cover image The Tethered Mage

The Tethered Mage

Melissa Caruso. Orbit, $14.99 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-46687-5

With great power come great adventures and responsibilities in this politically aware fantasy lightly infused with Renaissance Italian flavors. Young aristocrat Amalia Cornaro—heir to her mother’s powerful position on Raverra’s ruling Council of Nine and a friend to many in the restless city of Ardence—inadvertently becomes a mage handler (Falconer) while trying to rescue rogue fire warlock Zaira from her own out-of-control balefire spell. Consequently, they are both automatically conscripted into the Raverran Empire’s military, and, magically linked, must learn to work together under the direction of the doge himself. Amalia is romantically tempted by Lt. Marcello Verdi, the earnest if socially lower Falconer second-in-command. Debut novelist Caruso puts her characters into well-worn situations (mismatched teammates, unwilling heirs, unacceptable loves) but permits the social constraints on individuals, such as automatic conscription of mages, to have honest and logical bite. The Italian elements are window dressing, and there are no detailed parallels between Raverra and Venice other than the occasional gondola, which leaves room for Caruso to include ahistorical notes such as same-sex marriage and female generals. Readers may not be surprised by the outcomes of dilemmas but will be tantalized by the tension with which Caruso skillfully maintains her plot. Agent: Naomi Davis, Inklings Literary. (Oct.)