The Red Pyramid

Egyptian culture has always been a special interest of mine since I was a high school sophomore, when most of our subjects for the year were tied up with Afro-Asian civilization. One quarter of that school year was devoted to Egypt, and I remember being fascinated with the history of pharaohs in Social Studies class (my personal favorite was Hatshepsut!), and Egyptian mythology and the concept of afterlife in Literature class.

I actually like Egyptian mythology over Greek mythology so even though I wasn’t all that fond of the Percy Jackson series, I was eager to try out The Red Pyramid, the first book in Rick Riordan’s new series, The Kane Chronicles.

The Red Pyramid introduces us to Carter and Sadie Kane, kids of the brilliant Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. The kids have been separated after their mom’s death, and for the past six years, Carter has been packed off on his father’s frequent trips around the world, while Sadie has been living in London with their grandparents.

One Christmas Eve, Carter and his dad visit Sadie in London, and the family goes to the British Museum. The kids witness their dad blowing up the Rosetta Stone, unleashing the gods of ancient Egypt, among them Set, the god of darkness and chaos. Set entombs Dr. Kane in another realm, and Carter and Sadie flee to safety.

Secrets unfold as Carter and Sadie discover the truth about their heritage, which ties their family to the pharaohs of Egypt as well as ancient mythology. With Set at their heels, Carter and Sadie travel around the world (as well as down to the underworld) to seek out the key to defeating Set, saving their family, and preventing the world from falling into chaos.

It took me a while to finish this book, not only because Mockingjay came smack in the middle of it, but also because I couldn’t bring myself to read it continuously.

First, I think Riordan just ripped off of his own work, except it wasn’t as good this time around. He splits Percy Jackson into two wisecracking youngsters (who are twice as annoying), sticks some Egyptian gods and goddesses into contemporary hosts, reenacts conflicts based in mythology, and unleashes some horrible mythological monsters in practically every other chapter.

Carter and Sadie appear to be amorphous — they just don’t come off as distinct individuals, and the alternating point of view between the two characters made it even more confusing. Every so often I had to flick my eyes over the chapter heading just to see who was narrating. And I don’t know why Riordan has to keep playing the wisecracking card — a few well-timed interludes would have been okay, but perpetual impertinence wears thin before you even reach a fourth of the book.

And the plot — I don’t even know where to start. It seemed to be five hundred plus pages of a wild goose chase from one point to another, leading up to a very anticlimactic ending. Too long for a chase that doesn’t even explain what exactly the characters are doing, and why they’re doing it in the first place. They travel from point to point, successfully vanquish whatever monster awaits them each time, and the cycle begins again. Spectacular effects, sure — there’s lots of mysterious magic the characters don’t even know they are capable of, but beyond the flashiness, nothing much propels the story.

It’s a shame because Riordan had a lot of good material for this book — Egyptian mythology, biracial family, estranged siblings, and many more — but I don’t think any of the ideas he proposed fell through. Perhaps the book’s flaws would be more forgivable if it were as short as the Percy Jackson books, but they show up much more starkly in an ambitiously lengthy novel.

I don’t think I’ll be reading the next book in this series.


The Red Pyramid, trade paperback, 2/5 stars

Book #108 for 2010


20 thoughts on “The Red Pyramid”

  1. I bought it brand new too, paperback, during the bookstore sale (National gave it 20% off, unlike Fully Booked and Powerbooks) but really intended to give it as a gift on my nephew’s birthday later this month. He loved Percy Jackson so I assume he’ll like this one too.

    I wasn’t that impressed with Percy and his posse either, but thought this one was marginally better, though still not worth buying for myself. The beauty of having teenage nephews and nieces – I can get them the YA books I want to read but not own, and kill two birds with one stone :)

    1. I regret buying it full price even though the paper’s nice :(

      Me naman I liked Percy better than this one. I just found this one too long — it took over a week for me to finish it, I was reading on and off. At least I could finish the Percy Jackson books in one sitting.

  2. Like, I’ve arrived at the same conclusion that the two siblings are quite annoying and the author’s way of changing narrators can be confusing. By the middle of the book I kind of lost interest in it.

    On the other hand, I had no problem with Percy Jackson. Nicely paced and kept reading it until I got sleepy (or already have to sleep). Plot-wise Red Pyramid is way too similar with the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series.

    my review:

    1. Thanks for sharing your review Engr Rich. I think outside of Riordan’s work in 39 Clues I’m really not a fan of his writing

  3. I’m a Percy Jackson fan and I never planned to read this even before reading your review. I read the first few pages of it at Fullybooked and I thought the same thing about the sibs: they’re annoying and really don’t have distinctive personalities. It brought back memories of the sibs in that other series: The Alchemyst.

    Thanks for your review I won’t have any more doubts about this book. BUT, I’m looking forward to Riordan’s next book which is like a sequel to Percy Jackson to be released next month!

  4. I liked The Red Pyramid for what it was (in my opinion), a romping adventure book. Nothing complicated in the plot. Though the Percy Jackson series is definitely better.

    And I do agree that the switching narrators got tired very fast. But my mine gripe was the interjections, the “sibling banter”. That was really annoying.

    1. Yeah, the sibling banter annoyed me too, and I think both of them were too preoccupied with one-upping the other.

      I guess Rick Riordan’s writing is just really not to my taste. I do like his ideas though, it’s mostly the style that puts me off.

  5. I agree completely with everything you’ve written, but I just have to ask; was anyone else annoyed by the almost constant snide little mentions of how bad Carter has because he’s black? I mean you’d think it was the 60’s, the way he whines and moans about cops always being suspicious of him and so on.
    Another thing that rankled me was the race of the characters. If the story is about Egypt, I’d like to have a pair of Egyptian siblings as the protagonists rather than believe that the descendants of the pharaohs were black and white families. Seems Riordan buys into the black supremacist “Narmer was one of us” nonsense.

    1. I did notice that too. I thought it was to establish the experience of a kid growing up in a biracial family, but now that you mention it, Riordan does dwell on it heavily.

  6. Riordan has a style of writing that appeals to most kids, since its got a kind of corny humor and action packed plot. Still, the book is lacking in depth and character, since the characters are almost deprived of a personality, and the story is just one staff-chucking, sword-swinging escapade after another.

    And yeah, the narration bothered me two, since the characters’ personalities are almost nonexistent, so that you can’t even tell the narrator’s gender, let-alone their name. This book disappointed me just the was Percy did.

  7. i totally disagree with you guys (sorry), but as an rick riordan fan i am pretty much like this but not as i like percyjackson series. But you’ll understand if your is junked with eygptian stuff and all those papyrus things.
    I don’t blame you guys for not liking it ’cause a total book addict like me will understand. I appreciated all of you to ur comment. And don’t stop reading riordan’s works

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *