The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles #1) by Rick Riordan
Hyperion/Disney Book Group
IQ "It's a rare thing when an adult admits they are wrong to a child-especially a wise, two-thousand-year-old adult. You rather have to cherish those moments." Sadie pg. 349
Carter and Sadie are siblings, but they don't live together. When their mother died six years ago, they were split up. Carter (fourteen years old) travels around the world with their famous Egyptologist fatter, Dr. Julius Kane. He's homeschooled and rather socially awkward. Meanwhile, Sadie (his twelve year old sister) lives in London with their grandparents. Both Carter and Sadie want what they other has, Carter a "normal life", and Sadie wants more time with their father. They don't get along because they only spend a few days together a year and they don't understand each other. All this changes when on Christmas Eve when their father tries to release the spirits of gods through the Rosetta Stone, which ends in a disaster. Their father has been kidnapped by Set (an evil god of ancient Egypt) and it's up to Carter and Sadie to save him and/or the world. Along with Set, the other gods of Ancient Egypt are awakening and some of them help, and some hurt Carter and Sadie's mission. They are heading on a dangerous journey of magic and secrets in which not only must they battle gods, but they must fight the House of Life (a secret order of magicians that does not like the gods). And of course, they belong to no ordinary group.
See how long that summary is? Yeah it was exhausting to write and that pretty much describes my experience reading this book. It took FOREVER. It absolutely could not hold my interest. I must have picked it up, read 2 chapter and then forgotten about it completely at least once a month (and it took me about four months to finally finish). The book starts off rather slowly because it gives you a lot of background info and then it picks up for a bit. But then it's back to an excruciatingly slow pace with lots and lots of details. At first, I didn't mind all the details because I know relatively little about ancient Egyptian gods, beliefs and hieroglyphs. However after awhile it's a lot of information to remember. In addition to all this information, you must keep straight the Kane family history because there is a lot of secrets surrounding Carter and Sadie's parents and as the answers are slowly revealed, it becomes harder to recall it all. Furthermore, most reviewers have already said this but I agree so I'll repeat it. It was hard to notice the difference in Carter and Sadie's narration. Aside from Carter commenting on a cute girl and Sadie commenting on a cute god, there was no reliable difference in their voices (both of them have a sort of dry sense of humor that is present throughout the book). Also, I wish that Sadie had reflected more on being bi-racial. It's understandable that she wouldn't "feel Black" per se, since she's been raised by her white grandparents (the parents of her mother) but I expected her to at least reflect on that side of her heritage, to at least comment on how she feels estranged from it.
I did enjoy learning about ancient Egyptian culture and I did like the characters. My favorite characters were Bast, Khufu and Philip of Macedonia. Philip was an albino crocodile, Khufu was a basketball-playing baboon and Bast was the cat goddess. I liked that the animals couldn't talk but they still got their points across and made sure Carter and Sadie listened to them. I loved that Bast acted like a cat even in human form. It felt more authentic to me, that she would be afraid of the water and would only eat cat food. There is A LOT going on this novel. Carter and Sadie go to New Orleans and see the remnants of Hurricane Katrina along with a family of immigrants attempting to cross into America. Carter and Sadie also go to Memphis and learn about Elvis and Southern culture in addition to many other places and people. It seems kind of random, but I liked the idea of the author trying to show all different aspects of American life. I did appreciate that Carter and Sadie being bi-racial wasn't the main focus of the story, but it was a natural part of the story. It's important and not meant to be ignored. Sadie makes fun of Carter for dressing like a "old man", always in khakis and a button down shirt. But Carter's father has drilled into him that as a Black man, he must dress to impress. "'Carter, you're getting older. You're an African American man. People will judge you more harshly, and so you must always look impeccable.'
'That's not fair!' I insisted.
'Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same,' Dad said. 'Fairness means everyone gets what they need. and the only way to get what you need is to make it happen yourself. '" (pg. 67)
The Red Pyramid is a lively story but it's flow is uneven, and most of the story seems to drag on. There is a lot going on, but the author does bring it all together. It's a lot to handle and while the author does not always juggle everything successfully, the story has entertaining parts and the characters are clear and definite. I liked the magic and there's an element of satisfaction in watching Sadie and carter grow more confident in themselves and their powers. I like that they are ordinary kids who discover that there is something extraordinary about them, and that would be true even if they weren't magical. The story has some excellent twists but ultimately it just didn't make up for the long story. I'm curious as to whether or not this story has had success with its middle grade audience. Perhaps it will be able to keep their attention better than it kept mine. I'm not even sure if I care to follow up on the adventures of Sadie and Carter. It's a toss-up for me.
Disclosure: My sister bought it.