Monday, November 8, 2010

Male Monday: The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles #1) by Rick Riordan
Hyperion/Disney Book Group

Rating: 3/5

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.


  1. The quote in red is awesome because it's true and sad in a way. I read the first book of the Percy Jackson series, so I enjoyed Riordan's writing. This looks out of my age range for sure, but it does sound interesting.

  2. I just finished this one yesterday! In some ways, I think I enjoyed this one even more than his Percy Jackson series. It was really dense and rather long for it's age group, but it never really got weighed down in my opinion. And I thought there was just enough of a difference in Sadie's and Carter's voices to be believable--and I think one of the reasons I did like it a bit more than Percy Jackson was that we were getting another perspective. Sometimes with just one first person narrator, the view is so myopic that you feel like you don't come to know secondary characters all that well. And finally, I also liked the biracial aspect and how it was there, but never the main focus. Although Sadie didn't reflect on it a great deal, there's a few times when she talks about how it drives her crazy when people do a double-take upon learning she's part of the family because she's so much lighter than Carter and her dad; or how angry she gets with one man's bigoted comment that surely she doesn't consider Carter like a real brother. And that in addition to the main characters, many of the other characters were either Middle Eastern or African--it's so rare to have POC as main characters, let alone main and secondary also. So yea, I'm excited for the follow-up novels.

  3. I really liked this one, both on its own and as a break from the Percy novels, but I agree that it is really long for a middle grade book. And like you, I appreciated all the information about the Egyptian gods (I would have been lost otherwise), but there wasn't enough balance in some places between the info and the story. The whole thing seemed very one or the other: breakneck action or veiled info-dump. I still have high hopes for the rest of the series though, especially now that a lot of the info-dumping must be out of the way!

  4. Too bad that you didn't like this book; the students at my school requested it so I bought it. Actually, all of Riordan's books are really popular.

  5. "The Red Pyramid"by Rick Riordon is one of my all time favorite books and favorite author. Rick Riordon has a fine flare for writing and a great imagination. to me, "The Red Pyramid" is one of his best books out all the books that he has written so far. I definatly recomend this book to a reader of any age. I myself had never had any interest in greek mythology but now that I've read Rick's books thats one of my favorite subjects.


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