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Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos Paperback – May 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–8—A combination of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones, Theo Throckmorton is in big trouble. The 11-year-old lives in London in 1906 and spends most of her time in an antiquities museum headed by her father and filled with objects from her mother's archaeological expeditions to Egypt. Bossy, clever, and learned in the lore of ancient Egypt, the girl constantly worries that the work-obsessed parents who ignore and neglect her will be destroyed by virulent ancient curses that only she can detect. When her mother returns from her latest trip with an amulet inscribed with curses so powerful they could unleash the Serpents of Chaos and destroy the British Empire, Theo finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue and danger. It pits her, along with some unexpected allies, against German operatives trying to use the scarab as a weapon in their political and economic rivalry with England. Theo must draw on all her resources when she confronts her enemies alone, deep in an Egyptian tomb. There, she makes some surprising discoveries, both personal and archaeological. Vivid descriptions of fog-shrouded London and hot, dusty Cairo enhance the palpable gothic atmosphere, while page-turning action and a plucky, determined heroine add to the book's appeal. Unfortunately, Theo's narrative voice lurches between the diction of an Edwardian child and that of a modern teen. The ambiguous ending, with its hints at the approaching World War, seems to promise a sequel. A fine bet for a booktalk to classes studying ancient Egypt.—Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
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

*Starred Review* "You'd be surprised by how many things come into the museum loaded with curses--bad ones," says 11-year-old Theodosia, whose parents run London's Museum of Legends and Antiquities. The twentieth century has just begun, and Theodosia's mum, an archaeologist, has recently returned from Egypt with crates of artifacts. Only Theodosia can feel the objects' dark magic, which, after consulting ancient texts, she has learned to remove. Then a sacred amulet disappears, and during her search, Theodosia stumbles into a terrifying battle between international secret societies. Readers won't look to this thrilling adventure for subtle characterizations (most fit squarely into good and evil camps) or neat end-knots in the sprawling plot's many threads. It's the delicious, precise, and atmospheric details (nicely extended in Tanaka's few, stylized illustrations) that will capture and hold readers, from the contents of Theodosia's curse-removing kit to descriptions of the museum after hours, when Theodosia sleeps in a sarcophagus to ward off the curses of "disgruntled dead things." Kids who feel overlooked by their own distracted parents may feel a tug of recognition as Theodosia yearns for attention, and those interested in archaeology will be drawn to the story's questions about the ownership and responsible treatment of ancient artifacts. A sure bet for Harry Potter fans as well as Joan Aiken's and Eva Ibbotson's readers. This imaginative, supernatural mystery will find word-of-mouth popularity. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Series: Theodosia (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (May 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618999760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618999767
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

R. L. LaFevers (Robin Lorraine when she's in really big trouble) grew up surrounded by shelves of old dusty books, a passel of brothers, and a wide variety of pets, including a goat, chickens, chipmunks, a baby anteater, and, for a few short weeks, two bear cubs, who were very wild and untamed. She has also spent a large portion of her life being told she was making up things that weren't there, which only proves she was destined to write fiction. She is the author of eight books for young readers, including Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) which received starred reviews and was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Booksense Summer Pick, and nominated for the Malice Domestic's Agatha Award. Kirkus calls her most recent book, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) ". . . an exciting tale." Look for the sequel, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Basilisk's Lair (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) in Spring of 2010.

R. L. lives in Southern California with her family and spends her time daydreaming, making up stories, and wallowing in old forgotten texts. Although she no longer has any exotic pets, she does have raccoons who visit her back porch, coyotes who howl at her window, and hawks that soar high overhead.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By D. Weinstein on July 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Should I be embarrassed that I am a 50-ish woman who took one little skim of this book and got all the way hooked, snuck it from my son, and read it cover to cover? WOW! I am the kind of person who has 5 or 6 books started all over the house; who reads snippets wherever I sit down. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos grabbed my imagination and took me on a mystical and suspenseful adventure, full of Ancient Egyptian artifacts, swirling curses and lively heiroglyphs. I met Theodosia's cute but pesky little brother Henry, and a heroic pickpocketing street urchin, Sticky Will, among many others. One of my favorites was Isis, the hapless kitty that became the recepticle for some dark curses Theodosia tried to remove from one of the ancient vases. I could go on and on about how much fun this story was to read, but I'd better not give any more away. I won't tell you that it was on Theodosia's shoulders to save the whole country of England, or that she had to find a way to go to Egypt and visit some tombs for herself. A real feat for an 11 year old girl. I just CAN'T tell you how she managed to get there, or how scary the dark tunnels to the tombs were. You just need to read it for yourself! If there was anything I would change about this book, it would only be to make the story longer. I hope R.L.LaFevers decides to make this only the first of Theodosia's many adventures.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Things That Are Difficult To Do:

