Book Review: The Tethered World (Tethered World Chronicles #1)

“Normal” means different things to different people.

For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, family dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five homeschooled siblings—one with autism? Normal.

Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal!

When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden. 

Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family.

She’s just not sure she will survive in the process. 

Warning: This book may be for you if you

  • homeschool
  • were homeschooled
  • know someone with autism
  • are a Christian
  • love fantasy.

I fit in most of those categories, and I loved The Tethered World: a unique, ingenious adventure following sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen as she leads her siblings underground to rescue their kidnapped parents.

Heather FitzGerald promises great contributions to the world of literature, writing with a daring imagination that puts many writers to shame. She isn’t afraid to wonder what happened to the creatures in the Garden of Eden. She isn’t afraid to ask what if they still existed today in a secret world, and what if a family were charged with the safekeeping of that world. I have never read such a fascinating premise.

Along with those “what if” questions comes the confident voice of “been there done that.” As a fantasy-loving Christian homeschooler with an autistic son, FitzGerald is fully qualified to write the themes that she does—themes centering around homeschool life, Christian morals, and autistic characters. Such variety in the story guarantees it a place on the bookshelves of a wide audience.   

As for the story, I very much enjoyed it. FitzGerald’s main characters are the most human, most relatable characters I’ve ever read—they cry, scream, argue, and drool in their sleep just like the rest of us. (I wanted to cheer when I read that the Sadie and her siblings brought toilet paper in their backpacks. Hoorah for normal characters!)

I appreciated Sadie’s character the most. Unlike most literature protagonists, she doesn’t choose an adventure that life has coincidentally prepared her for. The adventure chooses her, and she is not at all prepared. She leads because she has to, and she struggles through an entire book’s worth of fears, doubts, and failures. Because of this—because of her humanity—I identify with her better than I have with many other literary characters.

Also as a human, she grows. She learns. She changes. By the end of the book, she decides to join the action where once she would have played it safe. We get to watch as her fifteen-year-old brother becomes a man beside her. Other characters (human and non-human) show encouraging, positive change. Well done to the author for writing excellent character journeys.

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

And then there’s the writing itself. FitzGerald writes with a more informal style, which took me a bit to get used to. But once I told myself to relax and just enjoy the ride, I did. Her characters—including the narrator—employ a wit and sarcasm that had me laughing out loud, a lot. And that doesn’t include the comparisons. It can be hard to picture mythological creatures when their appearances vary as widely as their authors. Not so with Heather FitzGerald when she compares an armored gnome to “a toy-sized R2D2 from Star Wars.” The book is full of such great descriptions.

I would have liked to see more of the book from Sadie’s point of view. For a first-person adventure, I often felt as if I were watching events through Sadie as opposed to experiencing them with her. Sometimes the writing also got choppy—a chunk of action followed by a chunk of reaction. Granted, not all moments lend themselves to introspection, especially when you’re running for your life, but I would have liked to see more of the reactions woven throughout the action.

But I still give The Tethered World five stars—five stars for a unique (and clean) story, five stars for great humor, five stars for outstanding characters, and five stars for creative ideas that, I’m sure, will go far in this Topside world.

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