The same review is also available in my blog:
and in Good Reads:
I wasn't particularly attracted to the Young Adult genre, but somehow I got drawn into a few of them, with Pandora's Key being one of these. Short the story may be, with only about 130+ pages in e-book format, twists and turns snaking throughout made reading this a distinctly fun process.
My feeling at the end of the book was mixed - there was a certain satisfaction with how the story goes yet something seemed missing from it at the same time. Maybe it was the lack of action or the lack of any ingenuity on the part of the protagonist despite the surprising twists which kept me through the whole book.
With sweet 16 around the corner, Evangeline expected much of the life ahead of her - getting a date with her crush, getting married, getting a family, getting a career... Her life was not perfect with the lack of a father and the lack of a beauty her mother somehow did not pass to her, but she was content. But then again, there wouldn't be a story if everything stayed that way.
Somehow her 16th birthday turned out to be a nightmare, and that was after she had nightmares about the final moments of different ladies, all of whom she had no inkling about. Her mother's succumb to delusions, her godmother turning into a killer, and the involvement of a certain cult she knew none about - all of these made her almost forgot about a charming key chained to a delicate necklace which she received as her birthday gift before all these happened. A key which was ancient, which she knew not what door it unlocks, and which she knew not were related to all these events unfolding around her. With the obviously named Pandora's Key, it wasn't hard to guess what it really unlocked...
By twisting Greek mythology slightly, Fischer managed to came up with a fantasy involving a small list of dramatis personae but which all of them were easily recognized. From the parallel story of villainous Malledy and the crumbling days after Evangeline's birthday, the story unfolds and revealed how events had conspired since before the defining day of the protagonist's birthday.
Especially satisfying was the fact that while I was slightly suspicious of certain characters, I was still taken aback when the revelation came. Kudos to Fischer for such a nice sleight of hand in hiding the relationships between characters and entwined them to each other. The characters themselves, including some which initially served as sidelines, were cleverly revealed to be tied to the plot, and while not all of them memorable, they do leave enough of an impression to know who is who, unlike certain stories which have such a giant cast that I start to forget who was doing what at where.
The story of Pandora being a gift sent from the Greek gods, as well as being endowed with special abilities, should be no stranger to those enchanted by the ancient myth, but the abilities endowed from the gods were slightly altered for the benefit of the story. In some sense, these gifts were inherited through Pandora's child as well as her curse.
Still, the aforementioned "missing item" is the fact that Evangeline's abilities were not being utilized in clever little ways, much like Number Four did not utilize his special abilities in clever little tactics in fighting his enemies (read more from my previous review of I Am Number Four ).
Even so, Evangeline's portrayal as a young lady at the turning of age being faced with momentous revelations about her life and ancestry could be translated to be the same for all adolescents facing the uncertainty of society life, especially for one stepping out into the working force for the first time. Sometimes life could be cruel in rearing its ugly head, but when the worst had passed, it would be one's courage and stamina in facing life that will defined what came out from the fires of the forge.
The pace of the story, as well as its twists and turns, is thrilling. It brought the momentum which is required to push readers past pages and keep wanting more. It isn't slow since the beginning, and it didn't slow down until the end.
Maybe I am still hooked to the kind of thriller like Dan Brown's and Matthew Reilly's, so much so that I find the momentum and revelation in Pandora's Key not as addicting. I would also have expected more revelations about the Greek gods since this clearly is in the league of Percy Jackson's Greek adventures, but the story seemed content to deal with magic only through Evangeline, and no divine power seemed to intervene to put things into motion. There weren't even any suggestion as to whether they were still watching.
Where creativity is concerned, no novel concept, something which I cherish most in stories, was introduced in Pandora's Key, making that another minus for me. The story could have brought forth the ancient gods as well as show how Evangeline evades the ingenuity of Malledy, but somehow it all ended without such.
All in all, Pandora's Key is a nice book, well deserving its praises from different reviewers and an award from IndieReader Discovery Awards for Young Adult Fiction. It would be a better book if the concerns highlighted above are addressed. Even with the few negative comments from me, I am still looking forward to Fischer's next installment in The Key Trilogy.