mean...there is no other way around it: the MC unwittingly captures an unregistered Mage and becomes her owner. I know the relationship is not supposed to be read as owner/slave but the girl is forced to wear a tether, just like a trained bird or dog and cannot leave the compound without her owner, and that rubbed me the wrong way. You can add all the pretty dresses and lovely galas you want, I could not get past this.

And the Mage, Zaira, I know she's an angry character and with good reason to be so, came across as childishly snarky and had no teeth to her. I wanted her to be firestorm angry about her situation not snide and prone to messing up her nice room. She showed how powerful and destructive she could be in the first chapter, I wish she could have remained so.

So, I know this book has fans and will do well but I was unable to finish it.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,419 reviews391 followers
September 22, 2019
Amalia is the Cornaro heir, and a future rule on the Council of Nine. She never meant to throw a jess onto a fire warlock's arm and become her Falconer, but that's what happened.

Zaira had spent her life hiding her mage mark, trying to cover up the fire that burned within her. Now trapped in the Mews and facing a life of bored captivity at the whims of a rich noblewoman, she contemplates the rest of her life as the Empire's deadliest weapon.

As the two girls grapple with their new relationships, the serenity of the Empire is threatened. The northern kingdoms are playing a dangerous game and the Empire's newest city is caught up in the intrigue—and the petty nobility are playing at revolution. Can Amalia and Zaira fix everything? Or will they be forced to burn everything to the ground?
This was a breath of fresh air.

Politics, intrigue, fancy dresses and world-building so intricate and well-developed that I was in love the entire time. Loosely based on 17th century Venice but with a life of its own, Ravarra was a fascinating city, and I also loved the history of Ardence and the Vaskandar Empire as well.

There was just so much poison, plots and more, and I really got invested once the heavy-handed romance with boring-as-fuck Marcello was shuffled into a subplot as the group ventured to Ardence to try to stop revolution and revolt and...the inevitable unleashing of power. Basically, power projection in the form of a fire warlock and her Falconer.

The relationship of Falcon/Falconer was one that I wish had been explored a little more, because there was a lot of emphasis on how freeing being a Falcon could be and how not bad a life it was...but it was still captivity and slavery, and the relationship of Falcon/Falconer could never be more than that of master/servant due to the nature of the power imbalance between the two. The lack of real discussion on these points—or the brushing them aside, particularly with Jethrin and Balos (my spelling is awful sorry)—made me a little uneasy. It was just...no.

Although I did like that two characters are faced with their child being a mage-mark, and the very real death of their child's future as a world of possibilities transformed into one road. A pleasantly comfortable road where every need is met, but a road leading to a lifetime of servitude to the Empire nonetheless.

However, despite this point—which I hope will be resolved in some way in future books with better ways to deal with the mage-marked—I really enjoyed this book.

Amalia's character arc was fascinating, as she goes from unsure bookworm to...something else.

La Contessa was the best powerful woman with zero fucks to give when it came to the protection of her daughter and her city. I enjoyed how she danced around the doge and consolidated her power like the boss she was.

Zaira was hands down my second favorite. Fierce, unbreakable and servant to no one, she was absolutely hilarious and the bisexual icon fantasy.

But my favorite character was: Ciardha.

Granted, she had like, three speaking lines, but what can I say?

I like supremely competent servants who just...appear when most needed and are super duper efficient and can (and actually probably are) running the show. It's probably why I liked Lady Savoy as much as I did.

Anywho, this book brought a wave of nostalgia. For the high fantasy books I read when I was in high school, with the high stakes and snappy dialogue and minor forbidden romance and lots of magic, to the quick plot and books everywhere.

I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

And I can't believe that it took me this long to read this book.

I originally received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review, but ended up purchasing the book to force me to read it!
Profile Image for Kathryn at Book Ink Reivews.
139 reviews12 followers
September 15, 2017
A copy of this review can be found at Book Ink Reviews.

Have you ever read a book that you've enjoyed so thoroughly  that you actually slowed down and read the whole Acknowledgements section desperate for anything more from a talented author? I can count on one had how many times I've done that out of the hundreds of books I've read in recent years. This one, people, is for the records, then. Because it now must be counted among those that I read through to the very acknowledged end.

In a brilliant opening book to what is shaping up to be a promising series, Melissa Caruso can count herself an equal among Sarah J. Maas ( Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses Sabaa Tahir ( An Ember in the Ashes), and J.K. Rowling.

