Book Reviews

The Tethered Mage: Why I DNF’d This ARC

I received a digital ARC of Melissa Caruso’s The Tethered Mage from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Unfortunately, I didn’t get through the entire book, so this is less of a review and more of a discussion surrounding why this book just wasn’t for me. Feedback is feedback, right?

I’ll start by saying that this book definitely has potential. As a writer, Melissa Caruso knows how to properly string words together in a way that makes for a compelling narrative. The world building also shows a lot of promise, as does the premise (pre-execution). This book has received a lot of great reviews, and I would definitely give this author another try. Unfortunately, I won’t be continuing on with this particular series – it was not for me.

My main problem with this book involves its casual treatment of what seems to be a political system built entirely upon slavery. The fantasy world Caruso has built is one in which mages are bound to soldiers called falconers, and the falconers control when and how they use their powers (along with a number of other facets of their lives). This idea is an interesting one, but the problem is with the protagonist of our story. In this novel, we’re reading solely from the perspective of a privileged falconer (and an ignorant one at that). While Caruso definitely tries to address the “tethered mage’s” unhappiness with the situation she’s in, we don’t ever get to see this world from her eyes. Instead, we must listen endlessly to a character constantly justifying and defending this oppressive system. And while I’m sure there’s some big “revelation” at the end, I couldn’t get there. Reading this from our narrator’s eyes made me uncomfortable and infuriated. Even up to halfway through the book, I didn’t see any indication that we were ever going to receive the mage’s POV – and I’m not about to read an entire book from the lens of the oppressor (even if she’s a nice one – cue eye rolling).

Lia Cooper has a review on her Youtube channel that articulates these thoughts much more eloquently than I have. You can watch that review here.

On top of my moral gripe with this book, the beginning also contains a lot of info-dumping (clearly, Caruso needs a reminder in “show, don’t tell”). I tried so hard to push through this, but at some point I needed to stop and ask myself why I was bothering. There are tons of other books on my TBR, and DNFing is feedback enough. Especially since I so rarely do so.

Since I didn’t actually finish The Tethered Mage, I will not be giving it a rating on Goodreads. I would never tell you guys not to read a book – you should always form your own opinions. Many people have enjoyed this Caruso’s debut, but it just isn’t my jam.

3 thoughts on “The Tethered Mage: Why I DNF’d This ARC”

  1. I think your reasons are perfectly valid for DNFing this book, and I think this is well written out as well. You do point out that the book has potential but it just wasn’t for you, and that is just fine.

    I appreciate when I see bloggers/vloggers/reviewers post a mediocre or negative review, because it shows that they don’t just give everything positive ratings because they got an early review copy. It makes me believe and trust their bookish opinions more.

    1. Thank you! I thought they were as well…I don’t normally DNF books, but you can’t force yourself through every one of them!

      I agree. I appreciate bloggers and youtubers who can give an honest opinion about what they’re watching/reading/etc.

  2. It does sound like an interesting premise but I think I’d have similar problems reading it myself. I’ve felt the same way about other books when people have loved them. And I find it hard to read books that rely on telling instead of showing. It’s better to DNF that push yourself to finish – I’ve been there and it only made me dislike the book more!

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