I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
I really enjoyed The Tethered Mage but I had to knock half a star off what otherwise would have been a 4-star review because of a huge, glaring plotbunny that ruins the premise of the book. (I’ll go into this at the end because some might consider it a spoiler.)
Here’s the publisher’s blurb:
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.
The Tethered Mage is the first in Caruso’s new Swords and Fire series, and will be released on October 24, 2017 – today!
In Caruso’s world, loosely based on Renaissance Venice, people with magical ability are taken into the Falcon Army as soon as their magical abilities are discovered. They are the Falcons, controlled by Falconers who are non-magical people that essentially control when Falcons can access their magic.
Lady Amalia Coronaro finds herself suddenly conscripted into the Falcon Army when she helps to capture a rogue fire mage – a Falcon/Falconer pair that never should have been suddenly is.
I love a good political mystery so I was really drawn into the political plot of The Tethered Mage. Who is inciting rebellion and war?
I found the characters to be pretty well fleshed out with relationships and behaviors that felt real. The magical system and worldbuilding around that mechanic was also well fleshed out, aside from the plotbunny under the cut.
So, here’s where I just keep getting stuck.
*~*Beyond This Point There Be Spoilers~*~
Half the problem in the book centers around this supposedly irreversible bonding and how it’s a huge problem that the only fire mage is bonded to one of the nobility who can’t actually commit to the Falcon Army. BUT here’s where the plot bunny gets me. About halfway through the book, Amalia meets with a character who controls the Mews where the Falcons lives and he says, “My morning was set aside to discuss a new match for a Falcon whose Falconer is retiring; but the Falcon had a request who seems ideal, so that took all of ten minutes…” Sooooo, Falconer and Falcon pairs CAN be reassigned/re-paired. HELLO GLARING PLOTBUNNY. With that one sentence, half the book falls apart. Amalia and Zaira’s pairing could be dissolved and Zaira paired with someone who could commit to being around and available. A huge part of the tension in the story is that Zaira can’t leave the Mews without Amalia, and since Amalia is frequently away from the Mews attending to her political duties, Zaira is essentially trapped at the Mews – something that Zaira deeply resents. Apparently easily solved, if Zaira could be easily reassigned a new Falconer.
Other than this huge hole in the plot, I really enjoyed The Tethered Mage and I do recommend it as a fun evening read.