The Defiant Heir


By Melissa Caruso

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A political scion and her magically bound fire warlock undertake diplomacy and espionage to prevent a war in the second book of a spellbinding fantasy trilogy from David Gemmell Award-nominated author Melissa Caruso. 

Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, the seventeen Witch Lords must convene at a rare gathering to decide a course of action.

Lady Amalia Cornaro knows this Conclave might be her only chance to smother the growing flames of war, and she is prepared to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction. Amalia and her bound fire warlock, Zaira, must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war.

If they fail, it will all come down to swords and fire.

Praise for Swords and Fire:

"Charming, intelligent, fast-moving, beautifully atmospheric, with a heroine and other characters whom I really liked as people. I couldn't put it down."―Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library

"Breathtaking… Worth every moment and every page, and should make anyone paying attention excited about what Caruso will write next."―BookPage

"A riveting read, with delicious intrigue, captivating characters, and a brilliant magic system. I loved it from start to finish!"―Sarah Beth Durst, author of The Queen of Blood

Swords and Fire
The Tethered Mage
The Defiant Heir
The Unbound Empire

For more from Melissa Caruso, check out:

Rooks and Ruin
The Obsidian Tower


Chapter One

It seemed a shame to burn a place so green.

The tiny island interrupted the path of the prevailing current from the Serene City, and trash collected along its curving inner shore. It was a mere mound of rock and sand, a navigational hazard without even a name. But flowering bushes edged the narrow strip of beach on which we stood, giving way to an improbable clutch of young trees and brush in the center. A salty breeze off the lagoon coaxed sighs from leaves that had so far escaped the encroaching yellow of autumn.

The whole place appeared far too flammable. Not that it mattered much, with balefire.

I calculated angles and took three steps across the sand. It couldn’t hurt to stay upwind. This might be a training exercise, but it could still kill us all if things went wrong.

Zaira lifted her brows beneath the windblown tangle of her dark curls. “Are you done dancing around? We’re not here to practice the minuet.”

I judged the space between us. Three feet, perhaps. Not nearly enough for me to make it to safety if she lost control. But then, thirty feet might not be enough either.

I nodded, heart quickening. “All right.”

“I won’t set you on fire,” Zaira promised. “This time.”

“I trust you.” I didn’t add, when you’re you. There was no trusting what she became when the flames took her.

She glanced at Marcello, who waited a good fifty feet away along the gray stretch of sand. He stood at apparent ease, his black curls loose against the collar of his scarlet-and-gold uniform, the Mews looming watchfully over his shoulder across the calm lagoon waters. But his hand, hooked so casually into his belt, touched the grip of his pistol.

Not that it would do him much good. The only thing that could stop Zaira’s fire was the word I could speak to seal it. However, in this exercise, I wasn’t supposed to; Zaira was practicing control. Which meant that if I made a tiny error in judgment, waiting a second too long, people would die.

I much preferred my university days, when failing a practical lesson would have meant nothing worse than a stern lecture from my professor.

“Are you ready?” Zaira called.

Marcello nodded.

Zaira held out a hand to me, palm up, as if she expected me to put something into it. The jess gleamed golden on her stick-thin wrist.

My mouth went dry as blown sand. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“No, I came out here for a picnic. Of course I want to do it. Release me.”

I drew in a breath of damp sea air, then let it go again, shaping it into the most terrible word I knew.


Zaira closed her hand. When she opened it, a pale blue flame licked up from her fingers.

It was a small thing, for now, but wicked as a hooked knife, lovely and fatal. It clawed the air with hungry yearning. Balefire.

The slim twist of flame leaned toward me, against the wind. I took a step back.

“Hold your ground, Lady Amalia.” It was Balos’s voice, deep and firm. He stood twenty feet down the beach in the opposite direction from Marcello, along with Jerith, his Falcon and husband. “You need to get used to it. You can’t let it distract you in an emergency.”

“It’s hard not to get distracted by something that wants to kill you,” I muttered.

“It’s nothing personal.” Zaira grinned, but the tightness around her eyes betrayed her strain. She was afraid, too. “It wants to kill everyone.”

“Now light something on fire,” Jerith called. Somehow, he sounded more like a child daring a schoolmate to cause trouble than an older warlock instructing a young one.

