Book Reviews

I’ve had the good fortune of getting a few early reviews for Charis: Journey to Pandora’s Jar.  Here are a few that I’d like to share!

Book Review of Charis: Journey to Pandora’s Jar Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

In a battle of good versus evil, unsuspecting humans are unaware that there is a battle to retrieve Pandora’s mythological jar with the Spirit of Hope still safely trapped inside. Hades, ruler of the Underworld, along with his trusty co-conspirators, the wretched Erinyes Sisters – Megaera, Tisiphone, and Alecto – will stop at nothing to find the legendary jar and ensure that Hope remains hidden from humankind.

Enter Charis, a 21st century teenage heroine with a mysterious birthmark in the shape of wings on her back who is haunted by strange dreams. We meet Charis and her best friend Gabe, in present day America, as they face typical adolescent scenarios including completing exams, experiencing the effects of those notorious teenage hormones, and preparing for a school play, coincidently about Greek Gods and Goddesses.

Little does Charis know that she is the Chosen One – that is, the one destined to open Pandora’s Jar once again, releasing Hope into the realm of Gaia (i.e., Earth) troubled by wars, violence, and civil unrest, and ultimately restoring the balance between good and evil. But Charis won’t have to face this tall task alone. While some of the Gods will stop at nothing to prevent her from opening the jar, she also has some of the most legendary Gods and Goddesses to assist her including Hermes, the Messenger God, Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, and Nike, the Goddess of Victory.

Nicole Walters creates a riveting tale featuring a strong role model in Charis, an intricate and suspenseful plot, and an important message about the state of the World we find ourselves in currently. As mentioned in previous reviews, I am a big fan of Greek mythology and Walters does a great job of weaving in mythological legend and history with present day themes and concerns. Walters grabbed my attention in the first chapter, had me rooting for Charis and her allies the rest of the way, and now has me eagerly awaiting the next book!

Charis is portrayed as a strong, sensitive, and confident teenage girl. She places value on the relationships she has with her family and her best friend Gabe, and appropriately and respectfully stands her ground when she is bullied by another girl. When informed by Athena of what is expected of her with regards to releasing Hope from Pandora’s jar, she pushes back her doubts and bravely accepts what is her destiny. I can really see how Charis would be a good role model for my own tween daughter. My only issue is that I’m still unclear as to Charis’ origin. I understand that she is somehow “related” to Hermes (thus the wings on her back), but I do feel that more elaboration is necessary. Perhaps in future books?

Nicole Walters is a fantastic story-teller. The story unfolds quickly and the perspective changes from Charis to the Greek Gods and Goddesses involved in the story (i.e., Hades, Athena, Hermes, and so on) building a clever and intriguing plot to the final climax as each party contemplates what is at stake with regards to the legendary jar. Just when you think you can anticipate what will happen next… well, let’s just say that you can expect the unexpected.

I did want to mention briefly that I felt the opening chapter was a bit dark and ominous. After reading the first chapter, I was concerned about letting my 9 year old daughter read it, but I have tosaythattherestofthebookdidnothavethatfeel. Therearemomentsthroughoutthebook that are intense, especially the parts with the Erinyes sisters, but by the time I finished reading the book, I told my daughter that she should read it and that I thought she would enjoy it after all.

Nicole Walters has created the female equivalent to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson in Charis. If you love Greek mythology, are looking for a strong female central character and appreciate exceptional writing skills, I highly recommend Charis: Journey to Pandora’s Jar by Nicole Walters.

Renee C.

Review completed February 21, 2013



{book} charis: journey to pandora’s jar

of note: A good friend introduced me to her friend Nicole Walters via Facebook fairly recently. Nicole is publishing her first middle-grade novel and Leah knew N and I would very likely be interested in a story involving a strong female protagonist and Greek mythology. Nicole generously allowed me to read Charis in return for a free and unbiased reading and that is what follows, that is always what follows.