1. Eating broken glass

2. Changing a baby's diaper for the first time.

3. Digesting aforementioned broken glass.

4. Selling a boy on a great adventuresome novel with a female heroine.

It's a bit of a stereotype but one with at least a grain of truth to it. Certain boys of a particular literary persuasion will offer an unpleasant amount of resistance to reading a book when its protagonist is of the feminine variety. This is understood. Few quibble the point. As a result, nine times out of ten a hero who discovers a fantastical world in a fantasy novel will sport a name like Harry or Percy or Sebastian (no one said they had to be manly names). This can make it difficult for girls heroes. Either they have to share the spotlight with a boy (and is pictured on the cover with him if the publisher has their way) or their heroine already exists in a world of her own when the action begins. The latter is the case with one Theodosia Throckmorton. If you called her "spunky" to her face she'd probably grind your foot beneath her boot heel. Theodosia isn't cute or plucky or wide-eyed. She's sly and clever with just half a sandwich more intelligence than her fellow man. "Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos" is not a perfect creation, but it has enough originality and sheer verve to make up for those imperfections a reader might find.

When you're living in Edwardian England as the child of easily distracted museum curators, you have to do a lot of growing up on your own. Theodosia Throckmorton , for her part, has done her fair share.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Robinson on March 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Who could resist Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, by R. L. LaFevers? The book is dedicated to "clever girls everywhere who get tired of feeling like no one's listening". Set in the early 1900's, it's the story of young Theodosia Throckmorton, who more or less lives in London's Museum of Legends and Antiquities. Her mother is an archaeologist, frequently away excavating tombs in Egypt. Her father is museum-obsessed, and frequently works through the night. Theodosia, who has managed through her parents' inattention to dodge both boarding school and governesses, has her own little room at the museum, where she sleeps in a sarcophagus. This alone would be interesting, but it gets better.

Theodosia, who is "cleverer than most", has a rare natural gift for sensing ancient curses, and removing them. When her mother brings home a very important, and seriously cursed artifact, the Heart of Egypt, Theodosia finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy. She has to recover the artifact, after it's stolen by evil-doers, and go to great lengths to un-do the damage wrought by the Heart of Egypt. She wrestles with a secret brotherhood, German troublemakers, an appealing young pickpocket, and her pesky younger brother, Henry. Not to mention stowing away on a ship, facing scorpions, and removing a curse from her black cat. Through it all, Theodosia remains strong and smart, considerably more on top of things than her relatively hapless parents and snooty grandmother. She's very cool.

Theodosia has an appealingly snarky voice (the story is told in the first person). Here are a couple of examples:

"I weighed my options: being followed through the streets of London by a menacing stranger or catching a lift with Grandmother Throckmorton.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on May 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Eleven-year-old Theodosia Throckmorton spends most of her time at The Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father is the head curator and her mother is an archeologist who brings back her latest finds to the museum. Theo is very busy since she has the unique ability to sense dark magic and curses. Using a blend of intuition and science, she has successfully lifted many curses and has learned what to do when your cat is possessed by a demon.

Her mother's latest find is Thutmose's Heart of Egypt. Unfortunately, legend has it that whoever removes the Heart of Egypt from the tomb will bring about famine, plague and pestilence. Members of a secret society give Theo an important mission: return the Heart of Egypt to the tomb to save the British Empire!

Readers will enjoy Theodosia as she is precocious and a lot of fun. Her observations are dry and often hilarious. For example, she is able to identify one of the curators based on his signature scent of onions and boiled cabbage. She is also a sympathetic character because she has learned to be self-sufficient. While her parents love her, they often get caught up in their latest discovery. Theo has learned to fend for herself. She does what she can to get her parents' attention and admiration. Although Theo is often told she is a bit too clever for her own good, this trait helps her stay one step ahead of the villains.

This is a very well-written adventure story that will appeal to adult and younger readers. I started to read this book before going to bed, thinking that I would just read one or two chapters to start. I stayed up late because I kept turning the pages to find out what happened next.

I can't wait for Theodosia's next adventure! [...]
Armchair Interviews says: Two thumbs up for Theodosia Throckmorton!
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