Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos
R. L. La Fevers, , illus. by Yoko Tanaka. . Houghton, $16 (344pp) ISBN 978-0-618-75638-4
Frankly, I'm not fond of surprises, as the ones around here tend to be rather wicked." There are surprises aplenty in LaFevers's spirited debut, a sort of Indiana Jones for girls and a perfect blend of mystery and humor. Set in turn-of-the-20th-century London, it involves 11-year-old Theodosia Throckmorton, who "assists" her parents in their Museum of Legends and Antiquities. But Theo is the only one who can tell when ancient artifacts arriving at the museum bear a curse—and as new acquisitions arrive, she makes it her business to secretly remove any lingering curses by using recipes she finds in her constant research. Her mother returns home from a dig with the Heart of Egypt, a scarab amulet that was used as a death marker for the Pharaohs. When the amulet goes missing, Theo's search for it leads her to Lord Wigmere, the leader of an underground society that watches for magical artifacts entering England. The Heart of Egypt, it turns out, possesses a particularly nasty curse, "designed to weaken a nation, to make it easy to conquer." Crops begin to fail and a flu epidemic overtakes the nation. To break the curse, the Heart must be returned to the tomb from which it was taken—and, of course, it falls to Theo to recover the Heart. Loads of evocative Egyptian history and an oh-so-plucky, resourceful narrator make this the first volume in a series to watch. Ages 9-12.
Reviewed on: 04/09/2007