Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Red Pyramid - a book review by Robert Steven Mack

When seeing that Rick Riordan came out with another book after his success with the Percy Jackson series, one might only sigh and mutter flatly to oneself:"Another one?" And indeed, it looks all to much like the kind of book you've seen in the store a thousand times, especially since Harry Potter came out and started the trend in 1997 more than a decade ago: sarcastic "ordinary" boy teams with strong-minded girl, add possible wimp-on-the-outside-but-strong-on-the-inside boy. The three friends go on a big adventure and eventually learn to live with each other. The difference with this book: it was structured a different way. While I'll go further into detail later, I just want to say that the new approach carried the characters, plot and ideas into new and exciting levels.

One might start off with saying that the Kane Chronicles (starting with The Red Pyramid) is simply a reincarnation of Rick Riordan's previous series, Percy Jackson, just this time with Egyptian gods. One could say that, except it's not that simple. Indeed, one can feel the influence of the Percy Jackson series flowing through the book's reins, and a small scent of the Harry Potter trend released now, a surprising 15 years ago. It's even surprising for many of us, I'm sure, that even Percy Jackson is now relatively only a thing of the past and that Rick Riordan has moved on to a sequel series called the Heroes of Olympias and now the Kane Chronicles in which the first book was published in 2010. And indeed, that's the wonderful thing of human creativity; it's always on to the next thing. For the impeccable record, Rick Riordan has displayed that in his book The Red Pyramid with a brilliant beauty.

Not wanting to give the book away and certainly not wanting to spoil the effect it has to offer you, the plot goes something like this. For eight years ever since his mother died for a cause never revealed to him, fourteen year old Carter Kane has been travelling with his eccentric Egyptologist father for six years now, never knowing the sweet content or even the meaning of the word "home". His twelve year old sister ,however, got the other half of the bargain, living with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Faust (no relation), in a London flat and hears constantly about how her father caused the mysterious death of her mother and is an outcast in her own way, seeing her father only two days a year (that includes her brother Carter whom she couldn't care less about). On Christmas Eve one day during their visit to London, Carter and Sadie (did I mention Carter's sister was named Sadie?) tag along with their father Julius to the British Museum where Julius blows up the Rosetta Stone among other priceless Egyptian artifacts (don't ask, just read the bloody book!) Did I mention that Julius in doing this, Julius released several Egyptian gods encased in the Rosetta Stone (which was used to decipher old Egyptian writing, hieroglyphics) some of which make themselves at home in Carter and Sadie's bodies with their father trapped in a sarcophagus by the evil god Set. he's not the kind of guy you'd want to invite to a birthday party! See wikipedia if you want to spoil the fun (no offence to Wikipedia) but truthfully, it'll all make sense in the book. Pretty soon Carter and Sadie find themselves at the heart of Egyptian mythology, scrambling to save the world, literally, from Set's disastrous plan.

Having just studied Ancient Egypt in school, this book was a great review for me as it's simply littered with Egyptian facts and legends as Carter and Sadie struggle to complete their quest. Peculiarly, this book was narrated by Sadie and Carter as they take turns telling the story through a recording. The narration on both sides is witty and well told displaying, as the siblings display their different personalities and as well as strengths and weaknesses the two share throughout the story. A fascinating display of story telling mechanics, having it told from the two different sides of our two heroes, their emotions and development play a key asset in the success in this story. Not many books do that.

I have to admit that in the beginning it was hard to get really into the story. The plot seemed rushed and a little too pretentious. Then after two chapters Sadie took over narration, and I can say that any reader will be charmed by this character's charm and fire-ball wit, in addition to the depth and intelligence suddenly being displayed on the pages in your hands. Then Carter took over again and suddenly he too seemed to be real, as real as can be: intelligent, confused, humorous in a different way. As already mentioned, the two characters bounce off each other and that drives a lot of the book. Although some similarities with Percy Jackson and faint connections with a distant Harry Potter did cross my mind as I was reading the book, the novel relatively stood on its own two feet. Distinct enough to give itself its own unique air and tone and to go places only it could go, I applaud Rick Riordan, who, I believe has topped his fantastic and entertaining Percy Jackson series. Something else though, that I couldn't help noticing is that Carter kept referring to himself as an African-American or black boy or man as if obsessed with his race. I'm not saying this was constant but noticeably frequent. Then again...who cares... its a great book!

I literally devoured this book (516 pages) over the past weekend. At times, this book was so addicting and so vivid I would scream my nervous wits out if someone entered the room. Then again there were numerous times when I laughed so hard that I could barely control myself. And that is an understatement! One can only wonder why the author intends this to be strictly told in three books, he may have a glorious series; I'm sure there is a reason. Topping his previous series and sincerely creating something that is strictly its own, The Red Pyramid is filled with epic battles, vivid and colourful characters as real as yourselves, and fantastic storytelling; the first installment of the Kane series is an amusing epic tale of heroism, choices, benevolence and character.

Copyright 2012 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved!!)

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