This book is lame.
I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so I thought I’d get right to the point. In the spectrum of Rick Riordan, there’s the good (e.g. The Battle of the Labyrinth) and the bad (e.g. The Maze of Bones). The Red Pyramid, unfortunately, follows in the vein of Riordan’s contributions to The 39 Clues series.
The plot is pretty standard fantasy fare: two kids find themselves embroiled in a race to save the world. They find that they have mystical powers and that saving the world is their destiny. In this case, the Kane kids find that they are Egyptian royalty descended from the Egyptian gods. Looks like Riordan is trying to take the corner market on EVERY mythology. What’s next? Norse? Indian? Native American?
The story is told from two characters’ points of view: Carter Kane and his sister, Sadie. I don’t generally object to stories being told from multiple points of view (About a Boy, for example, is a great example, although I suppose it isn’t fair to compare Rick Riordan to Nick Hornby), but Riordan’s use of the trope was tired and poorly done.
Okay, so, after their mother died, Sadie was raised in England by her grandparents while Carter went globetrotting with his American archaeologist father. So, of course, whenever we hear the story from Sadie’s point of view, Riordan has to stick in some obligatory English slang because, oh, right, Sadie’s English. But is she English or a bad stereotype? Really, Riordan, could you have been any more ham-fisted with your portrayal of the Brits? They don’t all talk like back-alley chimney sweeps who watch too much BBC America.
The other problem I had with the dual points of view was that the voices weren’t exactly distinct. I often read several pages into a chapter and was startled to read that Carter had a crush on Anubis, only to find that this particular chapter was being told from Sadie’s point of view. I just don’t see the point of telling a story from multiple points of view when one will suffice, and adding a second viewpoint won’t enhance the storytelling in any way.
Finally, I’m really starting to get tired of characters in fantasy books who find that they have supernatural powers, and then respond to them with unnatural aplomb. If I find that I can suddenly interpret hieroglyphics despite the fact that I have never studied them, I’m not going to shrink back modestly and keep this information to myself — especially if I just saw my father imprisoned in a golden coffin and swallowed by the ground. I’m going to be, like, “HOLY CRAP, I CAN READ HIEROGLYPHICS!!!” and freak out.
That’s what I disliked most about this book, and I’m finding it more and more often in the genre: the characters reactions to the situations in which they find themselves simply don’t ring true. Their reactions are just so false; it’s a glaring reminder that THIS IS FICTION!! Sure, I know that I’m not likely ever to discover that I’m descended from ancient Egyptian gods, but that doesn’t mean that I want to be reminded at every turn that I’m dunking myself into a work of fiction. No, I want to immerse myself in it, lose myself in that fictional world and, for the time that I’m there, forget that there is any world but the one I’m reading about. It’s hard to do that when the characters are so paper-thin.
Wait, I lied: there is one thing about the book that I dislike even more than the false tone of the characters. It’s the fact that this whole book is supposed to be a transcript of a recording. The book is supposed to be a tape that was left behind for someone to find it, and the reader is supposed to have been meant to find it. While I appreciate Riordan’s attempt to make the reader feel as thought they’re a part of the story, this gag wears thin after the first two chapters.
The Kanes are leaving an urgent message for whoever finds it. They keep prodding at each other to hurry up; the reader is given the impression that they don’t have much time, and that someone may be after them.
So how the heck did they find time to leave 516 pages-worth of transcribed notes?? That’s a pretty long recording. And where the heck did they hide the tapes?? It must have been hidden in, like, the biggest hollow stump of all time.
If I had actually found the tapes and listened to them, the bad guys would have caught up to me and chopped my head off before I was done listening to Tape #1, and the Kane kids would be out of luck.
Look, Riordan, I’d appreciate it if you thought your literary gimmicks through before deciding, “Hey, this would make the story more compelling!”
I spent more time on The Kane Chronicles than it deserved (especially if you include the time it took to write up this review, which I won’t, since it was rather cathartic), and I hope that this review will spare you the same ordeal.