The world building was flawlessly executed. We have three nations--two under the empirical rule and one that's always causing trouble. With this set up, the entire story has great action scenes but is focused on a deadly court game where a simple word can lead to anyone's death. While set entirely in its own world, Tethered Mage uses Italian names, descriptions of cities that will remind you of Rome and Venice, and adds to the foreign but not feel.

There are very few young adult books that take the time to flesh out all of their characters, but Tethered Mage did just that.

I adore Lady Amalia Cornaro. She is strong and intelligent, but takes time to learn how to move within political circles. Never, though, are we frustrated with her lack of knowledge because he ability to learn quickly makes up for it.

Zaira is an absolute hoot. I never wanted her fire and passion to burn out. She is what grounds Amalia without her ever realizing it. She is feisty and crude and absolutely the perfect foil of Amalia.

Marcello is a dreamboat. For real, though. You find out his backstory, how and why he became a Falconer and that his little sister is what he does everything for--including his undying loyalties.

La Contessa, Istreall, Calos, and Jerith will make their loving appearances, too. Though they are certainly the minor characters they still have a depth that makes them real.

Finally, our baddies are all... clever. I didn't actually see a couple of them coming and it made it so much better.

I am eagerly awaiting the next book The Defiant Heir.

Read this dang book, people. You will not be disappointed.

Thank you to NetGalley, Melissa Caruso, and Orbit Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 
Profile Image for Jeff Wheeler.
Author 100 books4,570 followers
April 17, 2017
I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of The Tethered Mage by up and coming author Melissa Caruso. It’s an engaging cross between Machiavelli’s The Prince and Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Here’s the premise – those who possess magic in the Raverran Empire reveal the mage-mark in their eyes as they age and each are taken as children and brought up in the elegant palace Mews in the heart of the empire to be trained in their various magical arts. Their magic is controlled through a set of magical bracelets called jesses and their power unlocked only by one of the Falconer’s. The Falcons and their Falconers must be close partners because their lives literally depend on each other and the Empire depends on them to maintain the peace established by the Serene Accords. The book is fraught with political intrigue as a secret group called the Shadow Gentry try to undermine the authority of the mostly peaceful overseers. The story revolves around the daughter of the most powerful member of the Council of Nine in Raverra, Amalia Cornaro, who accidentally becomes a Falconer as authorities try to capture a rogue mage-marked street thief named Zaira. The two young women are helplessly attached together to the consternation of all and are pivotal to uncovering the plot of the Shadow Gentry. Zaira, who has gone undetected with her devastating fire magic most of her life, is a salty character (and so is her language at times) but otherwise it’s a very clean read and I enjoyed the pace and the mounting tension as Amalia, the brave Lietenant Verdi, and Zaira seek to prevent a magical show of force that could cause Amalia and her Falcon to destroy a city she loves almost as much as her birthright.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,852 reviews360 followers
February 15, 2018

Many thanks go to Melissa Caruso, Orbit Books, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

This is Book one in the Swords and Fire trilogy.

3.5 stars really enjoyed this!

Lady Amalia Cornaro is eighteen years old, precocious, intelligent, beautiful, and the heir to her mother, La Contessa Lissandra. She preferred to run around in the less desired areas of the city searching for grimoires wearing men's breeches instead of her court gowns. But one journey ended with the capture of a Falcon, or fire mage, and her life was never the same.
Amalia lives in a string empire whose soldier are called Falconers, who pair with these various mates with just as varying powers which can only be controlled with release and stay words.
But as a ruling family Amalia can't be a falconer, and as an independent spirit Zaira doesn't care to be a falcon. Lieutenant Verdi fosters this relationship as well as his own with Amalia.
The plot thickens when the heirs of several powerful families of a neighboring country are abducted and it appears the culprits are from Amalia's empire. This lights the match that ignites the haystack that's been piling up for some time the pitchfork manned by the mysterious Shadow Gentry and Prince Ruthven of the Witch Mountains.
Characters galore make this book quite interesting. The Falcon/Falconer relationship is original. I will say I did have the end figured out but not all at once, and even though I did that in no way detered me from finishing the book. I look forward to Book Two
Profile Image for Izzie.
239 reviews105 followers
May 2, 2019
Simply put, I adored this! It was a really strong debut, full of excellent writing and some of my favourite aspects of fantasy - magic, political intrigue, a pet dog (in this case called Scoundrel), strong friendships along with complex relationships, a main character who's a massive nerd. I can't wait to dive into the rest of the series!
Profile Image for jess.
54 reviews39 followers
November 30, 2017
I received a free copy of The Tethered Mage in exchange for an honest review.

dnf 26%

*Sighs* I wanted so badly to finish this book, but I just....I just couldn't. Maybe it was the slow plot, the cardboard characters, or just the story as a whole, but I could not bring myself to continue reading this. Let's continue.