Charis: Journey to Pandora’s Jar by Nicole Walters

published via BookTrope

ARC via e-reader

In many respects, 13-year-old Charis Parks is your typical girl: She goes to school, has friends, a crush, and is bright and sassy. In popular story, she is not so typical: One parent is white, the other is not, and the two adults have an easy affection between them and they attend to their children, too. Charis’ elder brother, though teasing, is kind and loving, and the depiction is mutual. Then there is that thing with her unusual birthmark which points to a destiny upon which the future of our world hinges.

When Pandora’s Jar was opened those many, many fateful years ago, Hope did not fly eagerly outward  into the world with the demons of chaos and instead was trapped inside when the lid was replaced. Pandora and the Jar were lost and with its return comes the one who was born to open it. It is up to Charis to release Hope and thus counteract the terrible curse the Jar has wrought on humankind.

The nefariously cast Hades has plans of his own for the Jar. He also has some very creepy henchwomen, the Erinyes Sisters. They are deliciously menacing figures, who are, at turns, also quite humorous. I adored them. Hermes, Athena, and Nike are determined to thwart Hades and see the Jar opened and Hope restored. Persuading the Fates and Charis to their cause, it is a race to recover the Jar. They have five days—the time span of the novel.

“I’m no damsel.”~Charis

Charis is someone portrayed as heroic without requiring a predestined quest to save the world to define her as such. Walters does not write a prophesied figure who needs a lot of convincing and employs excessive angst in the matter of destiny. It’s lovely. Now, that isn’t to say Charis does not have an occasional doubt, nor does it mean she doesn’t cry. She cries frequently—a nice (unusual) trait in a young hero.  A key personality trait for this hero is her curiosity. A curious mind is one that is taken with observing, questioning, and confronting the world. This is one of the traits belonging to world-changers and hope-bringers. It is beautiful to see it celebrated rather than criticized or hated—especially in a female figure.

Having a nearly 13-year-old girl, I know the age hosts the courageous and the articulate. I am also well acquainted with Charis’ repetitive use of “What tha?” Walters renders the middle-schooler and her world marvelously; though I did question every one’s ability to express themselves so well, but reluctance is an enemy of time when pacing and book-length is of import to middle-grade (one of the reasons I love reading it).

Where Rick Riordan comparisons will be inescapable, Walters favors a fluid writing style over amping up the adrenaline to compel her audience. This isn’t to say she does not provide great action. However, I do prefer the dark tension of that opening sequence to the cross-cutting effect found later in the novel. Of course, Riordan is not only about the ticking clock, so how does Walters do with the Greek myth in present day story? She is smart with it. One of the most enjoyable aspects to the novel is how Walters knows when to elaborate, and which details require prose or witty conversation or dramatic exchanges. She successfully contrives reasons and venues in which to share the myths that fuel the context and conflict in the story.

Gabe is a sweetie and the since-childhood-best-friend who is not Charis’ crush. The downplay of this romantic interest is handled rather deftly without eliminating possibility. And Gabe should add interest for male readers, who should enjoy the lovely insight into a powerful girl regardless. My only catch is how easily Gabe is maneuvered into a full-fledged side-kick role. And in some regards, Charis appear too clean; the plot points too well-finessed for an older audience. It has a very straightforward villain-hero dynamic; strong enough a dynamic at times to brush aside what the stakes truly are. The stumbling blocks placed in the way of recovering the Jar are unsurprising and not terribly threatening; then, perhaps the Reader is meant to be lulled by the “of courses” before that unanticipated ending.

Charis is a delight; and that smooth clean delivery is one of the reasons why. I do have to say I am more taken with the characters than the adventure itself, but such is where I found myself the most charmed. The writing in the mirror, the young eyes looking out upon the world and being affected by it. I worried a little that the premise is too juvenile in point of view: the sense that the world is worse than it ever was and more in need of hope than it ever has been. And then I recall the audience that Walters ever keeps in mind. It is just right. A darkling world in need of the hero pursuing a solution that will break its curse. The young (and old) should be so empowered. I am, just as the novel is, drawn to the pursuit of Hope and the longing for it to be just as part of the consciousness of our world as those other inmates of Pandora’s Jar. Charis already provides a positive image for which to strive: a loving home and friends and a fierce and articulate young lady activated for the good of mankind.

