Book Reviews Dungeons

From Thea’s Dungeon

This Episode’s Unearthings: Let’s go mythical. John C. Wright’s Chronicles of Chaos trilogy and an all time fave movie, Jason and the Argonauts.

John C. Wright’s Chronicles of Chaos:

Orphans of Chaos, Fugitives of Chaos, Titans of Chaos

I feel almost completely inadequate when it comes to reviewing these books. Editorial reviews call this a “Harry Potter for adults”…but this does the series a grave disservice. If Harry Potter were highly educated in literature, Greek mythology, particle physics, multidimensional geometry and philosophical reasoning, then maybe this description would capture a flicker of the wonder that is John C. Wright’s incredible Chronicles of Chaos series.

Five orphans are in a large boarding school in the English countryside. The book opens with a brief chapter dedicated to each orphan, and illustrates the different mindsets and philosophical views of the universe they each have. Told from the point of view of Secunda (the second child), self-named Amelia Armstrong Windrose (named for Amelia Earhart and Neil Armstrong) in the first person, Mr. Wright manages to avoid sounding stuffy and overly-erudite and blends in a sort of sexy rock star sensibility to the heftier materials he writes about. If that makes any sense!

The five orphans have reached adolescence, and question their surroundings. Despite the top-notch education they are receiving, and the freedom to pursue whatever learnings they wish, they are being held in the school against their will, as prisoners. Things get a bit more complicated when each of the orphans discover that they have certain powers—Victor (Primus) can rearrange molecular structures, Vanity (Tertia) can imagine things into existence, Colin (Quartinus) operates solely on desire, Quintus (he chooses to keep his Latin classification for a name) is a philosopher and wizard, and Amelia, our narrator, manipulates and exists in higher dimensions. They each operate in a different paradigm, and each paradigm cancels out another’s.

Still with me?

The actual identity of the so-called children is a revelation that comes mid-story—Amelia and Quintus eavesdrop on the gathering of mythical creatures, Gods and Goddesses that assemble at the school for a periodic inspection. As it turns out, their school masters are no ordinary staff members, but characters drawn from Beowulf to The Odyssey. The children are being held as hostage…and they take to planning their own prison break. Books 2 and 3 chronicle their journey of self discovery, their escape, and the ultimate, universal showdown.

I cannot stress enough how incredible these books are. Mr. Wright has a superior knowledge of mythology, of hard science and hard fantasy, and yet manages to weave it all into a touching, coming of age story. He makes geometry and mythology sexy. Yes, SEXY. The harder to grasp notions of higher dimensions, opposing paradigms, and philosophical ponderings are nicely balanced by the author’s careful prose, and the genuine adolescent-ness of narrator Amelia.

I cannot wait for Ana to give this one a read for our next dare!!

Jason and the Argonauts

Keeping in the spirit of mythology, I present for your scrutiny the Ray Harryhausen classic, Jason and the Argonauts. This used to be one of my favorite movies as a child, and is a landmark film. The story follows Jason, son of the slain former king Aristo, and his quest to obtain the fabled Golden Fleece and claim his rightful spot as king of Thessaly. Jason gathers the best warriors of Greece to his aid, his Argonauts (after their ship, the Argos).

The movie is magic, plain and simple. Ray Harryhausen’s famous stop motion special effects sequence of seven skeletons fighting Jason and his men is considered one of the greatest achievements of 20th century movie making special effects (thank you Wikipedia!). “Stop motion”, for the curious, is a type of animation in which an object is manipulated, frame by frame to appear that it is moving of its own accord. The skeleton fight scene was four minutes long—and took Harryhausen over 4 months to create!

Harryhausen’s masterpiece Skeleton Scene

This is one of the finest fantasy films ever created and a watershed film in terms of special effects. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Brilliance! (And very affordable, at only $10 at most dvd stores) A parting gift:

The Skeleton Fight Scene

You Might Also Like


  • Ana
    April 10, 2008 at 7:25 am

    I love Jason and The Argonauts – it is right up there with all Simbad movies as well. I watched all of them countless times.

    Orphans of the Chaos, here I come!

  • kmont
    May 12, 2008 at 7:57 am

    “He makes geometry and mythology sexy. Yes, SEXY.”

    Thea, I just had to comment because:

    1. The thought of geometry and my relationship with it from early high school years still makes me want to hurl in the way some people do at really vividly portrayed horror movies

    2. and because I love your descriptions of these books! I think I shalt order the first! I’m not smart in a mathematical or scientific way at all…it’s laughable in fact how NOT smart I am in those areas, but I just can’t resist these for some odd reason.

    Good review! Now I know if anyone can make me grab up a book based on sexy geometry, it’s you!

  • Thea
    May 13, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Kmont 🙂 I actually quite like geometry–all the proofs appealed to me! But never before had I considered the subject sexy in the slightest! Good thing is, you don’t need to have a strong math interest to like these wonderful books.

    I hope you enjoy Orphans of Chaos 🙂 Sexy geometry and all!

Leave a Reply