Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh (R.L. LaFevers)

The Plot
At the end of the last book, Theodosia set out with her mother to Egypt. Their avowed purpose was to search for the temple of Thutmose III, but Theodosia had a secret mission of her own: to return the Emerald Tablet to the secret wedjadeen before the Serpents of Chaos could get their hands on it. She soon manages to make contact with the wedjadeen, but not before she discovers Chaos is on her trail.

My Thoughts
Far from the flying visit to Egypt which encompassed the last couple of chapters of Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, Egypt is the main setting for this book. Theodosia and her mother have set out on an archaeological expedition to discover the temple of Thutmose III before someone else can locate and get the credit for it. In addition to this, Theo has brought along some of the powerful Egyptian artifacts she’s come into possession of through the course of the series, with the intention of returning them to their rightful guardians.

The journey into Egypt is full of period detail, most of which seems reasonably historically accurate based on my own limited knowledge of Egyptian-British history and some quick internet research. Theodosia finds herself in the midst of some political unrest, with the Egyptian Nationalist party protesting and agitating for the British colonial rule to end. This is of limited interest to her, as her own tasks occupy her thoughts and provide her with plenty to worry about.

Because Theo’s mother is not ‘in the know’ with respect to her involvement with various secret societies and ancient magics, the book’s plot develops along parallel lines even moreso than in previous installments, where Theo’s time with her parents was more incidental. So part of the time we spend with Mrs. Throckmorton on the “dig”. Her lack of interest in following any sort of procedure or, apparently, any archaeological methods is rather more Tomb Raider than not — not atypical for the period, not unforeshadowed, but surprising to the reader and also to Theodosia herself. This is also the first time we really see Theodosia spend any extended time with one of her parents, and I was left with an uneasy feeling from the interactions with her mother.

But that may just be par for the course: I get an uneasy feeling when Theodosia deals with almost any adult in this series, including her parents, something which continues through this volume. Whether or not this is purposeful on the part of LaFevers I’m not sure, but the only adult character I’ve been able to accept at face value is Theodosia’s grandmother. All the others seem to have their own hidden agenda with the potential of turning out to be traitorous evildoers at any moment.

Her child-companions do not present this problem, and Theo acquires a new one very early on in this book, the Egyptian donkey boy Gadji whom she ‘hires’ as a servant. I admit that I spent the first third of the book bracing myself for either Theo’s brother or her street-urchin friend Sticky Will to pop out of nowhere and it was a relief when they did not. Gadji is necessarily less developed than either of those two boys, but his arrival is handled well and his participation is not heavy handed.

The book does an excellent job in forwarding the ongoing plot with new revelations and clues while also providing a story which wraps up by the final chapter. I certainly wouldn’t recommend jumping into the series on this book, but the point is you probably could. There are also quite a few nice little bits sprinkled in (Habiba, for one — I could have stood to see more of her) and one or two things that I thought could have used more explanation (the wedjadeen’s insistence upon a male pharaoh — since we know there is precedent otherwise). But overall it was a strong installment; the decision to change the setting was wise, as the middle of a continuing series can bog down and this kept things from feeling stale.

In Short
As we become more embroiled in the ongoing plot, the Theodosia series continues to improve from its so-so beginnings. This entry in the series shifts its setting from London to Egypt, meaning that a number of recurring characters do not appear — a wise choice on the part of LaFevers, who resisted what must have been a real temptation to have one or two of them pop up to lend a hand. It’s unclear if the new characters introduced here will have a continuing role in the series, but they were interesting enough that I can hope for their return. We also get a more revealing glimpse of Theodosia’s mother, which felt as if it might be setting up for conflict later on. The introduction of new players in the game and the new setting helps build this volume to a satisfying conclusion while still driving the whole of the series toward a climax that feels as if it must come relatively soon.

eARC was provided by netGalley. Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh will be available in April, 2011.


Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers: B-

From the back cover:
“Frankly, I’m not fond of surprises, as ones around here tend to be rather wicked.”

For poor Theodosia, however, surprises abound. She spends most of her time at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. There, all the artifacts that her parents dig up around the world are put on display and studied. But what her parents can’t see—and what Theodosia can—is the curses and black magic still attached to the ancient pieces. And it’s up to Theo to keep it all under control. Quite a task for an eleven-year-old girl!

Then Theo’s mother brings home the Heart of Egypt—a legendary amulet belonging to an ancient tomb. Theodosia’s skills will certainly be put to the test, for the curse attached to it is so vile and so black, it threatens to bring down the entire British Empire! Theodosia will have to call upon everything she’s ever learned in order to prevent the rising chaos from destroying her country—and herself!
Continue reading “Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers: B-“


J’s Take on Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

This book is the first in a series by R. L. LaFevers. It’s 1906, London, and Theodosia lives mostly in a museum that her father is a curator of. Her mother goes to Egypt often to hunt for archeological finds. Theodosia can sense all the curses on the stuff her mother brings back and other stuff in the museum. And she’s taught herself how to deal with the curses and remove them. Mostly. And she gets caught up in a web of secret conspirators and blah blah blah.

Interestingly, when I read that she was the daughter of the museum’s curator, I thought that meant her mother was curator. I’m not sure why I thought that, but I was definitely surprised when it turned out to be her father. I shouldn’t have been. I knew it was 1906.

This book pretty quickly lost my interest. Theodosia was sneaking around the museum and I didn’t care. It’s not that I don’t like her. I do rather like her. It was more interesting when she was interacting with people. Except even that didn’t help after a certain point.
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Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (R.L. LaFevers)

The Plot
Theodosia Throckmorton spends most of her days at London’s Museum of Legends and Antiquities, where her father is the head curator. In her time there, she’s discovered she has a talent which allows her to see the curses placed on the artifacts that arrive at the museum. Safely dispelling these threats consumes much of her time. When her mother returns from Egypt with an exceedingly curse laden shipment of newly discovered Egyptian items she finds out there are quite a few people with interest in these ancient magics and not all of them are nice.
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