The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
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!