The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

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The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Heather Butterworth
Reviewed by Heather Butterworth
Summary: An atmospheric masterpiece! A new magical world filled with beautiful complex characters and compelling action.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 434 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356510613

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It is not every day that you find a fantasy novel with so much scope for a mass audience. The Tethered Mage is a sophisticated tale that has the gripping plot to hook its readers whilst stimulating their thoughts with its dense political theme. Caruso has created a page-turner for a wide-range of audiences.

The Raverran Empire is run by a doge and the council of seven, the governing group formed by the aristocratic families of Eruvia. The Empire thrives from trade, culture and the obedience of the cities surrounding Raverra. The Empire has obtained this power and dominance by harnessing and controlling the magic of Eruvia and all the mage-marked that possess it. For years the Raverran empire has known peace, but with whispers of a rebellion, the discovery of a fire-warlock and the disappearance of children, the Empire's authority over Eruvia is in danger and war is looming on the horizon.

The Tethered Mage is one of the best books I have read this year. Caruso immerses you entirely into her new, magical world with such fluid, atmospheric language. Discovering a new fictional world can often be quite daunting but Caruso makes it a very natural and enjoyable experience. One of the ways she does this is with her homage to 1900s Italy. The reader can relate to the imagery and setting of the novel and feel as if they are running around a Venetian Eruvia with Amalia and Zaira. Caruso is consistent with her descriptions and keeps characters fresh in the readers' minds. This keeps the complex story and characters easily digestible for the reader and ensures their engagement and captivation with the narrative.

Caruso is particularly good at characterisation and manages to show multiple points of view, not just Amalia's. Each character has defining attributes which are shown in both their actions and their dialogue. She's created two characters that appear opposite but are instead facing parallel conflicts which makes their relationship interesting to follow. Caruso has also created a bisexual character in Zaira and shows a world where there is no social norm when sexuality is considered.

Caruso's political concept was what made the story a true page-turner. I found it very reminiscent of WWI Britain, rounding up civilians to fight whether it was their will to or not. Personally, I found this very thought-proving and made me look back at historical events that were potentially immoral, like the one in The Tethered Mage. In addition, I found myself torn between Marcello's views of The Mews and what Zaira thought of the place. My own views wavered erratically throughout, keeping me engaged and invested in the narrative. The Tethered Mage could not have been released at a more poignant time. The narrative highlights the issues surrounding Empires and Unions and highlights the benefits and negative aspects of this unity. This is extremely relevant in today's society with countries, such as Scotland and Catalonia, openly fighting for independence.

The only criticism of this novel is that the third quarter seemed to move a little slower than I would have liked. It kept the reader engaged but seemed to lack much narrative development. However, it did contain multiple interactions between characters that helped develop characterisation and relationships.

Overall, this is a beautiful and thought-provoking political story, enriched with magic and wonder. From start to finish you will be lost in Eruvia and all it has to offer, becoming engaged with the social issues like it is your own country. Caruso provides you with such strong, interesting characters that you won't want to let them go at the end. The Tethered Mage is an exceedingly promising start to her Swords and Fire trilogy. I have already pre-order the second instalment!

For further reading I would recommend Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs and The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman.

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Buy The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso at


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