Sunday, September 6, 2015

Review: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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Goodreads Summary:

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.


Rick Riordan, having just written the enormously successful, creative, and funny Percy Jackson and the Olympians (PJO) series, could have easily allowed his new series, The Kane Chronicles (of which this book is the first), to be the same thing but with Egyptian gods and goddesses instead of Greek gods and goddesses. But he didn't let that happen. Instead, he created a whole new world with new villains, characters and plot points. There is no parallel Camp Half-Blood for the Egyptians, but instead the world is divided up into regions called Nomes, with the 1st Nome hosting a magician school in Cairo, Egypt. It seems that Riordan knew he couldn't write a comparable book to the PJO series, so instead he went a different route so it could stand on its own merit.

The book definitely has a different feel to the PJO series, generally a bit darker and more ominous. Percy, in PJO, has extreme ADD and thus is always getting distracted by pointless tidbits about villains and cracking jokes in the middle of dangerous situations. While that does occur in The Red Pyramid, Carter and Sadie, the two main characters, seemed to take the danger in the book far more seriously. I suppose some people might view this as a con, but to me, it shows (again) how this series isn't just trying to be another PJO.

I'm not sure whether to list this as a pro or a con, but Sadie Kane acts a lot older than twelve years old. This was actually my third or so time reading the book, and for some reason I was under the distinct impression that Sadie was older than Carter, at about 16 years old. Then suddenly, as I was reading, I noticed that Sadie is actually younger than Carter and is 12 years old. O_o Yeah. Even as I was reading, it was hard to imagine her as twelve, which I suppose could be a con, but it did avoid my pet peeve of representing tweens as younger than they actually are. So that's a pro in my book.

I like the creative narration tactic Riordan used to tell the story. It is written as if Sadie and Carter were taking turns narrating the sequence of events into a portable audio recorder, which means they sometimes squabble over details outside of the confines of the story. Sort of a quasi-breaking-the-fourth-wall thing going on. :)

(Oh, and speaking of quasi-breaking-the-fourth-wall, there's a veiled reference to PJO in chapter 5. And I quote:
        ""So you can't live in Manhattan?" she asked.
        Amos's brow furrowed as he looked across at the Empire State Building. "Manhattan has other problems. Other gods. It's best we stay separate."

      "Other what?" Sadie demanded.
I love it.)


This is sort of a strange con, but I felt that too many gods, creatures, and monsters were introduced in the book. One of the things I appreciated about PJO was how the Greek mythology was sort of drip-fed to me as I read, slow enough that I could fully absorb the new information, and it really helped me remember it afterward. (It has meant that I don't have to study as hard for history tests. I'm serious.) But in The Red Pyramid, a lot of Egyptian mythology was introduced fairly quickly, meaning that I forgot much of the names and things a few weeks after I finished it. Bummer.

And, well, even after all I said above about how The Kane Chronicles is distinct from PJO and isn't trying to live up to those expectations, the truth is that I was still sort of looking for another PJO to fill that void after the series ended, especially the same level of humor. But it doesn't deliver that. Which left me somewhat disappointed in the end.

Overall, The Red Pyramid is an enjoyable book that should be treated as distinct from PJO, but it definitely doesn't have the same spark of genius that can be found throughout PJO.

Now I’m going to do a breakdown of each element of the series, judging it on different criteria. I’ll rate each element on a scale of 1-5, 1 being bad, and 5 being amazing.

Plot: 4

Complexity: 4
Creativity: 4
Believability: 5
Surprise: 4

Characters: 4
Depth: 4
Personality: 5
Believability: 3

Writing Style: 4
Description: 4
Tension: 4

Overall Score: 4

Happy Reading!


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