Zaira flicked her wrist at a squat bush with shiny, round leaves. A spark leaped from her hand, searing a bright path through the air, and landed inside it. Blue-white flames sprang up from within the bush, crawling hungrily up its blackening branches, withering every leaf to ash.

“Keep it contained,” Jerith said. The mage mark gleamed silver in his eyes as he watched Zaira’s face. “Don’t let it spread.”

“I know what I’m doing,” Zaira snapped. Sweat gleamed on her temples.

“Oh? Then what’s that?” Jerith jerked his chin at the fire.

Only a jutting charred stick remained of the bush. But the blue flames reached higher than ever, straining for the tree branches above. Thin lines of flame meandered outward, searching, following the bush’s roots under the ground.

One slithered along the sand’s edge—thin, powerful, and rapid as a snake—heading toward Marcello. Memories of figures writhing in an agony of blue fire and the stench of charring human meat seared my mind. I sucked in a breath but held back the word to seal her power again, though it strained behind my teeth.

I had to trust her to handle it. That was half the point of this exercise.

Zaira reached toward the racing line of fire, as if to gather it back, but it only leaped higher. A faint blue gleam shone in her eyes. Marcello took a hasty step backward, but the flame was faster; it would reach him in seconds. I opened my mouth to cry out the word that could save him.

“Zaira!” Jerith called sharply.

Zaira sliced a hand through the air. The balefire winked out, leaving a smoking black smear on the ground.

“See? Fine.” She tossed back her mane of dark curls. “Completely under control.”

But her hands trembled ever so slightly, before she shoved them into her skirt pockets.

Revincio,” I sighed, sealing her power. My knees felt ready to buckle with relief.

Jerith shook his head, a diamond glittering in his earlobe. “Control will be much harder when it’s a company of Vaskandran musketeers or some Witch Lord’s pet chimera coming at you with venomous claws.”

I shifted my feet uneasily. “We’re not at war with Vaskandar.”

Jerith laughed. “Oh, don’t be coy, my lady. Your Council secrets are safe with me. Anyone who’s heard of their troop movements knows they’re preparing for an invasion. It’s only proper we afford them the same courtesy in return.” He jabbed a finger at Zaira. “And that means improving your control to the point where Lady Amalia can release you without worrying about getting set on fire along with the enemy.”

Anger flashed in Zaira’s eyes. “So the Empire can use me as a weapon.”

“No. So you don’t kill anyone you don’t mean to.” Jerith’s smile was bitter. “The Empire will try to use you as a weapon whether you’ve got good control or not.”

Balos slipped a thickly muscled brown arm around the storm warlock’s slim shoulders, and I wondered if Jerith spoke from experience.

Marcello approached, a frown marring his brow. I couldn’t help but appreciate the flattering lines of his uniform doublet. Never mind all my efforts to remind myself over the past weeks that we weren’t courting—couldn’t court—at least not yet. I wasn’t ready to throw away the power of political eligibility.

“That was better,” he said.

Zaira flicked a glance down the beach to the ashy remains of last week’s practice. I’d had to seal her, that time. “Damned right it was. Do you think I’d put up with any of you if this weren’t working?”

“We should try again,” Marcello suggested. “For longer, this time.”

I eyed the tangle of brush and overhanging branches surrounding the charred stump of the bush Zaira had burned. “Maybe in a place where it won’t spread quite so easily.”

Marcello’s eyes caught mine for a moment. Their corners crinkled with wry amusement. “Good idea. I won’t deny my heart got some exercise at the end, there.”

I smiled back, but an uneasy flutter stirred under my breastbone. In the weeks since we’d returned from Ardence, he’d been friendly and courteous, professional to a fault; it was as if we’d never shared that desperate kiss, at what I’d thought was our final farewell. I wasn’t sure anymore, when he smiled, whether I glimpsed an undercurrent of hurt beneath it.

His gaze slid away, scanning the beach. “How about over there?”

He gestured to a line of barnacle-crusted rocks that extended into a thin spit a short distance down the beach, at the point of the tiny island’s crescent. Balefire could burn on stone—or water, for that matter—but at least a chance breeze wouldn’t dip a tree branch into the flame.

Zaira shrugged her indifference, so we started over in that direction. She seemed in no hurry, and though I’d worn breeches, my city boots turned awkwardly on the soft, sliding sand; we soon fell back behind the others.

