I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Can you alter fate? Author Jack Croxall toys with the idea of predestination in his young adult adventure story Tethers. The swiping of a journal from a recluse’s estate launches thirteen-year-olds Karl Scheffer and Esther Emerson from their small hamlet of Shraye into the underworld of greed and murder. An entry in the journal describes Karl and Esther being in Acclesthorpe, a town that’s a half-day’s walk from Shraye. Neither Karl nor Esther, though, have ever left Shraye.
Restlessness brewed with curiosity creates a stew of adventure for these two. Karl and Esther ditch school and slip out of Shraye with plans to return home that evening. They return weeks later with their innocence banished and several dead left behind.
Croxall nails the middle grade to young adult genre. The tale avoids romance and focuses on friendship, making it acceptable advanced-level reading for the ten to thirteen-year-old crowd. The story isn’t just for the young though, I’m years from my adolescence and still enjoyed it. The battle scenes add tension and speed to the story. Croxall gives Karl and Esther distinctly different intelligences showing that every talent has a path to contributing to a team.
Esther is portrayed as a hidden talent of bad-ass athleticism and bravery while Karl is fumbling, loyal and compassionate. Esther is quick on her feet, mentally and physically. She springs through windows and off ships while Karl falls out of windows and tumbles off boats. Karl is academically smart; he ponders, compares, and analyzes. He demonstrates loyalty to Shona and Mr. Cauldwell by attempting to save them from the evil Laurent Dufor.
Absent, however, are Karl and Esther’s fears, hopes, and transformations. An omission that made connecting with the characters a challenge. At nineteen, I moved from North Carolina to the Netherlands. It was my first time traveling alone, my first time on an airplane, and my first time living outside of North Carolina. That first night in Amsterdam, while other residents celebrated New Year’s Eve, I sobbed, gulping air between weeping jags, as the rawness and exhaustion from the new experiences made me crave home. Contrast my leaving home to Karl and Esther’s. The two trod off from their hometown cradle with nonchalance. Nottingham passes as another place people live, not as a bustling Victorian city so different from their small town. People die in their presence and they react as if a bug was squashed. The characters as they’re written are likeable, yet with more depth they could become identifiable.
The theme questions whether our fates are determined or alterable. A question struggled with since Augustine’s days – do we have a predestined future or a free will? I hope Croxall examines the theme further in his next two installments. The dilemma that Karl and Esther face is similar to the time traveler’s Grandfather paradox. If Karl and Esther manipulate the outcome of the predicted events, will the consequences be good or bad?
Perhaps what Croxall is conveying with Tethers is to live in the moment. Because if we do that, the future and past don’t matter, right? Read Tethers and let me know your take.
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