June 21, 2010

Walk Like An Egyptian (Review of The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan)

The Red Pyramid
Rick Riordan
Puffin 2010

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.

(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

I absolutely expected to enjoy this book, and completely and utterly did. I recently read the Chaos Walking series, and while I loved it felt seriously in need of some lighthearted fun afterwards – which is exactly what The Red Pyramid provides.
I have previously devoured Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series and loved the idea of bringing ancient mythology to a modern day setting. In the Percy Jackson books the author focuses on Greek mythology with great humour and a lovely lightness of touch. He has now turned his attentions to Egyptian mythology in an equally entertaining manner.

Our protagonists are brother and sister team, Carter and Sadie Kane, aged 12 and 14 respectively. I liked both of them immensely. Carter is pretty serious and cautious, and also perhaps a little under-socialised having been brought up by his father without much access to other kids. Sadie, on the other hand has been brought up in London by her grandparents and attended school, so is more confident. She's hilarious, actually – impulsive and stubborn, which works well against her brothers' quieter nature. The siblings haven't spent much time together since their mother's death several years earlier and this leads to an interesting, sometimes touching, often funny relationship between the two. The novel has a duel narrative structure that works well – the central conceit of the writing is that they are taking turns dictating their story onto tape. This is pretty clever writing, as they are able to enter asides into each other's sections and so we often get both perspectives regardless of the current narrator. It also leaves plenty of opportunities for further humour. My only issue with Carter and Sadie is that neither seem as young as they are purported to be. With Carter, this could perhaps be explained by a childhood spent mainly with adults, but with Sadie her age just doesn't work. She seems far too mature and extremely articulate in comparison to your average 12 year old. I would have found them both far more believable were they aged 16 and 14 and it wouldn't have affected the story line that I can see (although this is the first of three books, so perhaps there would be repercussions later down the line).

The rest of the character cast is exceptionally fun, with great characters such as God of Knowledge, Thoth (in full mad scientist mode) and the very catlike (in actions, diet and nature) and loveable Bast. Special shout out to Philip the albino crocodile for being the most random creature that I've read about in a long time.

The story line is pretty interesting. The mythology didn't seem as immediately accessible as the Greek stuff in Percy Jackson but I think that was mainly because I'm just not as familiar with Egyptian legend and myth. This was a fun way to refresh the limited knowledge that I did have, although it didn't have me ordering Egyptian reference books in order to read more (while PJ had me instantly add several Greek mythology tomes to my wish list). The book is pretty hefty at 500+ pages and could have been overlong, but belies its size with fast-paced action and more information than you can shake a stick at. I would certainly recommend it for anyone who is looking for an entertaining read that will make them smile and educate them a little along the way and I look forward to book two - out next year (if not quite as much as I look forward to Rick Riordan's next story, which once again returns to the world of Percy Jackson and his Greek and Godly counterparts - and hopefully lots and lots of Dionysus).

2 comments:

Cat @ Beyond Books said...

I am about half-way through this book and I keep laughing out loud! One thing I noticed was when I started I was sure I wouldn't like Sadie, but it turns out I like her best right now! Her chapters are the funniest to me. Although I do love Horus's dry voice in Carter's thoughts! I am hoping to finish the book up in the next two days.

Becky said...

I loved Bast. She was my favourite. I'm looking forward to the next book because I felt this was very my a series starter.
Another issue I had with Sadie is that she wasn't English enough considering she had been raised here but overall, it is more fun from the man of mythology.
Great review.