It was just as well. There was something I needed to ask her, a gnawing unease I had to face.

“Jerith’s right,” I said quietly. “It’s no feint, this time. Vaskandar is preparing for war. And you know what the Council will ask you to do.”

“Yes, I heard. Musketeers, chimeras.” She tugged gently at the jess on her wrist, as if testing whether it might come off at last. “Should be easier than burning some scraggly old bush, frankly. Small is harder.”

“Are you …” I tried to think how to phrase my question. “How do you feel about this?”

“Why does everyone ask about my feelings? Graces’ tits, you and Terika …” She clamped her mouth shut.

“Perhaps we care about you.”

Zaira snorted. “Must be nice to have the luxury to worry about bilge like that. In the Tallows, you learn feelings are worthless. They’re what drunkards piss away the morning after.”

Some things were worth arguing with Zaira about, and some weren’t. “I don’t want to see you put in a position where you’re forced to use your fire to kill.”

“As opposed to what? Roast meat skewers in the market? There’s not much else it’s good for.” She shook her head. “You heard Jerith. To the Empire, I’m a tool for killing, nothing more. And they’re not half wrong. If I stay in the Falcons, I’ll leave a wake of ashes through Vaskandar. Your pretty little qualms and niceties won’t change that.”

That if bordered on treason. Imperial law gave the mage-marked no choice, compensating them with riches and lavish comforts for their mandatory conscription into the Falcons. But I had no doubt Zaira could successfully run away anytime she chose; it was only knowing she could leave that had reconciled her to staying. For now.

“I wish I could get my Falcon reform act passed before war breaks out.” I kicked at a rock, sending it skittering across the sand. “So every mage could choose whether to become a soldier. But my mother says there’s no way I’ll get the support I need in the Assembly with Vaskandran armies at the borders.”

Zaira gave me a sideways glance. “That thing, still? It’ll never pass.”

“Once the Vaskandran threat eases, it might,” I insisted. “I have a few dozen members of the Assembly willing to back it already. I just need time.”

“A few dozen. Out of a thousand. Forgive me if I don’t wait like a good little girl for you to free us.” Zaira stopped, hands on her hips. “You don’t think that’s why I’m still here, do you? Because I’ve got hope for your stupid law?”

“No.” I raised my brows. “I assume you stayed for Terika.”

“I like Terika,” Zaira admitted. “But if you think I’d let her chain me to the Mews, you don’t know me.”

“I suppose not,” I sighed.

“I’m here for one reason.” She leveled a finger at me. “To learn to control my power well enough not to hurt anyone. Well enough to hide. Because now the world knows I exist, and there’s nowhere I can run where they’ll ever leave me alone.”

“Ah.” I didn’t know what else to say; it was true.

“They might swallow your law for artificers or alchemists. Devices and potions don’t make people wet their breeches the way balefire does. But they’re too afraid of warlocks.” She shook her head. “No sane person wants someone who can single-handedly destroy a city on a whim to wander around free. The whole continent of Eruvia wants me locked up safe in the Mews—or better yet, dead.”

“I don’t want you locked up or dead,” I protested.

“Oh?” Zaira lifted a skeptical brow. “If I decided to run away and take my chances in hiding, what would you do?”

It was an uneasy question I’d worried at frequently over the past weeks. Not least because it was hard to imagine any future where Zaira would be content to stay cooped up in the Mews for long. “I’d try to find a way for you to do it legally. To convince the doge and the Council to let you go.”

“They’d never let me go, and you know it.”

“Well, then, I’d use my influence to do what I could to stop the Empire from coming after you. To keep you safe.” My heartbeat quickened at the inherent rebellion in that declaration; my duty as a Falconer would be to help them find her.

But then, I was more than just a Falconer.

“Safe?” Zaira let out a bark of a laugh. “I make everything unsafe. I’m danger salt—add me to anything, and I make it more interesting.”

“I can’t deny that seems an apt assessment. But if you ran away, where would you go? What would you do?”

Zaira kicked at the sand in silence, scowling. “I don’t know,” she said at last. “If I knew, I’d already be doing it. But this is the first step: getting my fire under control. After that, I can figure out what to do next.”

“So you’re only remaining with the Falcons until then?” My throat felt strangely tight. Of course I wanted Zaira to be free, and my life would certainly be quieter without her in it. But it would be a lonely sort of quiet.

