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Posts Tagged ‘Journey to Pandora’s Jar

Mythology fantasies were made popular by Rick Riordan and his Olympian series and now the field is inundated. For that reason, I felt reservations reading yet another entry in the genre. However, Journey to Pandora’s Jar by Nicole Walters is such a lively tale and contains such multi-faceted characters, I found myself won over. Undoubtedly, it also helps that the story revolves around a lesser-known area of mythology. In Journey to Pandora’s Jar, thirteen-year-old Charis must help release the only spirit (hope) that remains trapped inside Pandora’s Jar or else….

Walters does many things right with Journey to Pandora’s Jar. The chapters are short, running between three and five pages, and so I found it easy to squeeze readings of Journey to Pandora’s Jar into even the busiest day. The chapters also action-packed, with lots of foreshadowing and unexpected twists, and so I also kept wanting to find time even a minute here and there to read just one more chapter.

The main characters of Charis and Gabe are cute and sympathetic. Charis at least seems to come from a positive home where her parents are a dynamic force in her life, something which is refreshing in fiction for middle-grade students. While Charis does represent yet one more of those characters whose destiny is to save the world, Charis is so awestruck and vulnerable from the responsibility that I ended up greatly liking her. As for the antagonists, they mostly come from the large pool of gods which Walters has to draw upon from Greek and Roman mythology, and so make for diverse villains.

Whether she writes about hotels or museums, school or home, heaven or hell, Walters evokes descriptions that make all of these varied places feel real. For example, second period buzzes with the chatter of students. Or for instance, Hades’ throne is decorated with the bones of men. Just as importantly is the atmosphere. In fact, it’s what first grabbed my attention and made my skin tingle: “Had Mr. Ward been paying closer attention when he walked into Storage Room 19, he might have noticed that the warm was just a little warmer and the black was just a little bit blacker than usual. That he didn’t notice these small yet horribly significant details was unusual….”

To wrap up what Walters does well, I also appreciate how deftly she handles the omniscient third-person view, wherein readers get to see inside the heads of…. Oh, pretty much anyone Walters desires. Then too, whenever I think that Walters is going to fall into the trap of relying on information dumps and other boring ways of imparting information, she tricks me by infusing her exposition with some of Charis’ amicable personality.

Obviously, Walters is pulling off the quite the juggling act. It’s hard to imagine that there are any flaws. But there are three which regularly annoyed me. First, I don’t understand Walters’ decision to call Charis’ parents by their names instead of just as her mom and her dad. Then there’s the matter of antagonists. For some reason, perhaps because it’s an inbred instinct of authors to include them, Walters throws in a potential romance between Charis with one of the popular boys in school and a potential rivalry between Charis and one of the popular girls in school. Not much comes of either of these, thankfully, which means I don’t know why Walters didn’t just leave them out. Last, in the all-important climatic pages, Journey to Pandora’s Jar becomes yet another entry in the current trend of novels to end without a real conclusion. Or basically to end with a teaser for the sequel.

The latter disappointment aside, Journey to Pandora’s Jar rightfully deserves the Mom’s Choice Award that it won. I can easily see it being considered as among the best in family-friendly media, products and services. It’s a delightful and positive entry to add to the middle-school shelves.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

NicoleWaltersA recent trip to India renewed Nicole Walters’ interest in mythology. The similarities shared in those myths that attempt to explain how the world started astounded her. She decided to take a fresh peek at Pandora’s Jar, as a way of exploring the origin of good and evil, as well as personal responsibility. The result was Journey to Pandora’s Jar, which I’ll review tomorrow. Save the date: May 17!

Walters lives in Seattle with her husband. She reads just about everything and she loves writing too. If you want to connect with her about mythology, she would love to hear from you. The sequel to Journey to Pandora’s Jar is well on the way.

ALLISON: If could go back in to one moment in childhood, which one would you like to revisit?

NICOLE: In the 6th grade, I went on a “date” with my then boyfriend, now husband, Marc, to Disneyland. I wish I had known back then how significant that event would ultimately be now. At 12 or 13, one hardly expects to begin a lifelong romantic journey, right? Had I understood the importance of that evening, walking the streets of Disneyland chaperoned by his parents, I would have savored every detail as the unique and beautiful thing it was.

ALLISON: By the same token, if you could change one moment from your teens, what would it be?

NICOLE: Oh man … oh man. That’s all I’ll say about that. (And, sorry mom and dad.)

ALLISON: What careers did you hold before becoming a mom and a writer?

NICOLE: I’ve been a copywriter, proposal coordinator, editor, technical writer, developmental writer, worship leader, professional singer, award-winning songwriter, newspaper thrower, receptionist, administrative assistant, blah, blah, blah! 🙂

ALLISON: What surprised you most about being a mom?

NICOLE: That my heart could contain love in such large amounts. That, plus … it’s really, really hard work.

ALLISON: Why does mythology have such a strong appeal for you?

NICOLE: Myths are timeless truths, have everyday applications, and contain subtle morals of the story that are simply priceless. They are beautifully crafted stories that reflect every aspect of what it means to be fully human, fully divine, or both.

ALLISON: In the original myth of Pandora’s box, Pandora opens it out of curiosity. All kinds of evil escapes into the world and hope is all that’s left. What appeals to you about what idea?

NICOLE:In the original myth, the gods thought it was beneficial that the Spirit of Hope, Elpis, remained in Pandora’s Jar even though the other evil spirits had escaped. They believed that as long as mankind possessed Hope in the Jar, the balance of good and evil could be maintained. In my book, however, I’ve proposed that Hope (or Elpis) needs to be set free and released into the world to give good a greater chance at overcoming evil. I love the idea of releasing Hope into bleak circumstances to stand against despair, disease, injustice, and lack. Hope buoys the heart, strengthens resolve, and encourages a belief that if you just hold on, keep trying, and don’t give up, things can get better.

ALLISON: Who is your favorite mythological character?

NICOLE:Hades. I think he’s misunderstood. He’s just acting according to his nature. Not good or bad, just Hades.

ALLISON: What is your favorite country from which to read myths?

NICOLE: I prefer the Greek gods to their Roman counterparts. That said, a trip to India introduced me to an entirely different mythology. One day, I’ll explore it.

ALLISON: How has receiving Mom’s Choice Awards Honoring Excellence seal of approval impacted the reception of Pandora’s Jar?

NICOLE:More than anything, receiving the Mom’s Choice Award impacted me. Though we all like to say the opinions of others don’t necessarily count, it is nice to be acknowledged favorably. I’m grateful that my book reflected their standards of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services.

ALLISON: What’s next?

NICOLE:Why, book two in the Journey Series, of course: Charis: Journey to the Underworld. Wish our little heroine luck. She will definitely need it.

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