Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Serial Killers' Featured Review: Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh by R.L. LaFevers

Want to know more about the idea behind Serial Killers? This post is the place to start.

This month's book is Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh the 4th book in the Theodosia Throckmorton series by R.L. LaFevers. Odd is the established reader and I'm new to the series...

Synopsis (Goodreads)
In this fourth book in the series, Theodosia sets off to Egypt to return the Emerald Tablet—embedded with the knowledge of some of the ancient world’s most guarded secrets. Accompanied by her cat, Isis (smuggled along in a basket), Theo plans to return the artifact, then explore the mysteries surrounding her own birth and oh, yes— help her mother dig up treasures on her archeological expedition. But nothing ever works out as planned, especially when a precious treasure appears suddenly, and then just as suddenly disappears . . . When the Serpents of Chaos get involved, Theo finds she’s digging up a lot more than she expected!
Kelly's Thoughts: Disclaimer: I was in some sort of weird head space when I started this book and I think that contributed to how hard it was for me to connect to the characters and events in the beginning. So... you know, take that into consideration. Because once I shook off my funk, I liked the book quite a bit.

Sooooo... I'm coming in at book 4 and I really don't know who's who or what's going on. Theodosia is spunky (in a good way) and her special abilities make her a little odd (in a good way... I mean, she is saving people and stuff) and I can only assume that her parents have had issues with her propensity for finding trouble in the past. Although, to be fair, it's not so much Theo seeking out trouble as falling into it or being chased down the street by it. Can you really blame her for that? Of course you can't. At least, I can't.

I really liked the overall world that's been created. With a heroine who can see and feel magic, a shrouded group who protect the world around them from curses, and a villainous group of no-good deceivers who want the old magic for themselves this was jam-packed with shenanigans. Seriously, Theodosia went from one (nearly) catastrophic event to the next with barely enough time to freshen up between.

Now, I do have to admit that I have a bit of a problem with parents keeping BIG THINGS from their spawn. Not that I think parents should tell said children everything but, with all the craziness that Theodosia seems to find herself in the middle of, why aren't her parents giving her the answers to her questions about her birth? I just... DON'T GET THAT! Speak up! Tell your spawn that they have some wonky stuff in their ancestry! IT MIGHT SAVE THEIR LIFE!

That said, I do get why they kept some of the things away from her. I also think (based on this book by itself) that Theodosia's mom is a little mercenary in her archaeological practices. Maybe that's just me.

Bottom line - I had a rough time getting into the first part (possibly my fault) but enjoyed the overall feel of the book. It was chock full of a lot of intriguing historical bits and had a spunky heroine who doesn't let the fact that she's a stranger in a strange land stop her from doing what's right.

Odd's Thoughts: Theodosia's mama was so cagey, y'all. So cagey.

It was clear that she had a pretty good idea what was going on from the beginning, and yet later in the book she was acting all surprised about Theo's powers, which really, with one big exception, lay in being extraordinarily self-possessed, well-spoken and intelligent for an 11-year-old. Yet her mother's still trying to pretend everything's normal, and in fact Theo should think she's in trouble for saving everyone's bacon. Tssh.


I'm with Kelly on agreeing that the first part of the book was a little slow, by which I mean I didn't drop right into the Cairo train station with Theo and her mother (and poor wee Isis the cat who gave me fits for days). It didn't feel...real somehow, in a way that surprised me mainly because in the three previous books I really felt the London fog on my face and smelt the must of the beloved Museum of Antiquities and the grit of Egypt two books ago actually rubbed my toes raw. Whereas here it was like oh hey, a demonstration. Let's get off the train and wander into that demonstration against English colonial occupation. While being English colonialists.

To some extent, I'd hazard that the restraint of that scene has to do with the author wanting to ease the reader into Colonial Oppression and You (MG Fiction Series), because there's a definite escalation in the realities of oppression Theodosia learns to deal with: her being unsure what to make of Gadji's disapproving of her running around with a sacred Egyptian artifact; her quite effective conversation with the Egyptian housekeeper, who explains:
"Young miss does not like having her mother make all her decisions for her, no? Telling her where she can go and when? Who she can see and for how long. Does young miss like having no control over her life? How she lives it and what she does with it?"

"Well of course not!"

"And that is how it is with the Inglaize in charge of our country."
WHANG! Political frying pan right between your 11-year-old eyes.

This restraint seems to have been in place throughout the period that Theo and her mother are in Cairo, moving along this protected circuit of train station to hotel, hotel to museum and back. And then when they finally leave Cairo and go out to Luxor, it's like the book gets out of bed and puts its crinolines on. They have much less protection (not counting Major Grindle who was kind of weird and not really effective at all -- which I kind of adored as commentary about the patriarchy, frankly) and Theo and her mother both get on with what they're there to do. From then on, the book starts to feel much more real. Again, was that intentional on the part of the author, that these women's lives read as more authentic when not chaperoned by the patriarchy? Probably not, I probably just forgot to take my meds today and am totally over-excited and propelled along by the power of wishful thinking.

(Are we even gonna talk about the bit where Isis the cat gets anointed by Theodosia's own finger, gets her wild panther on and starts tearing men apart, or nah? I mean, I'm here for y'all who want to talk about fear of young women on the cusp of womanhood, but I'm guessing we're not there yet.)

All in all, I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it. It was a satisfactory ending to the series that left the door open for Theo to move into a new series. I'm still kind of struggling with why I didn't love it as much as the previous two.

Odd: So, is it being too much of a booknerd if I say that I really, really hate the front and back covers of the hardcover edition of this book? And the spine, too, I hate the spine design. Which really surprised me because I'm a huge fan of the design of the paperback editions of the earlier books in this series. But since I couldn't wait for the paperback version of this book to come out, I sprang for the hardback. I feel like there's a lesson in here somewhere.

Kelly: Uhh... yeah. Maybe. Of course, I have nothing to compare it to (not having seen the earlier books) so maybe I'd hate them, too. I DON'T KNOW!

Odd: Okaaaaay. Did you like the book as a whole? Or are you so frustrated with my lateness that your side of the banter is just going to consist of exclamation points and throwing things?

Not that that's not justified, because it is.

Kelly: Ha! I did enjoy the book but I had a tough time getting into the beginning of it. I don't know if it was trying to play catch-up on what came before or just my general mood as I was reading it. *shrug*

Odd: I don't think it was you with the beginning. I really struggled with it. That cat in a basket thing made me nervous and then the crowd scene at the station in Egypt made me wonder whether there'd be some straying into xenophobic territory. I had grave misgivings.

How much did you love that the secret brotherhood of whatnot were essentially a pack of obsessive librarians?

Kelly: You know, people always underestimate the librarians. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE LIBRARIANS OF THE WORLD! THEY KNOW THINGS!

Odd: Or monkeys, apparently.

Kelly: True. Monkeys are often underestimated.

Odd: I think that's my favorite takeaway from this book. That young women even more than monkeys, are underestimated, *with the inevitable tragic results.* Like riots. And the raising of the dead.

Or maybe that was all the monkey's fault.

Liked it, but we both fell short of loving it

Books in this series
1. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos
2. Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris
3. Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus
4. Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh - Paperback | Kindle

Author Links
| Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon |


  1. Fabulous. I wish I had a greater clue about the series as a whole, but I really enjoyed following along with your thoughts & discussion. Odd cracked me up with the whole political frying pan between your 11 year old's eyes.

    Great feature.

    1. Honestly, I would suggest starting with book 1 if you want to give this series a try. Because I can't give you much insight except that Theodosia is spunky and can feel magic. And bad things happen. Often.