The Characters

Image result for inhales deeply gif

Ah yes, those people. Um yeah they were pretty annoying...but anyhow. Lets start off with our MC.

Okay, just to be blunt, who even was she??? Did she have a personality or was she just the bland side of a cereal box. There was nothing I found interesting about her. She followed her mother's order like a lost puppy and fell instantly for the first guy who had gReEN eyes and who showed aCtuAl interest in her. *sighs once more* I just couldn't. She drove me up the wall. I know, maybe she would've gone under some character development had I stayed around long enough, but in all good truthfulness, I really don't care.

Does someone get more annoying than Amalia? Yup. This...person really was possibly more annoying. She wasn't grateful of anything anybody gave her, a home, plenty of food, blah blah blah. She was, I think, supposed to be wild and rebellious?? But yeah, she was more....pointless and ridiculous. For someone, who apparently hated society and shizzle, she sure seemed to know how to be social and do all things polite and wondrous. What even was she.

Here's our love interest. He was annoying too...huh, what a coincidence. Anyhow, he was a typical cliche kinda guy. He had a sad past and was boring as homework on a friday night. There's really nothing to him, so....moving on.

The Story

I'm not going to include any spoilers here, but for me, this whole story line, was not the most intriguing. I just had no interest in it?? I didn't even know what was happening half the time, due to the fact I was mostly in my head, imagining what it would be like to be reading a different book.

Anyhow, all in all, it was, at least not for me, boring and cliche with too much insta-love for my taste. I spent over a week on it and didn't even make it 30% through, so I don't know, I think that speaks for itself??

Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews992 followers
October 18, 2017
Ooh good this one was. That was my attempt at Yoda again. I’m never any good at it but it’s always worth a try.

So The Tethered Mage is a political thriller. Kind of. I’m glad Theresa May doesn’t have access to falcons.

This book has magical mayhem and behind the scenes shenanigans, a brilliantly imagined world and two girls bound to each other by fate and fury. Mostly on Zaira’s part the fury. Which is unfortunate as she possesses the ability to burn the world to the ground so a bit like the hulk you really don’t want to make her angry.

What I loved about this one was, well, all of it. Amalia is a beautifully drawn character, born into duty and expected to eventually do great things. Then she ends up becoming a Falconer through sheer chance and is bound to Zaira, a fire warlock whose power is huge yet lacking in control. To say nobody is that happy about this would be an understatement but with Amalia’s calm intelligence and Zaira’s fast wit and street smarts (also hilarious bouts of sarcasm which keep you smiling) somehow they start building a relationship and trust. Very slowly. Considering there’s the strong possibility a war is about to start they might want to move that along a little…

Gosh I really don’t want to give anything away. The story is strongly character driven, but Melissa Caruso manages to make you see their world in vivid, colourful snapshots. The different empires (or wishful empires) the hierarchy and political landscape all built to perfection through the characters adventures. I loved all of them especially the wickedly dark Lord Ruthven, but what gave the book such huge heart were the relationships between the various people, some trying to start that war some trying to stop it – and especially the growing friendship between our two main protagonists.

The writing is sharp and often ironically funny, sometimes very powerful especially when all hell* (*translation: Zaira) is breaking loose and overall The Tethered Mage is a fantastically readable, incredibly addictive and intelligently plotted fantasy novel, the start of a series that I cannot WAIT to read more of – I loved it, complete and utter escapism of the very best kind. Roll on The Defiant Heir. Can I have it now please?

Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Eva.
185 reviews104 followers
March 24, 2022
Renaissance Venice-inspired world, interesting potential, but too predictable and generic, with characters being so stupid that it's frustrating to read.
Profile Image for The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew). .
296 reviews617 followers
November 2, 2017
4.5 stars.

As always this review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Tethered Mage is the first book in the Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso and oh boy, what a tremendous start to the trilogy it is!

