The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan: A Book Review…
The book is the first installment of the trilogy set to be released a year after the other. According to Rick Riordan the next books will be released on May 2011 and May 2012 respectively.
The story revolved around the Kane siblings, Carter (14) and Sadie (12). Carter and Sadie alternately recount their adventure for the readers; the book started with Carter and ended with him as well.
After their mother died six years earlier, Sadie was sent to live with her maternal (the Fausts) grandparents in London, and Carter travelled with their father, Julius Kane, a world re-known archeologist whose specialty was Egyptian artifacts. On Christmas eve, Carter and their Dad arrived in London to spend one of only two days a year he was allowed to see his daughter. After his wife died, Julius Kane fought to gain full custody of his two children but his wife’s parents took him to court for custody of his young daughter Sadie. So, the siblings grew up barely knowing each other. Carter longed to have the normal life that Sadie seemed to have and Sadie resented the fact that Carter gets to travel around the world with their father.
On this visit Carter noticed that their father was unusually agitated, like they were in constant danger or somebody was following them. Julius Kane took his children to the British Museum where he was able to gain privileged entry to the premises due to his refutation as an expert in Egyptian artifacts. He told his children that he was “going to set things right”. There, using the Rosetta Stone Julius Kane released the god Osiris however, he also unleashed four other Egyptian gods with him – Isis (goddess of Egyptian magic); Horus (Egyptian god of the Sky and Warfare); Nephthys (Egyptian goddess of night and lamentation); and worst of all Set (Egyptian god of Chaos and Terror). Set immediately vanished Julius to the Duat (the underworld) and caused his children to run for their lives.
Later in the story the siblings discovered that they were descendents from two very ancient and powerful magical pharaoh – Narmer and Rameses the Great. Though the Fausts have not practiced magic for centuries, the Kanes were members of the House of Life (a group of magicians descended from ancient times set to keep the gods at bay). Because of the union of the two ancient families – the Kane siblings were set to be the most powerful magicians ever to be born in the blood of pharaohs for hundreds of years. The members of the House of Life were forbidden to commune with the gods and goddesses of Egypt, so with Julius’ disobedience the siblings not only have to run away from the forces of chaos chasing after them but they are now also hunted by the House of Life. The siblings must now learn to use their magical powers and the power that comes from hosting the Egyptian deities Horus and Isis, in order to defeat Set and save their father.
Undeniably, the reader will find many similarities about Red Pyramid and Rick Riordan’s earlier series Percy Jackson. There were even several references to the earlier series in the book like when Amos (Julius Kane’s brother and uncle to the siblings) told them that Manhattan has its own gods while looking at the Empire State Building where in the previous series lies the entrance to the Olympus; and again in later in the story when the god Thoth (Egyptian god of Wisdom, Scribes, Baboons, and Magicians. Founder of the “Per Ankh” – The House of Life) said that people often confuse him with Hermes.
From my personal point of view (and I don’t impose this on anyone), I would probably rate the book as moderately entertaining. It’s not as fast phased and exciting as Percy Jackson and Harry Potter it definitely is not. Though, I must admit that I know very little about Egyptian mythology, as does many other people, but the book helped to educate me on the subject in the most interesting way. I personally prefer Percy Jackson to this new series but then maybe because its based on the mythology I already adore plus that series was made for older audiences.
The Egyptians were an ancient civilization maybe older than the Greeks but their mythology, their nature and beliefs have remained hidden from normal people even until now. It may be due to the fact that most of their artifacts are still hidden away beneath miles and miles of desert sand; or it may also be because their concept was not a popularly accepted one.
I remember thinking while reading the book that the men (even the gods) seem to take a step behind the female deities. Even Riordan’s character does this – Sadie the younger of the sibling and a female seemed to be more adventurous, more passionately and aggressive than her older brother Carter. Isis was the architect that pushed Osiris into power and she was the one who protected and assisted her son Horus to take the throne from Set.
Ra was tricked by Isis into giving her his secret name through which she was able to control him and set her husband Osiris as king. When Osiris was usurped by Set as king, Isis hid their son Horus and assisted him until he was strong enough to grab the throne from his uncle Set. In an earlier story, Nut (goddess of the sky) found a way for their children to be born after Ra decreed that she and her husband Geb cannot have children in any day of the Egyptian calendar.
I also noticed, and loved, that Riordan made a point to clarify in the book that the Egyptian gods and goddesses were not divine but were just a more powerful entity. I find that I often see that concept whenever I read a story abut ancient Egypt. “The ancient Egyptians were wise people to have been able to recognize this fact”, that’s mildly quoting Amos Kane as he explained the concept of Egyptian deities to his nephew and niece. Even with an Anne Rice’s story on the Queen of the Damned were the witches were taken by force by the Egyptian queen and king, she made a point to say that the forces surrounding them were attracted to their ability as witches and that they were not gods but merely very powerful spirits.
The book was a bit long, and sadly there were moments when I think it was way too dragging, yet if we really consider it Riordan had so many things to consider in writing the book. First and foremost was the virtual ignorant of most readers about Egyptian mythology; such that he had to explain almost everything and give a background about each god before a big scene. He cannot simply made the god/goddess appear without introduction because then the readers would not be able to make the right connections. That was a monumental task for the author, and he was able to pass that hurdle with flying colors. I know more about Egyptian lore now than I would ever have found left alone to discover them. He had also created an interest in ancient Egyptian beliefs which is always a good thing.
On characterization, at the beginning it was really very well done. Sadie being raised in London had that British voice (accent and personality) and Carter being raised by their father was more conservative. Though, later on in the story it seemed like the characterization was lost in all the adventure the siblings went through. Sadie lost her British speech and Carter was less conservative.
Despite all of these issues the book was interesting enough to grab the readers attention with its numerous adventurous and fight scenes. Also present were the signature wit and humor of Riordan books this time coming from the siblings. I love that they abuse each other (mostly Sadie on Carter) but underneath all that they love and protect each other with a passion. And that’s exactly how it should be.