There is a thoughtfulness to the writing that is quiet beneath the smooth entertainment of the reading experience. I love that in a storytelling.

Nicole Walters is a debut author to watch, one who has written herself very nicely into the middle-grade set with this smart and entertaining read.


recommendations: girls & boys; ages 8-13; for those who like good female protagonists, positive family portrayals, seeing the mean girl get her comeuppance, and both the grotesque and glorious figures of Greek mythology.

of note: There were notations for illustrations which I cannot comment upon, except to say that they promise to be a nice addition and I am curious about them. Too, have you noticed how lame most self-published covers tend to be? I was so pleased when this cover popped-up in my message box! I asked after the artist/designer and he is Nicole’s brother. Nice.

meets w/ the once upon a time challenge.


I’m in love with Charis…and Nike…and Hermes…and Gabe. 

Let’s face it. I’m in love with this story.

As an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, I had been struggling of late to find fiction that captivated me, that I couldn’t resist, that I couldn’t put down. Charis did the trick!

How can something written for young adults have captivated me so much? All I can say is that much like Harry Potter before her, Charis is a character full of grace, courage, and genuine goodness. Her curiosity, questions, and tenacity drew me into the story and wouldn’t set me free until the final word.

This is a story of faith, hope, and spirit. A book that asks the young reader to believe in the possibility of their own meaning and uniqueness. A book that asks the older reader to embrace their questions and ask again, instead of giving up on believing in “something bigger” as many of us have done through the years.

The author uses language beautifully to bring us into the life and family of this child. Then uses language to draw us into the story of hope for the world, the drama of the heavens, and of chasing destiny with courage. In my minds-eye I can see children of all ages embracing their true “special-ness” because of the example they see in one spectacular young lady…Charis.

(*clears throat* Ahem…Mrs. Walters, Can I get an early version of Book 2 when it’s ready!?)

Leah Farmer, Hippy Christian Girl


When thirteen year old Charis was born, her doctor and parents were concerned about the wing-shaped birthmark on her back, between her shoulder-blades.

Every now and then it vaguely irritated her, but didn’t cause any concern. She was happy at school, with her best friend Gabe; at home with her parents and big brother Presley, things were good. She loved mythology, and learned everything she could about it, along with all other things …she was a very curious girl, as soon as she could talk, her sentences were punctuated with ‘why?, why?, why?’

Charis had dreams every night, dreams she couldn’t properly remember, but one particular night, she went further in her dream, and met with the Goddess Athena. In it, she learned she, Charis, was the chosen one, the one the Gods had been searching for to re-open Pandora’s Jar, and let the remaining spirit out into humanity, the spirit of Hope…

“Hope is alive and well, and the hands of the Grace will release her into the world.”

She had also discovered a little angel keychain at the bottom of her backpack, which she thought must have come from Gabe..she thought it was cute, and attached it to her belt. But it wasn’t just any keychain…the Goddess Nike had made herself four inches tall, and came to be with Charis for her help and protection.

Charis was going to the Getty Museum on Friday night for a big function with her parents, her mother had organised it…this was the time for Charis to retrieve Pandora’s Jar. But the dangers she faced were astronomical…she had Gods against her, Hades and the three evil sisters who were doing his bidding; and she had them helping her, Hermes, Athena and Nike. Plus there was her beloved English teacher, Mr P…….

Can Charis fulfill her destiny, and open Pandora’s Jar? Can she be the one to save mankind from all the disasters that had befallen it, the wars, the famines and hate? Is she brave enough, courageous enough…after all, she is only thirteen!

I read this wonderful manuscript in one day! I couldn’t put it down, and I loved Charis and Gabe. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about their day to day lives, and the sudden change which had them both excited and fearful. A brilliantly gripping debut novel of Gods and Goddesses, good and evil, and the fight to save humanity!

Many thanks to the author, Nicole Walters, for my copy of this novel to read and give an honest review.

Brenda, Librarian, Goodreads