Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers

Goodreads: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos
Series: Theodosia Throckmorton #1

Summary: Eleven-year-old Theodosia Throckmorton practically lives in London’s Museum of Legends and Antiquities in which her father works as curator.  Only she, however, can detect the ancient curses that linger on the artifacts her mother brings back from Egypt, and only she knows the rituals that will render the curses innocuous.  Unfortunately, when her mother returns with the legendary amulet known as the Heart of Egypt, Theodosia learns that it bears a curse so extraordinary that it will cause the destruction of the entire British Empire unless returned to its resting place.  Along with her brother and a friendly street urchin, Thedosia will brave German spies, secret agencies, and dark magic in order to save her country.

Review: Theodosia draws readers immediately into her story with her clever observations and irreverent remarks.  Feisty yet sympathetic, she proves a strong heroine with whom young girls should be able to relate, for she possesses an extraordinary intelligence that mirrors the astuteness often found in readers.  Even if the readers admit they do not possess Theodosia’s spirit and bravery, they will surely admire her willingness not simply to think, but also to act.  Her desire to do right despite the cost makes her a decent role model, notwithstanding her tendency to dismiss adult authority.

The world Theodosia inhabits, though not drawn in detail, still evokes the spirit of Edwardian England and will surely please fans of period novels.  The book has a whimsical air, slightly reminiscent of Charles Dickens.  The tendency toward stereotypes or caricature in many of the characters heightens the resemblance; the helpful pickpocket, the absentminded intellectual, and the evil Germans all make an appearance.  These do nothing to diminish the story, however, which takes readers on an exciting adventure full of nonstop action.  Rather, the stock characters add to the general atmosphere of the tale, which knowingly utilizes its components to create the feeling of genre fiction; both the readers and the author know Theodosia reads very much like a Victorian mystery* and that it is supposed to—that is part of its charm.  People do not stop reading fairy tales simply because they have seen the characters before or they know the end.  The very familiarity comforts them.  In the same way, the feeling that readers know all these characters proves soothing; the presence of these elements lets readers know they are about to experience an adventure/mystery of the most exciting kind.

The story, of course, does add elements not always found in one’s typical Edwardian novel—the most notable being the Egyptian magic.  Concerned parents should know that the book treats this magic very much as being real—and even hints at the actual existence of the Egyptian gods.  Theodosia furthermore expounds upon the magical properties of various objects, noting their uses and efficacies.  She even provides detailed explanations of the rites she performs to remove the curses from artifacts.  If any parents worry about impressionable children, they should read the book for themselves and make a personal judgment call.  The book, however, is ultimately written in a spirit of fun and adventure and meant merely, as far as I can tell, to celebrate the culture and majesty of ancient Egypt—which naturally includes its religion.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos illustrates beautifully the power and breadth of the human imagination.  Its quirky characters, fast pacing, and sense of mystery all combine to form a story sure to grip readers from the first page.  Fortunately, this is only the first of a series; readers have the opportunity to follow Theodosia on many more adventures.

*Note that I say “Victorian” mystery simply because most people (including myself) have trouble differentiating between Edwardian and Victorian times.  Thus, this book will likely bring Victorian works to mind.

Published: 2007

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