Saturday, May 29, 2010

Arty -- The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

After finishing his (dazzling, in my opinion) debut series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan is back with another series about mythical deities - only this time, they're Egyptian in origin, not Greek.

Carter and Sadie Kane barely know each other. They were separated six years ago, when their mother died. Carter lives with their dad, Julius Kane, an Egyptologist who moves around a lot. Sadie lives with their mother's parents in London. The siblings only see each other twice a year. They're practically strangers.

But they don't stay strangers for long. This Christmas, on one of their visiting days, Julius takes Carter and Sadie on an outing to a museum. Sadie isn't thrilled at the prospect, but neither siblings are very happy when their dad blows up the Rosetta Stone. It doesn't get any better when a being from the Stone entraps their father and disappears with him.

Carter and Sadie quickly learn their father released five Egyptian gods from the Stone, and that one of them, Set, has banished Julius to oblivion. Suddenly thrust into a world where Egyptian deities and creatures are alive and well, with a father - and the world - to save, Carter and Sadie have to crisscross mortal and immortal boundaries for a way to defeat the evil their father released.

The Red Pyramid is a fascinating, complex, enjoyable book with deep characters and some good 'curve balls.' However, I think Riordan tried a little too hard to mimic the success of Percy Jackson. It's not glaringly obvious, but deep down, many parts seemed contrived. Mysterious dreams, characters acting oddly, plot twists - it all felt like he was trying to recapture the intrigue of the Olympians far too early in the series. As a result, you're so bogged down with loose ends and character backgrounds, you can barely pay attention to the action going on, wondering who has what motives where.

The characters are typically amazing. As usual, I got more into the supporting characters than Carter and Sadie, but the siblings were likable, with Carter's more serious voice and Sadie's snarky tone. The gods, however, were the ones who really shone: Bast, Anubis, and Thoth, along with other deities. The dialogue was witty, though fans of PJO's more obvious humor may be disappointed.

Action is never lacking. When they're awake, Carter and Sadie are fighting, running, or learning; while asleep, their bas, or spirits, are roaming the earth, seeing helpful visions. It's a wonder they could even stay on their feet. While some of the battle scenes aren't exactly realistic - it's hard to imagine a twelve-year-old girl fending off a thousand-year-old magician, no matter what her bloodline - they still get your attention and make you wonder just who's going to win.

There's really not much more to say about The Red Pyramid. It's not fair to compare it with Riordan's previous series. Still, I don't think the Kane Chronicles will be garnering the same amount of attention and acclaim. Perhaps if the next books are better. But for now, the Red Pyramid is merely an entertaining adventure of Egyptian deities, pharaohs, and magic.

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