Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: THE CHAOS OF STARS by Kiersten White

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.
Before reading this book, there was very little I could say about it. If pressed, I would probably mention the promise of Egyptian mythology, because I have loved Ancient Egypt from a young age. I would probably also make a general comment about the pretty cover. Other than that, there wasn't much for me to say. Just based on the description, Isadora sounded bratty, her problems petty. Even the cover, while gorgeous, doesn't tie in to the actual book, so my overall expectations going in were meh at best.

Hooray for being proved wrong!
The beginning, while lovely, was confusing. It's a very confusing feeling to be so comfortable in a setting and yet utterly lost as to where or even when I was.

I felt like Andre Dawson in that State Farm commercial.
Let me sneak in and unravel things for you, so you won't get hung up in the beginning like I did. Isadora is the mortal daughter of Osiris and Isis, Egyptian gods from ancient times. They're pretty much the head honchos and have been ever since Isis stole power from Amun-Re, the sun god. They, along with several other divine members of Isadora's family, live in an invisible temple(?) in modern-day Egypt. I think. The modern-day part is nailed down, but Isadora doesn't spend a lot of time describing her home. I know it has a throne room/judgement room for her father, Isadora's room, a modern kitchen (that she designed), and Isadora's future tomb. You don't really need to know more than that, so don't worry about it.

From the beginning, I liked Isadora. I connected with her. Sure, my parents aren't gods (insert your own joke here, Mom). My dad isn't king of the Underworld. My mom doesn't have a new kid every twenty years like clockwork. My half-brother isn't a jackal-headed creep. And I don't have to struggle with the fact that everyone I know and love seems content to continue on in their immortality without me. While I think everyone knows what it feels like to be neglected at some point, I connected with Isadora on a much smaller, more personal level. Her favorite constellation is Orion (mine too!), and her mother often tells her to be "quick as a bunny," a phrase Isadora and I both LOATHE. It's not a big, meaningful connection, but it was all I needed.

Isadora is fiery and sharp-tongued, a byproduct of the anger and hurt she's been carrying for the last three years. I suppose it's possible that some readers will find her annoying, but I never did. It's one thing for a normal teen to have an attitude against her parents, but when the parents in question are powerful, ancient deities, the corresponding 'tude is bound to be outsized to make an impact. Isadora can't stand being at home, surrounded by family members who can't be bothered to make her immortal or even learn her name. (Her mother has a bad habit of naming all children with a variation of either her or Osiris' name, which makes it hard to keep track.)

When her mother announces that she's pregnant with Isadora's replacement four years ahead of schedule, Isadora pushes for the chance to leave Egypt for good. Recent dreams of danger push Isis to agree, and Isadora is sent to San Diego to live with her fully mortal brother, Sirius. She doesn't find out until she gets there that 1) Sirius married without telling her, and 2) Isis has arranged for Isadora to work at a local museum where a shipment of Egyptian antiquities are to arrive (provided by Isadora's mysterious and obscenely wealthy parents, of course.)

Neither development thrills Isadora, nor is she pleased to meet Ry, a preoccupied poet with unbelievably gorgeous blue eyes. Sure, he's cute (incredibly so), but Isadora has rules against getting too close to people. People die. Relationships break apart. Why bother to create anything when they're doomed to end? But of course Ry is the one who is the most help when someone starts to target Isadora. And Ry has secrets of his own. (Because what boy with unearthly blue eyes and a penchant for poetry doesn't?)

They're Chris-Pine Blue, I assume.
Yes, the majority of the plot is predictable. There's the normal teenage angst and family crises (albeit covered in the unique wrapping of gods and goddesses), the normal nice-but-pushy new friends, the normal hot boy, the normal wisecracking protagonist. Ms. White does not color outside the lines in this book. However, one does not need to color outside the lines to be vibrant and enjoyable inside them.

Chaos was light and cute and so very fun to read. I love the way Ms. White brought the various Egyptian deities to life. Each chapter started with a snippet of Egyptian mythology, usually capped with a snarky comment straight from Blue's mouth. It was strange and wonderful to revisit the ancient tales with the understanding of the key players' own blood relative. It's one thing to read about Isis' sister disguising herself to sleep with Osiris. It's another to read how your aunt tricked your own dad to sleep with her so she could give birth to your half-brother. It's safe to say that storytime at Isadora's house could get a little tense.

I also squealed when another element of mythology was introduced halfway through the book. I can't say what it was, though it should be fairly obvious to observant readers. All I can say is that I thought it rocked and that I'd love to read another book within this universe Ms. White has created that deals with Isadora's ever-expanding world.

I only had a few issues. First, I don't completely understand why Isadora's parents needed her rememberance. Surely one person isn't enough to keep them alive. And even if that were true, what about the museums all around the world that help people remember Isis and Osiris? If remembering a deity is what keeps them going, wouldn't the exhibits and books and articles and scholarly papers be enough? Also, I thought the characterization was a bit light. While I enjoyed the various characters, I thought they could have used a little more substance to keep them from becoming caricatures.

Despite its flaws, I am pleased to have read this book. Though the end ties up neatly, I would gladly return for a sequel. Any excuse to visit Isadora's and Ry's families would be a joy. And now, I must dance.

Points Added For: Mythology(!), Thoth, being so deliciously fun, Isadora's talent in interior decorating (how unique!).

Points Subtracted For: Shaky world-building, Ry's blue eyes being mentioned a MILLION times, sketchy characters.

Good For Fans Of: Mythology, family drama, decorating and color schemes.

Notes For Parents: Light language (I think only one or two instances), family drama, murder, adultery.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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