Jacob Evans doesn’t have very much going for him. His mother’s dead, his father routinely leaves for months at a time, and he hasn’t seen his best friend Emilia in four years. In The Tethering by Megan O’Russell, Jacob doesn’t have much to lose when he’s abruptly pulled into a world filled with magic, a whole new set of rules, and most importantly: his best friend again. What he could definitely do without though is this slowly building war amongst the magical community that he’s about to find himself pulled smack dab in the middle of.
In her debut novel, it’s clear that Megan O’Russell definitely has talent when it comes to writing. The Tethering is a quick and enjoyable read that offers a fresh new take on a magical school. The concept of there being one large magical school and also much smaller schools run by individual clans is an intriguing one and not one I’ve seen before and the characters are, for the most part, individuals who fulfill more than basic trope roles. I particularly liked the talisman concept instead of magic casting being played straight with just wands or else unaided casting. O’Russell builds this magical world as the plot goes along; there’s not much in terms of exposition dumps which is quite nice. That said, there are definitely times where it’s reminiscent of Harry Potter (a motherly red haired witch named Molly?) but it does enough to establish itself that I didn’t really mind.
I had a bit of trouble swallowing the whole ‘no contact’ rule of this magical world as the logic just didn’t track for me. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to leave someone who just used magic for the first time but doesn’t know about magic on their own. It actually sounds rather dangerous for everyone. Once I moved past that, my only other major complaint with the book is that O’Russell could have done a better job of fleshing out Dexter as a character. He didn’t feel like someone that Emilia legitimately would have fallen in love with regardless of how sparse the choices were. It makes his “betrayal” all too obvious from the get-go.
That said, Claire was an absolute delight of a character. She’s younger than the rest of the students but her enthusiasm for both fashion and computers is positively infectious. At the end of the book, she was the one I was left wanting to know more about. O’Russell does a good job with Jacob and shows him picking up magic quickly but not being some sort of overpowered prodigy. Emilia’s a character with a ton of potential and hopefully more of that gets unlocked in the next book.
Speaking of which: as a warning, the book is one of a series and ends fairly abruptly. (It’s more of an Empire Strikes Back ending than A New Hope.) The next book is due out in the first half of next year so don’t except many of the plot lines in The Tethering to be resolved by the end.
But seriously: Claire is wonderful and I would happily read a book purely about her.
I give The Tethering a 7/10 along with a recommendation if you’re looking for a new magic filled YA book.
Thank you to Silence in the Library for providing us with a copy of the book for review purposes.