Tuesday, March 20, 2012

AudioBook Review: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. Lafevers

Reading Level: Ages 9 and up (middle grade)

Title: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

Author: R.L. Lafevers

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Publication Date: April 9, 2007

Audio Reading: 7 hrs 53 mins

Narrator: Charlotte Parry

From the book:
Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo—and only Theo—who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum.

When Theo’s mother returns from her latest archaeological dig bearing the Heart of Egypt—a legendary amulet belonging to an ancient tomb—Theo learns that it comes inscribed with a curse so black and vile that it threatens to crumble the British Empire from within and start a war too terrible to imagine. Intent on returning the malevolent artifact to its rightful place, Theo devises a daring plan to put things right. But even with the help of her younger brother, a wily street urchin, and the secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Chosen Keepers, it won’t be easy . . . she quickly finds herself pursued down dark alleys, across an ocean, through the bustling crowds of Cairo, and straight into the heart of an ancient mystery. Theo will have to call upon everything she’s ever learned in order to prevent the rising chaos from destroying her country—and herself!

My Summary: Theodosia is a bright 11-year-old, so bright, in fact, that she sometimes knows more about the importance of the artifacts her parents bring into the Museum of Legends and Antiquities than her own father (the museum's curator) and her mother (an archaeologist.) This knowledge is bound to get her into all sorts of trouble, and trouble is what Theo finds herself in when she realizes that the Heart of Egypt, one of the artifacts her mother has brought back from her latest excursion, holds a curse that will bring about the end of days for Britain if the artifact is not returned to Egypt. Seems simple enough, right? Just take the Heart of Egypt back to its rightful place and all is right in the world. Well, not exactly. Theodosia is not the only person after the Heart of Egypt. A group, The Serpents of Chaos want the artifact, too, though their intent for it is not good. The artifact holds the power to set all of Europe at war and they will stop at nothing to have exactly that happen.

On the book: I found Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos to be a delightful tale of adventure and chaos. Theo is a smart and resourceful young girl. She's quick witted, but still maintains a childish innocence that reminds the reader that she is just a young girl (something that can be easily forgotten while reading all of the adult-like trouble she finds herself in.) Some of the predicaments Theo finds herself in require one to suspend disbelief. I can't imagine many young girls of Theo's standing in 1906 London would sneak about so readily and deal with the situations Theo does in her adventures so well. But this is a story about a young girl who can see magic and curses so it's easy to accept Theo's adventures when considering the fantasy already involved.

On the narration: Charlotte Parry is charming in narrating of the novel. She takes on Theo's clever voice in a perfectly childlike, yet wise-beyond-her-years way that brings the young heroine to life. She also does well at voicing the novel's host of characters. I particularly liked the voicing of the street urchin, Sticky Will. The only character that I wasn't completely enthralled with was Theo's mother, whom I felt lacked any distinctive accent. I wondered if she was American, but since it was never brought up in the story, I assume her not to be, therefore the accent that Parry used for her was bothersome until I warmed up to, and accepted that to be the way she sounded. Overall, I feel the narration was excellent, so much so that I searched for more of Parry's narrations and plan on listening to a few of those books as well.

Notes: This is the first book in the Theodosia Throckmorton series of which there are currently 4 books.
The reading level for this book states 9 and up. I think that age 9 is a bit generous and that a middle grade audience would have a better appreciation for the story. While listening I couldn't reconcile a child of 9 really getting the wit and dry humor used throughout the story. That's not to say don't try to give it to a child that age, just be mindful that they may not be too interested in it for another couple years.

Final thoughts: Growing up I loved stories like Harriet the Spy and Nancy Drew. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos put me in the mind of those mysteries that I used to pull out from under my pillow, way after I should have been asleep, and read by the moonlight that came in through my window. It's a charming story, with a witty young heroine - and for me, that's the stuff good books are made of.

For more about this book and others by R.L. Lafevers, visit her the author's site here.

**I'm participating in the 2012 Audio Book Challenge being hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner.


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