If there was a problem with "The Red Pyramid," it's that too much of the action took place in dreams and visions. Fortunately Rick Riordan scales back on that in "The Kane Chronicles, Book Two: The Throne of Fire," a tighter, more action-packed adventure tale filled with cinematic monsters, mythological battles and an impending apocalypse. Fun stuff!
Things seem to be going fairly smoothly for the Kane siblings, despite a disastrous mission to capture one-third of the Book of Ra. Unfortunately, Carter and Sadie soon learn that not only has the House of Life sent its third-most-powerful magician (known as "Vlad the Inhaler") to destroy them, but that the god Apophis has almost escaped from his prison.
Unfortunately, the only god who can possibly stop Apophis is Ra, and the only way to summon Ra from his eternal sleep is to use the Book. Soon the Kanes are on a perilous quest across the world, running up against evil gods (and an endearing taxi-driving one), demons and treacherous magicians. But the price of victory may be a steep one...
"The Throne of Fire" is a somewhat steadier adventure than "The Red Pyramid." It's still not quite as instantly engaging as Riordan's Grecian-inspired fantasies, but it's still action-packed, sleek and full of flashy action sequences. I mean, a basketball game is interrupted by a giant three-headed serpent -- does it get cooler than that?
Riordan's prose is solidly descriptive, and he does an excellent job melding ancient Egyptian myth with modern-day sensibilities. His dialogue is solidly snarky -- at one point, the dwarf god Bes announces that, "I'm not going to call myself the god of vertically challenged people." But there's a much darker dimension to this story -- some spectacularly horrible things happen to some characters that Riordan has made you like.
And don't worry: while visions-dreams reveal a lot of important information, they don't overwhelm the story.
I find it a little hard to warm up to Sadie and Carter, but Riordan does do a solid job of fleshing them out with their new responsibilities and problems (particularly since some of their mistakes get people hurt). And Riordan introduces some very likable new characters -- in fact, I liked some of them better than the main characters -- particularly Freak the griffin, Tawaret, Mad Claude and Bes (who eats a chocolate head of Lenin).
"The Throne of Fire" is a somewhat darker, steadier second volume in the Kane Chronicles -- lovable gods, lots of action, and plot threads left dangling for the third book.