5 out of 5 stars
The Red Pyramid is the first novel in a children’s fantasy series by Rick Riordan first published in 2010. Following a similar theme to his other series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Kane Chronicles follows a pair of preteen siblings as they discover that the gods of Ancient Egypt are very much real and that they are the next generation of their family capable of hosting the gods Isis and Horus. Having to learn how to use their new abilities quickly, it’s up to Carter and Sadie to not only save their father but also the entire world from the Chaos god Set.
Rick Riordan’s books never disappoint me, and this new trilogy looks set to be amazing.
There’s not much about Rick Riordan’s writing that I haven’t gushed about before because he, in my opinion, just has a way of writing in a voice that young people can relate to. So far, I’ve been very much used to reading from the point of view of his Greek demigod hero, Percy Jackson, who I have adored reading from the point of view of for a long time. In this series, however, you get to see a different style of writing from Riordan because he is tackling two characters at once. He writes from the perspectives of both African-American Carter and British-American Sadie, two kids not even fifteen years old who are brilliantly witty, smart yet have very unique voices. Even without their names posted at the side of each chapter title I was able to distinguish just who was telling the story.
Another good point for this tale was how the story was actually being presented to you. The beginning and end of the novel state that the manuscript the reader is holding is actually a transcript of a recording the author was sent. That recording coming from the Kane siblings to try and warn the world about the Egyptian gods. Then throughout the novel the narration will cut for a moment for a small section of background noise. For example, when Carter is discussing Zia, Sadie will be making comments and teasing him. It felt interesting and maintained the pace of the story so it never felt too slow or too fast.
Riordan’s writing is much as it was in other stories: to the point, beautiful paced and comical.
When it came to the characters, there was nothing dramatic that I didn’t like. Anything I did find was superficial and not that great of a problem as it never took away from my enjoyment of the story. As I said before, the voices of Carter and Sadie were unique and individual. Never once did they remind me of each other, and neither did they remind me of Percy. Though a subtle nod to his Greek gods was given, Riordan managed to start an entirely new story with a slightly recycled concept and pull it off wonderfully.
Carter is the brains behind the operation. Sometimes. He travelled with their father all his life, learnt from him and treated him as a role model. He’s bright and knows what he’s talking about but he’s still young and you can really feel that when he talks about his father or mother, how he describes himself and how he interacts with his sister. He’s the older sibling and has dealt with travelling, home schooling and having a dad who’s pretty strict on certain things like how he should be dressing. Carter tries very much to be like his father but by the end of the novel he has developed his own sense of self, including how he dresses and thinks.
Sadie is the younger sibling and was taken in by her grandparents, her mother’s parents, after a custody battle with her father. She was raised from that point in London so has a different speech pattern from her brother already. Some of the words she uses are pretty stereotypical, and to be frank, as someone from Britain, I have never heard anyone say a variety of the phrases Riordan uses as English slang for her. Nonetheless, she is an entertaining character. She’s fiercely independent, sarcastic and curious. She has a red streak in her hair and loves winding Carter up.
The thing I loved most about this pair was how their appearances were dealt with. It was never made a big deal, and the question of racial judgement was handled incredibly well for a children’s novel. Carter is African-American, taking after his dad with his skin tone and brown hair and eyes. But his mother was white and British. Sadie takes after her with green eyes, blonde hair and white skin. They have the obvious issues of people judging a black man and his black son walking around with a young white girl but it’s never written in a way that makes it overly awkward. The kids are angry about it but they deal with it. They show that it doesn’t matter what your skin tone is, how you dress, what you look like, family is family and no one can break that bond.
And that’s really what this novel boils down to really. The importance of family. Each of their actions is not only motivated by their desire to stop Set and save the world, but also by their love for their family. Carter and Sadie are very protective of one another. They may tease each other but that’s what siblings do. At the start of the novel, they don’t really appreciate one another. They spend so much time in different countries that they don’t really know each other all that well. Sadie is resentful of Carter’s travels with their father and feels abandoned by them, whereas Carter would give anything to have a settled home life and go to a single school to make friends with other kids his age. They learn to appreciate each other. They put themselves into dangerous situations in order to save their father, and both miss their mother after she died when they were both young. Even the gods are fighting for their family, Isis and Horus turning to siblings as they essentially possess the Kane’s, trying to save their father-brother-husband Osiris.
It’s a really cool story with important messages. It talks about grief, family, loss, love, and the desire to grow and do the right thing. It does so much right and it’s only the first book of the series, so I am very much looking forward to reading the next two.
I highly recommend it.