On her way back from the Tallows (the rough and seedy district of Raverra) a chance encounter means that Lady Amalia Cornaro comes across a young girl being assaulted by a group of men. Going to assist the young girl, Zaira (the girl in question) uses her magic (balefire, she’s a fire warlock) to thwart the attack but loses control. Shouting for help Amalia gets the attention of a Falconer (The Falcons of Raverra are the company who control the mages, Falconer = handler, Falcon = mage) but he is already linked to another mage and so, it’s up to Amalia to bind the girl with the aid of a Falconers jess and stop her out of control magic before it causes any devastating damage. This is where the ‘tethered mage‘ of the title becomes relevant as the Falconers jess, a bracelet (of intricately woven golden wire and beads) that is affixed to the wrist, seals the magic, tethering the mage.

Due to the heat of Zaira’s balefire, her jess has been fused shut and is unable to be removed, this leaves both her and Amalia with a situation that neither wanted.

You know by now that I don’t go in for a detailed analysis of the story or spoilers. Suffice to say that after the initial set-up involving Amalia and Zaira the story moves forward and as they attempt to bond and learn to trust each other trouble and unrest starts to brew in the Serene Empire and political conspiracies, schemes, plots and intrigue abound.

I really liked the magic system (there are four types of mage: warlock, vivomancer, alchemist and artificer) and how it is used and controlled. Generally, mage-marked (the mage mark is a coloured circle ringing the pupil in the eye) are spotted as children, taken to the Mews and trained from a young age to become Falcons but some like Zaira manage to avoid detection until they are older. Due to the Serene Accords magic is reserved for the Serene Empire, they control the secret of the ‘jess‘ and thusly, they also control the magic and anyone who shows the mage-mark is according to the law as being the ‘property of the State‘. Which does bring into question whether or not it is right to jess the mage-marked and conscript them, especially if like Zaira they are bonded against their will adding even further depth to the story being told by Caruso within the pages of The Tethered Mage.

The idea of The Falcons and Falconers in The Tethered Mage is an interesting concept that is well executed by Caruso. Only a few pairings are mentioned and it would be really cool to meet some more in future books.

The world of Eruvia in The Tethered Mage is richly detailed with plenty of history. You have Raverra and Ardence in the Serene Empire as the locations used for the story but mentions of another area, Vaskandar give added depth and hint at possible future exploration and direction for the trilogy. Vaskandar is separated from the Serene Empire by the Witchwall Mountains. Vaskandar has an opposite view and different attitude to magic than that of the Serene Empire, they don’t tether their mages or bond their magic with the use of jesses. For Vaskandar, the mage-marked are revered as powerful and they rule as Witch Lords over their own individual domains.

The characters in The Tethered Mage are top quality and all are well developed (even the minor and secondary ones). I really liked Amalia as a character and our narrator, bookish, good-natured, intelligent and with a steely determination. From the secondary characters Lieutenant Marcello Verdi of The Falconers, Istrella, his younger sister and an artifice in the Falcons and Amelia’s mother, La Contessa are all great additions. But, the star of the show for me has to be Zaira, the Falcon to Amalia’s Falconer. She is a brilliant character! Brash, abrasive, feisty uncouth and snarky. She is an absolute pleasure to read. Amalia and Zaira are ‘chalk and cheese‘ complete opposites but act as the perfect foil for each other and whilst the relationship between them is rather fraught and turbulent they make for a fantastic pairing.

Caruso uses The Tethered Mage in the same way that a Falconer uses the device known as a jess in her book. But instead of bonding the Falcons magic, Caruso bonds the reader, only deeming to release them after they have turned the final page.

I can’t fault the book, not at all! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment that I spent reading The Tethered Mage, there’s action, plenty of plot twists, perfect pacing and superb world-building which combines with scintillating storytelling and a fascinating cast of characters to create a fully engrossing read.

I feel like The Tethered Mage bridges the divide between YA and adult fantasy and that fans of both those genres will find a lot to like within the pages of Caruso’s book. If you like fantasy, you’ll love this book.👌
Profile Image for Marianna.
433 reviews115 followers
November 17, 2017
*4.5 stars*

You can find this and many more reviews at my blog Marianna's Corner!

Are you looking for a diverse fantasy with kickass, strong and intelligent females, an amazing magic system and political scheming that will blow your mind? If your answer is YES, then this book is for you!

