Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review - The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1)When I first read the general premise of this book, my first thought was that this was just going to be "the Percy Jackson series but with Egyptian mythology rather than Greek mythology." While that generalization is enough to provide some interest and insight into the book, it doesn't adequately describe what to expect. Still, it provides enough information for those who are familiar with Percy.

The general gist of the story is that you've got two kids…a sister and a brother. Their dad is an Egyptologist. Their mom is dead through mysterious circumstances. One night, he takes them to the museum in London and basically blows up an ancient artifact and releases some Egyptian gods into the world…one of whom has plans to destroy the world. The father is captured/killed and the kids take off running with the help of other Egyptian gods and mysterious family members on a quest to save the world.

Having read Riordan's Percy Jackson series, I had a general feel for his writing style and expected more of the same. The Red Pyramid changed up the style a little bit by having the brother and sister (Carter and Sadie) each take turns narrating the chapters. This provided some opportunity to alternate voice/tone/vocabulary/etc as well as to provide some different points of view into similar or related scenes. While the general style and voice of the characters didn't differ a whole lot, I thought it was fun to have these two alternating narrators.

Throughout the book we're given a spattering of Egyptian myth and history lessons and taken on a trip to various points around the world. Part of me felt like the "educational" aspect of this book was a little more overt than it was in the Percy series, but part of that could be that I don't know as much about Egyptian mythology and so I felt like I was learning more and paying closer attention. Whatever the case, the learning aspects came naturally as part of the story and didn't fell terribly forced.

What did feel a little over the top for me as an adult is the age of Carter and Sadie. I believe Carter is cast as 14 years old and Sadie as 12. Their attitudes and maturity and general behavior in the book made them feel at least a couple of years older than that. This isn't a huge problem and young readers won't notice or care at all. Some of the conversations and thoughts just felt a little off to me when I considered their ages.

A large thread in this book is the idea of who to trust to help unravel the mystery. The kids are whisked away by an uncle they hardly know, taken in by magicians (who at one point tried to kill them and now want to train them), torn between accepting the help of the gods or being told to avoid the gods. I felt like the conflict and tension was set up well and added some interesting plot points to keep the story interesting.

To a large extent this book became a general adventure/quest/journey novel as the kids are sent to find particular items and confront the big baddie to save the day. And yet, it had enough unique elements to keep the story interesting. I definitely found this book a little heavier (drier?) than the Percy Jackson series…again, I'm not sure if that's just a perception thing because I had to "learn" more about Egypt than I did about Greece or if perhaps this book is a little slower/denser.

Whatever the case, I found the story engaging and the characters fun. I enjoyed learning about Egyptian mythology and going on this adventure with the Kane kids. My kids also had fun with this book although they did have trouble keeping their interest up during the first couple of chapters until the action really got underway.

Generally speaking I still prefer the style and feel of the Percy series overall but I appreciate and like this book for the Egyptian tie and the fun story. We're starting book 2 now and my kids are glad that it's immediately starting off with more action.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Anonymous said...

fantastic review--likely the best I've read, especially in your comparisons, as they are dead-on. You provide a great feel for the experience.

~L (omphaloskepsis)

Larissa said...

I enjoyed The Red Pyramid, but I much preferred the Percy Jackson books personally. I like how he hints that the two series might intertwine though!