Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

By R. L. LaFevers [LibraryThingGoodreads]

Because Theodosia’s parents work at the London Museum of Legends and Antiquities, Theodosia spends a lot of time around quite a lot of very cool ancient artifacts. The only problem is that most of these items come into the museum with curses on them, and Theodosia appears to be the only one who can see the curses. When one particularly curse-heavy artifact is stolen from the museum, Theodosia must recover it, along with her brother Henry and her new pickpocket friend Will, before the whole country is flung into war.

I picked this up in Target because it was cheap, and because spunky Victorian girls and Egyptology are things that intrigue me. I then proceeded to not review it for, like, eight million years at least. So that’ll give you an idea of how much of an impact it made on me. A lot of the details have been lost in the canyons of my mind since I read the book, but let’s see what I can remember:

Theodosia is a pretty decent heroine, and her two sidekicks perfectly respectable sidekicks. The villains were sort of random and disconnected, and the red herring villain’s red herring-ness was never adequately explained.

The prose was quite charming Victorian pastiche, but the chapter endings were dreadful. Almost all of them felt more like LaFever had paused for a bathroom break than because there was a real break in the narrative; the first sentence of the subsequent chapter almost always seemed like it could just have followed the last sentence of the previous chapter without interruption.

One of the motifs of the book is that adults, particularly Theodosia’s parents, don’t listen to her. I know that often adults don’t listen to children, and have certainly been there myself, back in my graham cracker days. And there are narrative where it works well (Count Olaf’s triumphant “Adults never listen to children!” in the Series of Unfortunate Events film is marvelously chilling). But here I just found it unbelievably frustrating and, quite frankly, it made me hate Theodosia’s parents, who never hear a word she says, whether it’s plot-related or not.

The end was a little bit of a letdown, because the war the heroes are trying so hard to prevent is…World War I. So, um, sorry, guys. Your triumph will be short-lived. It’s just hard to celebrate with them through the lens of history.

All in all, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos was a perfectly serviceable but un-noteworthy book, and so gets the middle-of-the-road grade of three cupcakes.

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