Her ability to perceive curses on ancient objects helped save the British Empire in the first book. It also brought her to the attention not only of the nefarious group the Serpents of Chaos, who seek to overthrow Britain's position of power and wreak chaos on the world, but also of the Brotherhood of Chosen Keepers, a secret group of British agents working against the Serpents. Her parents, of course, have no idea of the secret, dangerous work she has undertaken, and neither does her formidable, overbearing grandmother, who insists on inflicting upon Theodosia a series of horrific governesses in order to "bring her to heel."
The story begins as Theodosia accompanies her parents to a reception at Lord Chudleigh's mansion, an occasion that is to be her "big introduction to professional life." Theodosia is very excited, but a bit nervous: after all, she's going to be expected to speak to the gathering of lords and ladies and eminent Egyptologists. It is a bit off-putting when, at the reception, she is either ignored by the other guests or regarded with puzzlement and disdain:
"I found an elderly man examining me through his monocle as if I were a bug at the end of a pin. A very round woman dressed in mustard-colored ruffles lifted her lorgnette to the bridge of her nose, then tut-tutted. Honestly! You'd think they'd never seen an eleven-year-old girl before."Theodosia is horrified to learn that Lord Chudleigh plans to perform a mummy unwrapping during the reception. Not that she is squeamish - far from it: "It just seemed wrong to be unwrapping the poor mummy in front of all these gawking visitors who didn't give a fig about ancient Egypt or the scholarly pursuit of Egyptian burial practices." Unfortunately for pompous Lord Chudleigh, his precious mummy turns out to be a fake. Unfortunately for Theodosia, she blurts out that unwelcome piece of information to the entire assembly of guests. Grandmother Throckmorton, in particular, is furious with her. Theodosia is baffled by everyone's attitude:
It wasn't as if I had done anything to the poor fellow. I just happened to notice the mummy wasn't an ancient Egyptian! And didn't anyone realize this meant someone had been murdered? And that the murdered body was propped up against the watered silk wallpaper right under our noses?Theodosia is quickly caught up in the mystery surrounding the fake mummy (who turns out to be not just fake, but the body of someone she actually knew personally). A bizarre but highly entertaining chain of events ensues, including a statue of Anubis that comes to life, a host of mummies from all over London that inexplicably shows up at her parents' museum, Theodosia being abducted by yet another secret society, a cursed rope that causes unfortunate dermatological issues - and to complicate matters, Theodosia's freedom becomes curtailed by the most horrific governess of all.
If you ask me, some people have no perspective.
Theodosia is a thoroughly admirable heroine - strong, stubborn, intelligent, and able to think fast on her feet. Her people skills might need a little work - she is a precocious only child and tends to be a bit bossy (otherwise how on earth could she get things done?). The pacing is excellent, the characters well-developed and full of surprises, and Theodosia's marvelous voice carries the narrative beautifully, imbuing it with humor and excitement. LaFevers is skillful at using Theodosia's first-person narrative to communicate information to the reader that Theodosia herself doesn't quite understand - such as her grandmother's true feelings about her - and hers for her grandmother. Tanaka's illustrations are an excellent accompaniment to the text and reflect the mysterious, often gloomy atmosphere perfectly. I highly recommend this series, and am very much looking forward to Theodosia's future adventures.
Books in the Theodosia series:
1. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos
2. Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris
Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R.L. LaFevers; illustrated by Yoko Tanaka (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)
Also reviewed at:
Bib-Laura-Graphy: "The second book in the Theodosia Throckmorton series delivers with nonstop action, good history, sly humor, and a delightfully precocious protagonist. A few characters from the first book are not who they seem - and is Theodosia’s grandmother actually showing signs of - gasp - humanity?"
Jen Robinson's Book Page: "Like its predecessor, Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris features a brave, clever eleven-year-old heroine, an intriguing, atmospheric setting, interesting historical and archeological tidbits, and a plot that will keep kids turning the pages."
The Movieholic and Bibliophile's Blog: "Have you ever read a book intended for young adults and wished that you had read it when you yourself were younger? That was the way I felt when I had finished this story even though I know I couldn’t have enjoyed it any more than I already did!"