“That depends.” Zaira’s voice dropped low. “After that idiocy in Ardence, I made myself a promise. If the doge orders me to burn down people who don’t deserve it, that’s the line. I’m gone.”

I nodded. “I understand. But if he orders you against Vaskandar? What then?”

“If they invade us, that’s different.” She brushed off the thought of war with the Empire’s most powerful neighbor as if it were an annoying insect. “I’ve heard the stories of the Three Years’ War from the wrinkled old relics in the Tallows. Grandfathers strangled in their beds by bramble vines, children fed to bears—the Witch Lords don’t know mercy. If they come across our borders, I’ll show them they’re not the only demons in the Nine Hells.”

Ahead of us, Marcello stopped at the crest of the rocky spit as suddenly as if the wind had slammed a gate in his face.

“What’s that in the water?” Fear bleached all the color from his voice.

Jerith and Balos hopped up beside him and looked down on the other side of the rocks. Balos clapped a hand to his mouth; Jerith swore.

Zaira and I exchanged glances and ran to catch up with them.

Zaira crested the rocks first, her skirts whipping behind her. She took one look down into the water and gave a decisive nod, as if confirming a suspicion.

“Dead,” she said.

I scrambled up on the low line of rocks with the others and saw what they’d been looking at.

It bobbed against the rocks, caught there by the rising tide, black water lapping against brilliant scarlet wool. I caught a glimpse of dark hair spreading like floating seaweed, bloated white fingers, and the gleam of gold trim on a too-familiar uniform jacket. Then I had to look away, clasping my arms across my lurching stomach.

“Grace of Mercy,” I whispered.

“He’s one of ours,” Marcello said grimly. “A Falconer.”

I couldn’t bring myself to help as Marcello, Zaira, and Balos hauled the body out of the water. When Zaira called me a wilting pansy, I merely nodded, lips tight, and kept my eyes averted.

At least I’d kept my dinner in. Jerith staggered back from the woods to my side, wiping his mouth, even paler than usual.

“Oh, that poor bastard,” he groaned.

“Who is he?” I asked, throwing a nervous glance to where the others bent over the corpse. “Did you recognize him?”

“No. He’d been gnawed on too much. But his name should be on the uniform.” Jerith sank to the sand and rested his forehead on his knees. “I don’t have a problem with dead people. Seen dozens of them. Blood, terrible burns, I don’t care. But not in the water. Not days in the water like that.”

I nodded an emphatic agreement. Thank the Graces the wind blew across my face, carrying away the death-tainted air.

The others rose from the corpse. Balos remained over the dead man, his head bowed. Marcello walked past us to the water’s edge, his face drawn and haunted, and swished his hands in the clean salty lagoon. The pain pulling his handsome features taut cut me like a knife. I started toward him.

Zaira stomped up to us, wiping her palms on her skirts.

“Well,” she said, “that’s a bloater if I ever saw one. A week in the water, at least.”

Jerith lifted his head, swearing. “A week? Verdi!”

Marcello straightened. “I know. It’s too long. His Falcon must be dead, too.”

“Oh, Hells.” I hadn’t thought of that. When Falconers died, their Falcons had several days to get new jesses, or the innocuously lovely golden bracelets leaked deadly magic into their veins, slowly killing them.

It was never supposed to actually happen. Or at least, Marcello believed the intent was preventive only, to remove the incentive for criminals or foreign powers to murder Falconers. I, however, suspected that the doge considered it well worth killing a Falcon to keep them out of enemy hands.

“Who was it?” Jerith asked, his voice strained.

“Anthon. He became a Falconer a year after I did.” Marcello stared out across the lagoon at the Mews. “His Falcon was Namira, an artificer from Osta. They were on leave, to visit her family. But they must never have made it to their ship.”

“What happened?” I glanced over to where Balos stood, solemn and still; I couldn’t see the sad scarlet bundle beyond the low line of rocks. “Did he drown?”

“His throat was cut,” Marcello said curtly. “He was murdered.”