We follow Amalia Cornaro, an heir of one of the most powerful families in Raverra, as she accidentally gets herself stuck in the web of politics and scheming, by becoming the Falconer of a balefire mage, Zaira.

The story had a pretty promising premise and for the most part it delivered. The action starts from the very first pages and we are introduced to this new world and magic system. At first it was all very confusing, but as the story progresses things -fortunately- do become clearer.

The magic system is fascinating . There are people called the mage-marked, and they possess some kind of magic. The most common mage-marked are alchemists and artificers. Then there are vivomancers, mages who can control thunder(!) and the most powerful mages are the ones who control balefire, a fire that can destroy anything. My complain is that I wanted a liiiitle bit more focus on the mages, because they are so exciting!

Politics. The Tethered Mage is all about politics. YOUR MIND WILL BE BLOWN. For the most part of the story I had no idea who was an ally to who, who betrays who. And the plot twists DAMN! I couldn’t keep up with them. If you like your fantasies more on the political part rather than the action part, then definitely pick up this book!

Characters. The two main characters are Amalia and Zaira, and they couldn’t be more different. Amalia comes from a very privileged background, she has always had everything she wanted, whereas Zaira has lived her whole life as an orphan, stealing in order to survive. What I liked about those two is that they are both extremely strong but in total different ways. Amalia can get herself out of situations by using her mind and intelligence, by manipulating the others around her and exerting the power of her name. Zaira on the other hand, she is the stereotypical badass; if she decides to kill you, you don’t stand a chance.

Another character I adored is Marcello *heart eyes* HE IS SO CUTE! Marcello is another Falconer who has been assisgned to protect Amalia and Zaira. He is kind and patient, an an idealist, and the slow burn romance between him and Amalia had me ajdhsajgdD!!!!

Leaving the best for last, ZAIRA IS BISEXUAL! You have no idea how happy this makes me, seeing bisexual representation in a fantasy book. Also THERE IS A GAY MARRIED COUPLE!! And what is best, is that being a part of the LGBTQA+ community in The Tethered Mage is completely normal. There is no prejudice, or people having to hide who they truly are.

Overall I totally recommend The Tethered Mage to people who are funs of fantasy, magic and politics!

I received this e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. A big thank you to the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for imyril.
436 reviews60 followers
April 13, 2019
My only regret about The Tethered Mage is that I didn't read it sooner, so I didn't nominate it for a Subjective Chaos Kind of Award. On the other hand, this has dramatically reduced the amount of time I had to wait to read the sequel!

This is instantly one of my favourite fantasies. Alt-fantasy Venice is always a draw for me, and Caruso has a fine touch for character and politics that makes this a joy. This is a book I wish I'd read when I was a teen inundated with fantasies of chosen one farmer boys, where women were flighty love interests or wicked villains; in The Tethered Mage they are independent, nuanced, competent and vibrant - without taking anything away from the men around them (even Ruven is chilling, if a bit of a pantomime villain). Throw in a page-turning plot, and I struggled to put it down.

What a delight.

Full review

A reread has been pure joy from start to finish. Lady Amalia Cornaro is now one of my favourite fantasy heroines and I find myself absurdly proud of her as I read. A triumphant debut.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,435 reviews828 followers
May 26, 2020
I enjoyed this! Nothing terribly original, but nevertheless well done.
Profile Image for RG.
3,090 reviews
January 17, 2018
A solid and charming debut which has its fun. A fantasy world based upon 1600s Venetian times, with numerous characters all politically scheming for control. We have mages/warlocks who can control magic or use magic, and people called Falcons/Falconers who can in a sense capture these people and control their use of the abilities. The main character is a Falconer an important person at that, who accidentally saves but also captures Zaira a mage and is now under her control. Its this relationship which really forms the crux of the novel.

The world building is great, and the political scheming really intriguing but it felt pretty unoriginal in some areas. The characters were solid however the story was told in 1st person from Amalia but I found Zaira to be more interesting. The magic system immediately reminded me of the wheel of time where the sul'dam can collar and control the Aes Sedai etc. So I felt like I'd seen a more complex version of that in the WOT series. The plot was fun but predictable and I could honestly tell where things were going to end up. I guess thats just because I've read alot of fantasy, and I do feel this has a YA feel about it, in the vein of Trudi Canavan or Karen Miller. So if you like that and want a solid fantasy political magic novel, give this a go.
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