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Orphans of Chaos (The Chronicles of Chaos) Mass Market Paperback – October 31, 2006

Book 1 of 3 in the Chronicles of Chaos Series

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Product Details

  • Series: The Chronicles of Chaos (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; Reprint edition (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765349957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765349958
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At first glance, Wright's myth-infused fantasy looks like something older Harry Potter fans might enjoy with its creaky British boarding school setting and its five ageless orphans—Colin, Quentin, Victor, Vanity and Amelia—each with a supernatural gift. But the underlying theme of dominance and submission plus a fair amount of physics and theology make this definitely a book for adults. A spanking scene involving the precocious Amelia Armstrong Windrose, who can travel into the fourth dimension, may offend some readers, but others will find it playful. Wright (Mists of Everness) doesn't fully develop the intriguing premise of these unusual students trapped in a school run by Greek gods as hostages in a bizarre war, but presumably he'll do so in later installments. Those who like sophisticated fantasy with a mild erotic charge will be most rewarded.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the first installment of the Chronicles of Chaos series, common associations of high school with prison prove spectacularly well founded. The five teen protagonists are hostages in a British boarding school run by pagan gods. Sustaining themes of lost identity from Wright's respected Golden Age trilogy and heavily borrowing from the work of Roger Zelazny, the narrative charts the teens' discovery of their true identities--they're shape-shifters who hail from Chaos--then pits their budding powers against school authorities who have proceeded from acting in loco parentis to being ominous and occasionally lascivious oppressors. Phaethusa, who goes by Amelia after her aviatrix role model, narrates the rich and frequently comic intrigue, which takes full advantage of the alluring juxtapositions that arise when the soul of a "montrosity from beyond the edge of space and time" is trapped in a nubile teen's heaving breast. Mythological references and discursions on the nature of reality may prove substantial barriers for some; Wright's growing fandom will revel in his overlapping frames of reference. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This was an enjoyable book to read--really interesting concept.
W. Eisenberg
Much like the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings, it seems as if this book is just the first third of the story and not so much a complete story in itself.
Joseph M. Reninger
This happens to be the first book I read in the adult fantasy genre.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Carey on November 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Wright continues to amaze. This book is not really anything like any of his previous ones, except that it's wonderfully written.

Somewhere in rural England, there's an orphage. The orphanage houses only five children-Victor, Amelia, Vanity, Colin, and Quentin. They're significantly outnumbered by the staff, and despite receiving an excellent education, they're kept in almost prison-like conditions of discipline and restriction of movements. They've never made even an unsupervised visit to the nearby village.

Oh, and they all have unusual powers-different and apparently incompatible powers. Quentin's a warlock, Victor can change the molecular arrangement of matter, Amelia can see in four dimensions. If the physical laws of the universe are such that Quentin's powers can work, how can Victor's also work under the same set of laws?

There's also some mystery about their exact ages, and the larger mystery of where they come from. And now that they're approximately in their late teens, or perhaps early teens, or, just possibly, early twenties, curiosity and determination are overcoming deference to the adults they increasing regard as jailers. When Amelia and Quentin manage to eavesdrop on a midnight meeting of the Governors and Visitors of the school, all bets are off and they're in active rebellion against their captors.

But they still know only tiny pieces of what's going on.

This is truly excellent, although I need to mention that it's the first half, or possibly the first third, of the novel, not the whole thing. This volume doesn't end; it stops at a crucial point. Part Two will apparently be entitled Fugitives of Chaos. (That's less of a spoiler for this book than it might seem.) Nevertheless, Wright has delivered before, and I do highly recommend this one.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lauren Hutchison on October 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Orphans of Chaos was described to me as Harry Potter for adults. Students have magical powers, but as a slant, the teachers are actually their enemies. I don't think this comparison does an accurate job of portraying the mood of the book, but it comes close.

Orphans of Chaos - the first of a trilogy of fantasy books by John Charles Wright - takes place in an ambiguously old-fashioned boarding school in the UK, where five teenage students with no memory of their past start to realize their school is a jail, and their teachers are captors. The children stop taking their daily medicines, which awakens their dormant magical powers: each from a different and equally powerful paradigm. They slowly learn that they are hostages in a classic power play. All involved, including their teachers, are gods or servants of heaven. Narrated by one of the children - Amelia Windrose - they embark on a series of adventures to regain their memories, their powers, and escape their fate as political pawns.

The book is written in a somewhat florid style. I enjoyed the pace, which alternates between dialog and adventure. The language and plot elements are evocative of a pseudo-Victorian setting, though we later learn that the book takes place around modern day. All of the adventures and magic are entertaining. Though there may be an overload on the number of minor characters involved, all of the people (gods?) have intriguing backgrounds.

There are a few places where the book falls short. There's not a great continuity on which of the five children are involved in adventures or conversations. The children that are part of the action seem to be selected arbitrarily.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mike Reeves-McMillan on February 11, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I agree with other reviewers that this is excellently written. John Wright gives a (to me) very convincing impression of a teenage girl who is also an ancient four-dimensional Greek goddess (or demigoddess, or something). However, I must mention how annoying I find it that the dialogue of these teenagers, raised in Britain, given a very old-fashioned classical education and almost completely isolated from popular culture, is colloquial American (up to and including the phrase "go figure"). This is also interfering with my otherwise great enjoyment of the sequel, which I'm reading at the moment.

As a disclaimer, I'm a New Zealander with a master's degree in English language and literature who reads a lot of British and American fiction, and is married to an American, so I am much more aware of this than most readers will be. Your mileage, as they say in the US, may vary.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
On the one hand, I found the author's writing style to be very mature and easy to read. The story was narrated by the main character, a teenage girl, and she lent a very charming voice to the novel.

On the other hand, every character was one-dimensional, there was no character development or maturity, the plot didn't develop much (in 300-some pages!), and the almost constant dominant/submissive sexual play with our youthful heroine was both annoying and off-putting.

The cast of characters was another disappointment. It began as a small, intimate group of friends, which I rather liked, but then quite suddenly grew into a huge gaggle of oddballs with multiple names, intertwining relationships, and even flatter personalities than our main characters.

The magic system was an interesting concept -- It used hyperspace physics as a form of magic -- but I don't feel that it worked very well in practice. The lengthy explanations in the middle of the action sequences were a little annoying. It was also silly because the physics babble was really just a thin veneer for whatever struck the author's fancy.

The ending was abrupt and unresolved, but I wouldn't exactly call it a cliffhanger. Generally a cliffhanger leaves you in suspense, excited to read on. This book just left me shrugging and thinking, "Well... that went absolutely nowhere."

So there you have it. This review is one part praise and four parts criticism, and that seems like just the right ratio for this book. Not without its charm, but I certainly won't be reading the rest of the series.

Your mileage may vary.
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More About the Author

John C. Wright is a retired attorney, newspaperman and newspaper editor, who was only once on the lam and forced to hide from the police who did not admire his newspaper.

In 1984, Graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis, home of the "Great Books" program. In 1987, he graduated from the College and William and Mary's Law School (going from the third oldest to the second oldest school in continuous use in the United States), and was admitted to the practice of law in three jurisdictions (New York, May 1989; Maryland December 1990; DC January 1994). His law practice was unsuccessful enough to drive him into bankruptcy soon thereafter. His stint as a newspaperman for the St. Mary's Today was more rewarding spiritually, but, alas, also a failure financially. He presently works (successfully) as a writer in Virginia, where he lives in fairy-tale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children: Pingping, Orville, Wilbur, and Just Wright.

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