Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

I've already told you about our (kid and myself) deep love for Percy Jackson and the Olympians.    Recently, kidlet has discovered and devoured The 39 Clues series.   So, there was really never any doubt that we were going to read his new series, The Kane Chronicles.   

And, Riordan has done it again, which is both the strength and weakness of The Red Pyramid.  

Carter and Sadie Kane are estranged siblings.  Following the death of their mother six years ago, Carter remained with his father, a renowned Egyptologist Julius Kane.  So, while her big brother traveled the world and received a spotty education from their dad, Sadie lived in England with her maternal grandparents. During their yearly visitation day, Julius Kane, takes them to the British Museum, and blows up the Rosetta Stone.  In his attempt to raise an Egyptian god, Julius has unleashed a terrible destructive power.   Once it is revealed that their father was a powerful Egyptian magician,  Carter and Sadie are rocked by the news  that the ability to do magic also lies within them.  Unsure of themselves and swept up in events they don't fully understand, Carter and Sadie begin a quest to free their father.   

If you think this sounds like a wonderful adventure, built upon a complex mythology, but incorporating modern elements -- you would be right.   If you think it sounds a lot like Dan and Amy Cahill go to the Egyptian version of Camp Half-Blood, well, you would be right too. 

Riordan doesn't stretch much here; this book is very much in the mold of his other juvenile fiction.  You've got a complicated and mysterious family, a rich mythos and a globe trotting adventure.   He does throw in some new elements -- Julius Kane is African-American, and Carter resembles him strongly, while Sadie looks more like her English mother.  This discrepancy causes some tension between the siblings.   The fact that Carter and Sadie are virtual strangers with very different backgrounds also makes their relationship more complex and interesting.
   The quest/adventure plot may not be earth-shatteringly innovative, but Riordan does it extremely well.  This is a compelling book, and the need to know "then what happens" will drive even a reluctant reader to finish the 528 page tome.  

However, no one would argue that new ground is being broken here.  How much that bothers you depends on what you are looking for.    Fans of Riordan's other books for kids will read this book and eagerly await the next one.   Readers who are seeking something new may be frustrated by the familiarity of the Kane Chronicles.  

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