Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos


Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFeversGuest Reviewer: Randall Hendren

Author: R.L. LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (2007)
Number of Pages: 344
How long it took me to read: 6 days
Where I bought this book: local Barnes and Noble
ISBN: 978-0-618-75638-4

Like a Moth to a Flame

Being an avid fan of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series, I was struggling to find another that could truly hold my imagination. I was looking for an author who could create a realistic world, one that exists within the shadows of our own. The authors of both Harry Potter and Fablehaven created worlds that, as a reader, I could imagine and see clearly in my mind. These stories also allowed for such great character development, that I came to truly care for their lives and safety. This type of deep character involvement proved difficult for me to recreate in other stories. Books were recommended to me, but by the last page, I had little interest in the characters that inhabited those vague worlds filled with predictable conclusions. I began to think it might be impossible to find the type of series I sought, but became pleasantly surprised when, on a recommendation, I picked up this book. Before realizing it, I’d devoured the first two chapters while still in the bookstore. I purchased it straight away.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “How can you trust a person who has eyebrows as thick and black as hairbrushes and smells of boiled cabbage and pickled onions?” (p.3)

4. “I’m not afraid of a sarcophagus. Honestly, I’ve slept in those things before and there’s nothing to them.” (p.316)

3. “The whole place had the feel of a sleeping beast that hadn’t been disturbed in ages.” (p.97)

2. “Honestly. What was I? A cab cushion? How could I not have heard their conversation? That’s why I rarely ask my parents anything—when they realize I’ve heard them they resolve to clam up whenever I’m about. I don’t know how they expect me to learn anything…” (p.66)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “That’s what conventional archaeology says. And what the Brotherhood used to think. But now, after decades and decades of research, and seeing the magic and power that have been wrought into some of these artifacts, we aren’t so sure.” (p.242)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“I usually avoid first-person narratives with very few exceptions. All too often, I feel as if first-person narrations lead me by the hand, from plot point to plot point, instead of allowing me to watch the story world unfold on its own. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos has, four chapters in, avoided this feeling to great effect. It actually comes across to me, in style and narration, as only one other first-person series has so far: Ishihara’s Japanese light novel series, The Melencohly of Haruhi Suzumiya.

“I feel as though I’m listening to Theodosia recount her story, at such a gentle pace, while I sit in a comfortable chair in front of a roaring fire listening to her speak. I truly hope this continues, as Theodosia has proven herself to be a strong heroine with a great sense of humor and a sort of wry understanding of a world to which I can easily relate—something so few characters, particularly in novels primarily aimed at young adults and children, seem to posses nowadays.”

“The story continues to play out, both as one Theodosia recounts to me personally as I walk alongside her, while also in a manner that allows me to feel as if I’m observing her actions and adventures from overhead. Perhaps it’s this duel perspective that allows Theodosia’s almost carte blanche freedom to seem plausible. It has me wondering if other children in early 20th century England, with well-off parents who were a bit adventurous themselves, weren’t also able to have the same freedom of movement that Theodosia, an early 20th century Victorian English girl, has so far enjoyed in the story. Her freedom, however, isn’t absolute. There are moments when she doesn’t have complete dominance to pursue her every whim, which helps make the story even more realistic to me. It also helps show her cleverness at working around the obstacles placed in front of her.”

“I’ve reached about the middle of the book and I’m once again amazed at what ends up on young readers’ bookshelves; LaFevers’ writing could easily sit on the same shelves that house classic literature. This is a story with multiple levels. At its core, it caters to an audience of children but perhaps because of my added years of life experience, I also see a richer and fuller story on levels that older readers can enjoy. Theodosia has not disappointed me; she continues to be a strong lead character with a certain charm and wit I haven’t often found in lead characters of stories and novels geared toward ‘older’ readers. The story also continues its magic of birthing a new but believable world on each page, one that really could be within the fringes and shadows of our own.”

“The powerful narration keeps coming to mind as I read through more of the story. As a reader, what’s written on the paper is my only link to the world the author is trying to create, valid and worthy of notice. In other stories I’ve read, some considered among the classic fantasy novels of the early to mid 20th century, the worlds appeared to me as just words on paper. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos couldn’t be more different. I can place myself alongside Theodosia with great ease, feeling the chill of the air as it caresses her skin, seeing through her eyes and becoming a part of her world.”

“All the plot points are starting to come together. At this stage, I would be very surprised if any loose ends were left dangling off the last page. There’s little question LaFevers is setting up the story for possible sequels, but not in a way that I feel will leave any plot points dangling and questions unanswered. There still seems to be a question about some of Theodosia’s abilities—about how she can do things others can’t like know of events her parents and others are ignorant of—but overall, this just makes me more excited about the sequels and in no way detracts from this first story.”

“This is an extremely enjoyable first book in what I’m sure will be a wonderful series, in no small part due to Theodosia’s growth as a character. Even though she didn’t start off meek and mild-mannered, I still see her as being stronger by the end of this journey than she was at the start. My only fear for her character is that she’ll be forced to grow up too quickly and lose some of what has made her so enjoyable. Here’s hoping childlike-innocence follows her into the next stage of your journey.”

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