Kane Chronicles #1: The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid Book Cover The Red Pyramid
Kane Chronicles
Rick Riordan
Young Adult
Disney-Hyperion
May 4, 2010
hardcover
516

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

 

A big problem that the Kane Chronicles had and that Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard will have is that they are going to be compared to the Percy Jackson books. Heck, this was also an issue for Heroes of Olympus, being compared to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Rick Riordan’s issue here is that Percy Jackson and the Olympians was a fantastic series. It was not quite Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia level, but it was a close second. Because of that, Riordan set the high bar for himself very early on as an author. Everyone is going to want all of his work to be as great as that first series was, everyone is going to compare all of his other work to that first accomplishment, and everyone is going to have complaints whenever his new books are not considered to be as good. All of these things were persistent issues with The Red Pyramid as well as the Kane Chronicles as a whole.

By no means was this a bad book. As far as fantasy books aimed at middle school age kids go, it was actually quite good. There are a fair amount of similarities between The Red Pyramid and the Greek/Roman-oriented books. Like The Heroes of Olympus, this book jumps between different perspectives. Thankfully The Red Pyramid only goes back and forth between two people, the Kane siblings, instead of zooming through over a half dozen characters. But the similarities do not end there. Large parts of The Red Pyramid’s plot felt recycled from The Lightning Thief. Kids find out they are mixed up with gods due to their parents’ shenanigans and then something bad happens which will mean the end of the world unless they stop it within a time limit. Sounds familiar, right?

The actions taken by Carter and Sadie Kane are not exactly thrilling either. For most of the book they do not know what to do, something comes along that just so “happens” (we all know it was really pre-destined or something like that, because gods and whatnot) to tell them what to do next, and then they go do the thing. One of the big issues with their adventure is that it never really feels like the characters are truly in danger, largely because there is a lack of secondary protagonists. In the Camp Half-Blood series Riordan (eventually) started knocking off a few characters here and there. The Red Pyramid also establishes that what the Kane children are doing has not been done in centuries, whereas the Greek/Roman books imply that demigods go on adventures and do sometimes get killed by monsters.

Despite the issues this book has, it should not be judged too harshly for a number of reasons. Firstly, Rick Riordan wrote the Kane Chronicles at the same time as The Heroes of Olympus. Having his attention divided may have negatively affected the overall quality of the Kane Chronicles (and also The Heroes of Olympus, which were not as good as Percy Jackson and the Olympians). Secondly, Egyptian mythology is more complicated than Greek and Roman mythology. It is less cut and dry, with many conflicting stories (although Riordan did come up with a good reason for explaining this within The Kane Chronicles). This is further complicated by the fact that he only has three books, as opposed to five to ten, to work everything into. Ideally, The Throne of Fire will be able to build off of The Red Pyramid and raise the Kane Chronicles’ bar a little closer to the milestone set by Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

February 14, 2016

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