TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
It took me awhile — I listened to the audio version until the last 7 chapters of this 500+ page middle grade novel — but I have finally finished Rick Riordan's "The Red Pyramid." Wahoo! I'm delighted to report that "The Red Pyramid," despite its impressive length, is a fun, action-packed history lesson. Fear not! The "lesson" part goes down as smoothly here as in Riordan's bestselling "Percy Jackson" series, taking us readers on an adventure-filled tour of ancient Egypt right in our modern world.
We have dual narrators, middle grade siblings Carter and Sadie Kane. Younger sister Sadie is impulsive, sassy, and very British. Carter is more thoughtful and reserved. The siblings are recording their tale, so they tend to interrupt, correct, or simply scold each other with some frequency. If you're like me, this practice will make you giggle repeatedly.
The story begins with a disaster at London's famous British Museum. We learn through some quick back story that following their mother's death, Carter traveled the world with his Egyptologist dad, Julius, while Sadie remained in England with her grandparents. At the British Museum, Julius breaks the Rosetta Stone, freeing five Egyptian gods and, unfortunately, entombing himself within a golden coffin.
From that explosive start, the book proceeds on a brisk pace, barely letting the reader catch her breath, as one action scene dives into the next. Carter and Sadie go on the run to stop the evil god Set, now freed, from building a red pyramid in Phoenix and destroying the Earth. Of course, they'd also like to rescue their dad, too. But how? Luckily, these two seemingly average children discover that they are descended from the pharaohs, giving them unique magical abilities. Even better, two gods freed at the British Museum, Horus and Isis, siblings of Set, now share inner space with the kids, allowing them to tap into some incredible power. Some of the funniest scenes in the book involve the internal debates Carter and Sadie have with their hosted gods; as you might imagine, thousand year old omnipotent beings can get a bit testy when they're controlled by children!
As they travel the county to battle Set, the kids hone their magical fighting skills, which come in handy when encountering all manner of ancient foes along the way. They also get help from a series of unlikely allies: Iskandar, an old magician with the House of Life; Khufu, a basketball-loving baboon; Bast, a feline goddess formerly known as Sadie's cat Muffin; Zia, a beautiful, dangerous young magician who makes Carter giddy; Amos, the kids' estranged uncle; and several shabti (clay figures used by pharaohs and gods to perform tasks on command) named Doughboy (!) and Philip of Macedonia. Bast, in particular, chaperones the kids the longest, and her role as mentor, fellow troublemaker, and Friskies eater is a hoot.
Riordan masterly weaves TONS of information about Egyptian history, customs, language, and religion into this rollicking, breakneck adventure story. The historical information never slows the tale down, which is a real credit to the author. After all, the kids are battling to save the world; this has to be of primary importance! Of course, Carter and Sadie are always outmatched — who can really be a worthy foe for someone called "Face of Horrors"?! — but they use their ingenuity and burgeoning talents to escape from one tight spot after another. Indeed, the book reads like a series of interconnected stories about fighting evil forces and facing nearly impossible challenges. I can easily envision families sitting together and reading this book aloud.
I fully expected the action, which Riordan delivers in spades. I was pleasantly surprised by the frequent touches of wry humor, which wonderfully soften some of the more frightening scenes and images. What I was completely floored by were the powerful emotional scenes, including one where Sadie delivers a love note from the sky goddess Nut to her beloved earth god husband Geb. And the ending? Without giving anything away, it's a doozy.
As for the characters, I love the kids' authenticity. They are brave, smart, strong, confused, tired, frustrated, resilient — just about what you'd hope for from children thrown into a life and death struggle. They even feel like real siblings, loyal to each other but still able to tease and joke. Boy and girl readers should find much to like in Carter and Sadie.
I am leaving so much out — Sadie crushes on Anubis, a jackal-headed god of the underworld! — but I think you get the idea. Read the "Red Pyramid" for the constant whiz-bang action, the fascinating look into ancient Egypt, the funny asides, the sweet moments between Carter and Sadie … whatever your reason for doing so, just read it. I think you'll adore it as much as I do. I'm so looking forward to the sequel! And be sure to check the Kane Chronicles site for updates and information.