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Kanes on the run
on May 16, 2010
Having explored the trouble caused by Titans and Greek gods, Riordan has apparently turned his attention to a new pantheon -- Egyptian gods. "The Red Pyramid" is overlong in places, but Riordan's first Kane Chronicles novel is a rollicking adventure/fantasy filled with ancient deities (in modern forms), fireballs, hostile magicians, and a basketball-playing baboon.
Ever since their mother died, the Kane kids have hardly seen one another. Carter travels the world with his Egyptologist father, while Sadie lives with their maternal grandparents in London. But when their father attempts a magic spell and is captured by the god Set, Carter and Sadie are temporarily whisked away by their uncle Amos -- and then found by a mysterious magical cabal called the House of Life.
Unfortunately, the kids soon learn two things -- Set is planning to destroy the world in just a few days, and the House has decided that they must be killed. So they're on the run with the cat goddess Bast (formerly Sadie's cat Muffin), trying to find a way to stop an ancient god of chaos from killing their father and plunging the world into horror.They'll have to venture into ancient, unspeakable dangers, and discover a side of themselves that they never knew of... but even that might not restore Ma'at.
On the surface, "The Red Pyramid" sounds a lot like Riordan's Percy Jackson series -- you've got disaffected teenagers trying to save the world from evil gods, and finding out they have some magic powers themselves. But it actually is a rather different story (there's no safe haven for these kids!), and the interwoven Egyptian myths and magic give it a very distinct flavor of its own.
The one problem is that the plot feels a bit stretched out, with lots of action interspersed with long stretches of inaction. But the plot is also very complex and carefully laid out, with lots of miniquests woven into the main storyline, plenty of humor ("How to tame the five essential elements of the universe--earth, air, water, fire, and cheese!"), and lots of flashy glowy magic (floating hieroglyphics, halls filled with memories, axe-headed demons, shooting fireballs, clay shabti, et cetera).
And his characters are well-drawn to start with, and are carefully fleshed out as the story goes on -- Carter is a likable, earnest young man who obviously wishes he had a bit of normalcy, while Sadie is a snarky, sassy girl with a fragile heart. Bast is also a wonderfully quirky, catlike character ("That's the spirit! Now, let's have a picnic"), while the gloomy Anubis and mad scientist Thoth make great supporting cast.
"The Red Pyramid" rambles on at times, but Rick Riordan's latest is still a fantastical, magical journey that paves the way for a whole new series. Can't wait to see what's next.