Chapter Two

A pall hung over our table at Lady Aurica’s dinner party. Marcello barely spoke, and the servants whisked away his plates almost untouched for the first two of the fourteen planned courses. Zaira, on the other hand, attacked her food with even more ferocity than usual. Marcello’s sister Istrella bent over a small pile of fiddly artifice bits she’d brought in her silk purse, a worried frown creasing her brow as she twisted a slip of wire. An old dowager at the next table gave her a disapproving sidelong glance and a sniff for this behavior, but it was just Istrella being Istrella.

I didn’t have the heart to try to support a conversation on my own. I hadn’t known the murdered Falconer or his presumably deceased Falcon well enough to do more than put faces to their names: Anthon had been growing a beard, and rubbed it self-consciously when he talked. Namira had been my mother’s age, with bright sharp eyes and an iron-gray frost upon the tight curls of her close-cropped hair. But it still seemed wrong to be at a party the day after we found a body.

The servers laid a nut course before us, a bountiful harvest of several kinds piled artistically with flowers and greens on a silver platter. Zaira plucked up a walnut; the harsh crunch as she cracked the shell jabbed at my nerves, and I could stand the silence no longer.

“Do they have any idea who did it?” I asked Marcello.

He lifted his head. Shadows beneath his eyes suggested he hadn’t slept much. I hated to see his clean-lined face so tired and worn. I wished I could reach out and smooth the worry lines from his brow.

“No,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. Namira was an artificer. She designed protective wards and taught new Falcons. There’s no reason anyone would want to kill her, or poor Anthon either.”

Zaira scowled at her plate. “I’d love to get my hands on the bastard who did. Namira was all right.” A sharp crack punctuated her sentence, and she popped another nut into her mouth.

“My mother suspects Vaskandar.” I cast a glance three tables over, where the Vaskandran ambassador lifted a glass with a pair of wealthy importers. “Only because they keep moving troops to the border, even with autumn upon us, and they’re clearly planning something.”

Marcello frowned. “I fail to see how murdering a single artificer and her Falconer would give them an advantage.”

“Namira was a highly skilled designer specializing in runic artifice,” I said. “Maybe she was working on some project Vaskandar was worried about, like a new kind of weapon or battlefield trap. We could look through her notes for clues.”

“You always have good ideas, Amalia.” Marcello smiled wistfully. “That’s one of the things I love about you.”

The word struck me like lightning, despite his casual tone. Love.

He hadn’t used it since that moment in Ardence, when I was dying of poison and we’d parted with little hope of seeing each other again. I think I might love you. I’d tried to forget; circumstances had been desperate, after all. And it would be foolish to dwell on whether he loved me, or I loved him, when I’d made the political decision to remain unattached, at least for now.

Which made me a fool, because naturally I’d thought of it nearly every day in the weeks since.

“Namira was working on adapting some of the lovely spiral runework you find in ancient Ostan tomb murals,” Istrella said unexpectedly, without looking up from her project. “She was going to do more research in Osta. I was quite jealous; I want to go see the wirework artifice filigree in their royal palace someday.”

“Maybe we can go together,” I suggested, and Istrella flashed me a smile.

“I should have known they were missing.” Marcello dropped his voice so low I could barely hear him. “They were due to arrive in Osta days ago. But because Namira was on leave, I didn’t expect them to report in.” He shook his head, his mouth set in a grim line.

I let my voice soften more than was perhaps wise. “Don’t blame yourself.”

“Who said I’m blaming myself?” He tried a rather unconvincing smile.

“Anyone who knows you.”

“The Falcons’ safety is my responsibility.” He rubbed his forehead. “Especially since the promotion.”

“Promotion! You didn’t tell me you got a promotion.” I’d noticed some extra braiding on his collar, and fancier falcon’s-head buttons, but had just assumed it was a new dress uniform.

He hadn’t told me. The realization pinched and twisted inside my chest. Perhaps he had simply been too busy; or perhaps he was keeping me at a distance.

Istrella glanced up from the wire she was coiling, beaming proudly. “Yes, he’s Captain Verdi now. Second only to Colonel Vasante at the Mews. He can approve funding for my projects himself! I’m quite excited. He doesn’t ask too many questions about safety precautions.”

Marcello’s eyebrows lifted in alarm. “Maybe I should fix that.”

“Congratulations,” I said, lifting my glass to him, determined to show no hurt in my smile. “I know you’ve been working toward this for a long time.”

Marcello shrugged, tugging at the gold trim on his collar uncomfortably. “Thank you. It’s already not what I expected, though.”

