Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin, 2007

Theodosia's parents both study ancient Egypt and work for London's Museum of Legends and Antiquities. As a result, eleven-year-old Theodosia spends almost all her time at the museum which is wonderful since she is interested in antiquities, but it's not so great because she can sense the ancient curses that surround many of the Egyptian artifacts. When her mother finds and brings the legendary jeweled Heart of Egypt to the museum, Theodosia is not the only person who knows of its devastating powers, but it appears that she may the only one who can save Britain from the doom to come.

What a rip-roaring adventure! It's almost like The Mummy but with children as protagonists (and I mean that in the best possible way: action, adventure, Egyptian curses, chase scenes, but unfortunately for me no Medjai, sigh). Serpents of chaos also involves pickpockets, a stowaway, hidden burial chambers, a demonized cat, and a secret brotherhood. How's that for excitement!

Amidst it all, Theodosia as a character is solid as a rock. She is clever, independent, daring, and is rather attached to her cat's presence while she sleeps in an empty sarcophagus most nights (her father is the Head Curator and rarely leaves his place of work while his wife is away on a dig). She also realizes that her ability to sense curses makes her different from her parents, and as a result she is essentially an expert in neutralizing Egyptian curses due to her extensive studies while she is stuck at the museum. The adults who surround her on a daily basis fail to recognize her knowledge, which causes Theodosia much frustration. This frustration drives many of her actions throughout the book, and she is determined to prove to her parents that she is of great worth.

The historical setting is an interesting one. The events occur in what seems to be early 1914, and the author does a stand-up job of simply explaining the complicated international relations that existed at that time and which provide a backdrop to the significance of the Heart of Egypt. I'm curious to read the sequels to Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos for many reasons, but one of the main ones is to find out how the advent of the First World War will be incorporated into the plot if, indeed, it is.

This is a novel that should appeal to boys and girls with its wit, adventure, and magic, and will likely spur interest in ancient Egypt as well.


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