Wednesday, May 21, 2014

All About Character: On Theodosia

Let me tell you a little something about characters: the story is all about them. People force me to read literary fiction in classrooms, but that is the reason no one my age reads any more (besides people like me). Literary fiction about how it is written, not the main subjects of the story.

And so, this is why I feel the need to talk about my favorite stories characters. Because sometimes, main character or not, "likeable" or not, I need to express the warmth and love that fills my mind when I read good characters.

R.L. Lafevers -- yes, the author of Grave Mercy -- wrote Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, which kickstarts the series of a young, curious girl prodigy whose main job is to take curses off of ancient Egyptian artifacts.

Theodosia... she's the girl I wish I was. At eleven years old, she juggles secret societies and vile magic and parents who simply don't understand. She doesn't whine or complain, even though this is the early 1900s and she is expected to behave in a more "polite" manner than sleeping in a sarcophagus and pattering about her father's museum. She rolls up her sleeves and gets to work, researching (in dusty old tomes) or collecting wax (it soaks up curses pretty well) or avoiding trouble (which, of course, always seeks her out).

What I love about Theodosia is her voice. Not old beyond her years, weighed down by her important duties; but not frivolous and empty-headed, like the girls in that boarding school her parents neglected to send her back to. She gets exasperated by the adults around her. She is wise enough not to elaborate on her role in keeping her parents safe from the magic her mother brings back from archaeological expeditions. She has her own scientific methods for getting rid of the curses.

Of course, I am neck-deep in Book 4. But I will focus on Book 1, the Serpents of Chaos. Theo, as she's sometimes called, has no qualms about looking peculiar. She's entirely unafraid of meeting new people, but loves her time researching in the museum's library. In fact, she creates a network of allies to help keep her (relatively) safe and informed.

I am not entirely sure I would be as level-headed if I were in Theodosia's position. This is what I love about her. She meets a secret society and holds a powerful Heart of Egypt amulet, and she doesn't bat an eye. The Serpents of Chaos, as they're called, steal the amulet, but Theo has A Plan. And it doesn't involve returning it to her mother, where it might get stolen again.

Of course, the other secret society she meets (for one secret society is just never enough) is on the side of "good." The Chosen Brotherhood takes curses off of objects as well, but none of them have the same ability to sense it as Theo does. And they help her out, a little, but Theo stands on her own. She creates her own plans, and implements them.

I guess, if I'm being honest, I love Theo's abilities as well. I mean, how amazing and dangerous and exciting is the ability to detect Egyptian curses? And she doesn't just guess; she's not new to this ability. She rolls up her sleeves and applies her First Level Test (wax) and Second Level Test (moonlight) to determine what the curses, she researches how to get rid of it, and performs spells with leftover bits and pieces (of gold wire, chips of red stone, colorful thread, and more). Fantasy stimulates my imagination more than almost any other type of fiction, and Ancient Egypt captures my attention more than almost any other time and place.

Theo has flaws, of course, but I find myself not caring. She can be a bit bumbling and naive. She can (and does) trust the wrong people, hate the right people, and sometimes botch up her relationship to her parents or her younger brother. But she's eleven. She is allowed to be human, in all of that complicated mess of dealing with other people.

Most of all, I think, Theo is unafraid to be all of the things mentioned above. She is unafraid of being the only one to see curses, of trusting the wrong people, of coming face to face with orders of men dedicated to chaos. She never apologizes for it. And I love her fearlessness, because fear never holds her back from the sort of adventure people love reading about.

If you have never had the pleasure of picking up this book, I recommend it. Theodosia is a complex, confident character, and whether you like Ancient Egypt or not, whether you read fantasy or not, this series is worth reading for her.

Have a blessed day.

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