The Red Pyramid

For those of you thinking that The Red Pyramid is code for Percy Jackson Does Egypt, I'm here to let you know that you're wrong. Mostly. Well, about 50/50. The tone of voice is pretty similar and we're still working with the idea of kids saving the world while trying to figure out the complicated god-mortal dynamic, but there are enough differences that Percy Jackson fans won't feel like I've read this book before. Of course, it's still Rick Riordan taking ancient history and making it fun for modern day kids without totally slaughtering every story, which is kind of why I liked him in the first place, so it's not a bad thing to have some similarities. Personally, I thought that a huge part of his success with Percy Jackson rested in his comprehensive knowledge of Greek mythology, thus enabling him to create modern characters and yet still promote the myths. Evidently, his knowledge is not limited to Greek mythology and he's got Egypt pretty down pat, too.

The Red Pyramid is the first in what will become "The Kane Chronicles," focused on Carter and Sadie Kane, two kids who are about to realize that their family is way more screwed up than they could ever have imagined. Their mother died six years ago and as a result, their grandparents in England (their mom's parents) received custody of Sadie while Julius Kane (their dad) retained sole custody of Carter. Sadie stayed in England while Carter traveled the world with their father, a noted Egyptologist. Each thinks the other must have it easier. The two children have grown up as virtual strangers and because they're multi-racial kids whose appearances each favor a different parent, they don't even look related (and with Sadie's accent, they don't even *sound* alike). Carter, raised by his father, was taught to always appear as an impeccably dressed and proud black man, whereas Sadie has remained in England and been raised as a fairly normal English girl. They see each other only when Julius is permitted to visit his daughter for a single day every six months and that isn't much time to develop any real bond. That all changes when, on one of these visitation days, Julius blows up the Rosetta Stone, unleashes imprisoned gods, imprisons himself while channeling one, and destroys life as his children know it.

You see, Sadie and Carter come to understand that their parents were not just magicians (a bit of a major revelation in itself), but they're the descendants of ancient Egyptian pharaohs. With these two royal blood lines united in Sadie and Carter, they are incredibly powerful... more powerful than any two mortals have been in centuries. Part of the reason behind splitting them up rested with the fact that together, their powers only seem to grow. Once their father disappears, their Uncle Amos (dad's brother) steps in and the children are taken on a crash course of Egyptian mythology and present-day manifestations of that. Years ago, it was decided by the House of Life (a powerful group of magicians) that the gods needed to be controlled and imprisoned. In the magical event that killed their mother, the Kanes seem to have been working against this desire to imprison the gods (just *why* they did this is something Sadie and Carter intend to find out), and thus became enemies of the House of Life. Now, Sadie and Carter have to figure out a way to either work with the House of Life or stay a few steps ahead of them so they can save their father and possibly the world. The Egyptian gods become particularly fascinating here as Sadie and Carter realize that they're each hosting a god and need to maintain their own independence or the god might take them over. They do, however, need the power that comes with hosting a god if they're going to defeat Set, a god of chaos who is intent on destroying the world.

My description sounds a bit muddled, but it all makes more sense in the actual book. It's a very quick read -- as evidenced by the fact that I took advantage of the Barnes & Noble "read in store" offer and read this for free on my nook over the course of a few days an hour at a time. The narration is passed between Carter and Sadie, allowing each to present their perspective of events and bicker with each other in the telling. It's hard to believe that they ever spent time apart, as they certainly act like feuding siblings who would be loathe to admit that they love the other. Their narrative voices can sound similar at times, but on the whole, Riordan does a good job of keeping things clear -- it helps that both Carter and Sadie each have a potential "love interest" (Carter is 14 and Sadie is 12), so their storylines sometimes veer towards some particular notice given to those respective interests. Sadie and Carter learn to work together and it doesn't take much for them to learn the real value of family. Whether or not they can make theirs whole once more, though, is the real dilemma, as they'll ultimately have to choose between personal desires and the good of the world.

Riordan has certainly made some kind of deal with the gods, if not the devil, because he's really got the golden touch when it comes to these YA novels. The Percy Jackson series was quite charming and the Kane Chronicles look as though they'll follow a similar successful trajectory. I only hope that he can keep things as original and interesting for however many books he plans to write -- particularly because I believe he's got another series coming out that's set in the Percy Jackson vein of things, with new kids headed to Camp Half-Blood. Hopefully he won't simply bounce between Egypt and Greece, though, because I'd love to see which culture he tackles next. Norse? Sumerian? In the meantime, though, I'll be quite pleased to continue reading the Kane Chronicles.

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