When T. A. Hernandez was looking for reviewers for the first book in a new fantasy novel, I was happy to offer to help. I’d heard her talking about Tethered Spirits for a while now, and I was intrigued by the world she had created and the characters she introduces in the synopsis. Tethered Spirits offered a whole bunch of things that I love in books, including, but not limited to “messy POV characters”, healing from trauma, found family, a snarky fire spirit and “a badass and nurturing warrior”. Honestly, she had me at “lots of magic”, so the rest was just a bonus!
I ended up massively delayed with this review due to bad health, and Tethered Spirits is out today! You can be buy it from any of the links listed in this post.
This book was provided for free by the author in exchange for an honest review.
This novel deals with a lot of serious topics which means there are quite a few dark and possibly triggering moments in this novel, however, they have been handled respectfully by the author. Hernandez has a contents warnings list on her website for all her books, and here is her list for Tethered Spirits:
Depictions of death
References to self-harm and suicidal ideation
Explorations of trauma and mental illness
Torture and imprisonment
I want to add my own thoughts as a reader, especially as one who identifies as disabled and has depression, anxiety, PTSD and multiple chronic health conditions.
As mentioned in my introduction, healing from trauma is a storyline for one character, but their PTSD has not been used as a plot device. I say that as a reader with PTSD. Their trauma is specifically related to an incident involving fire, which may be triggering for some people.
There is a character who has a fictional illness causing chronic pain and fatigue; this is not the magical disease listed under disability representation. While it is fictional, it is a very real illness in the world Hernandez has created, with symptoms that reminded me of ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, although terminal in natural like cancer. Again, this has been written with care and respect, but may be triggering for people.
There are also flashbacks and references to raids and enslavement, and an act of genocide through magic.
Tethered Spirits is a novel filled with rich world building and fascinating characters who end up thrown together as their paths end up entwined around one man; Amar. For one reason or another, they are on a quest to help him find out what has happened to him, to unravel the mystery of why he can’t remember who he is or where he’s from. There’s much more to the story and as that’s a huge spoiler, all I’m going to say is that the details of his curse is not as simple as amnesia. It’s world-changing if it can be duplicated, and there are people who want to do so for good, and there are people who want to get hold of Amar for their own selfish reasons.
This is a book where not everything is as it seems and even when I’d begun to work out the twisted plots that Hernandez weaves, I didn’t see that huge twist at the end. She has magnificently set it up for book two, but I am getting way ahead of myself; there is plenty to unpack in book one without thinking ahead!
The magic system in Tethered Spirits is so interesting and unique. People can become mages (Tarjas) by tying themselves to the spirit of a deceased Tarja. That sounds extremely necromantic and dodgy as hell, however, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a symbiotic relationship. In exchange for getting to live on in the form of a spirit, the deceased Tarja can bond with a person and share their abilities with them. The spirit Tarja only has a short period of time to bond with a person after death, and if they fail to do so, their spirit has to move on. The bond they form is a close one, and the spirit’s form depends on how powerful they were in life.
This offers a whole new dynamic to the concept of magic and familiars, and in Tethered Spirits we see two very different Tarja’s and two equally unique spirits. The juxtaposition between the two also highlights the comparison between the two young women who are bound to the spirits, and this is where Hernandez’s writing really shines. Every character shines bright, yet not glaringly so. This is very much a novel of found family as Hernandez promised, and they slot together like a jigsaw. Tethered Spirits is all about stories and journeys, some of them happening right in front of us and some of them from long ago. Everything is connected, and sometimes all it takes for healing to begin is for a connection with the right people to be made, to find the right path for oneself. It’s not an easy journey, healing trauma, and Hernandez steers well clear of miraculous cures or other tropes.
This book deals with some heavy themes and there are dark moments, but I want to emphasise that Tethered Spirits isn’t all about doom and gloom. There are some fabulous moments of dialogue where humour and camaraderie bring light-heartedness to the darkness. The characters are well-rounded in that sense, able to laugh at themselves and each other, teasing each other in a friendly manner even when they’re dodging death. It’s a fun novel, packed with adventure, mystery, magic and friends who have made their own family. If you love fantasy novels, then this needs to go on your TBR pronto.
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Over to you
Thanks for reading my review for Tethered Spirits!
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