There is much in Ancient Egyptian
history to fascinate young minds, from the mysteries
of hieroglyphs to the Egyptian pantheon of glamorous
deities, not forgetting the tombs and pyramids - and
who better to explore them with than plucky
Theodosia Throckmorton, an 11-year-old version of
Elizabeth Peter's indomitable Amelia Peabody,
except that Amelia can command attention with her
trusty sharpened parasol and the authority of
adulthood, whereas nobody takes Theo seriously,
especially not her parents. Theo's father runs a
museum of antiquities in Edwardian London (early
1900s, 1906 to be exact), while her American mother
gallivants around Egypt uncovering new treasures for
the museum in the Valley of the Kings and elsewhere.
On the outside, Theo is opinionated and confident,
but on the inside she wishes her parents could find
a little more time for her; her father's always busy
in the museum, her mother's usually abroad, her
brother's at boarding school, and her grandmother
believes young girls should be seen and not heard.
So she spends her days (quite happily, mind you) exploring the nooks and crannies of the museum, reading ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics as easily as you or I might read the daily newspaper, sleeping in a sarcophagus (comfortable and free of drafts) and surreptitiously neutralizing the many cursed objects that her oblivious mother brings back from her expeditions.
All this changes when Theo uncovers a dastardly German plot to undermine Britain involving cursed objects, which leads her to a secret society of adults who not only believe her story but, because of her special abilities to see cursed objects for what they are, say that she is the only one who can save the British Empire from certain doom. With the help of a savvy street urchin and her brother, who's actually a lot more use than she ever credited him to be, she smuggles herself on board a ship bound for Egypt in the hope of averting disaster and, perhaps, doing something sufficiently important and heroic that her parents will take notice of her.
From an adult perspective the plot's credibility stretches a little too thin on occasions but, putting this minor quibble aside, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos is an exciting start to a new series that blends well researched historical detail with just a touch of fantasy. Children aged about eleven years and up will root for Theodosia and enjoy the action and the gritty details of how to recognize and remove curses (every detail of Theodosia's curse removing kit is lovingly explained).
Fans of this first volume don't have to wait too long for the next - Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris publishes in November 2008.
This review was originally published in June 2007, and has been updated for the May 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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