“Oh?” I raised an eyebrow. “More work? More politics?”

“More guilt.” He grimaced. “Colonel Vasante seemed to feel our handling of the Ardence situation showed I was ready for greater responsibility. But I’m afraid I’m already letting her down. With Vaskandar preparing for war, I should have assigned extra guards for all Falcons traveling outside the Mews.”

Zaira grunted. “Punch yourself in the privates about it if you really want, but I’m more interested in blaming His Oily Excellency, there.” She jerked her head toward the Vaskandran ambassador, who had stood to greet a countrywoman, his head bobbing ingratiatingly. “He keeps going off to talk to people in a side room.”

“Does he?” I craned to look. Graces knew I should have been watching him, too, and not letting memories of death and decaying flesh smother my awareness.

He was a middle-aged man, with the look of old muscle gone to seed. A robust blond beard provided a counterargument to the bald spot that flashed each time he bowed. Even his wardrobe struck a compromise: a Raverran-style brocade jacket in Vaskandran forest green. I searched my memory for his name and dredged it up from my last visit to the embassy, when I’d attended a truly grueling tea party with Prince Ruven: Ambassador Varnir.

Zaira was right; Varnir gestured to a door across Lady Aurica’s dining hall, and he and his companion—a tall, graceful woman in a long leather coat edged with jagged Vaskandran embroidery—began picking their way between the tables.

“I’d give a lot to overhear what they talk about,” I said.

Istrella’s head popped up from her work. Marcello had made her leave her artifice glasses at home, and the mage mark stood out bright gold in her eyes, giving them a feverish gleam. “Oh! Really? Let me see what I can do.”

Humming, she produced a tiny pair of pliers and began coiling wire around her dessert spoon. Marcello and I exchanged affectionate glances; leave it to Istrella to come up with an artifice solution to any problem. She slid a few beads onto the wire, then pulled a pin from the unruly pile of her bushy hair and dipped it into a tiny bottle of ink among her supplies. Within moments, she’d scratched out a simple circle and a few runes on the back of the spoon.


  • "Takes the series to the next level in every way.... I absolutely loved The Defiant Heir. It's extraordinarily fun with wonderful characters and intriguing mysteries.... I can hardly contain my excitement for the third installment."—Fantasy Book Cafe on The Defiant Heir
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  • "The Tethered Mage is a riveting read, with delicious intrigue, captivating characters, and a brilliant magic system. I loved it from start to finish!"—Sarah Beth Durst, author of The Queen of Blood, on The Tethered Mage
  • "Charming, intelligent, fast-moving, beautifully atmospheric, with a heroine and other characters whom I really liked as people. (I overstayed my lunch break in order to finish it.) I would love to read more set in this world."—Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library, on The Tethered Mage
  • "Intricate and enticing as silk brocade. Caruso's heroine is a strong, intelligent young woman in a beguiling, beautifully evoked Renaissance world of high politics, courtly intrigue, love and loyalty - and fire warlocks."—Anna Smith Spark, author of The Court of Broken Knives, on The Tethered Mage
  • "Engaging and entertaining with intrigue, a good pace, and strong characters. Zaira and Amalia are bright, bold heroes in a smartly constructed world."—James Islington, author of The Shadow of What Was Lost, on The Tethered Mage
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  • "Strong worldbuilding, political intrigue, and beautiful development of the tension and ultimate partnership between its two central heroines."—Kirkus on The Tethered Mage
  • "Caruso skillfully maintains her plot."—Publishers Weekly on The Tethered Mage
  • "The plotting is good, the characters interesting.... Something really special."—RT Book Reviews on The Tethered Mage
  • "A gorgeous, fresh fantasy debut filled with political intrigue and ethical quandary.... Highly recommend."—Girls in Capes on The Tethered Mage

On Sale
Apr 24, 2018
Page Count
560 pages

Melissa Caruso

About the Author

Melissa Caruso was born on the summer solstice and went to school in an old mansion with a secret door, but despite this auspicious beginning has yet to develop any known superpowers. Melissa has spent her whole life creating imaginary worlds, and in addition to writing is also an avid LARPer and tabletop gamer.  She graduated with honors in Creative Writing from Brown University and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Melissa's first novel, The Tethered Mage, was shortlisted for a Gemmell Morningstar award for best fantasy debut.

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