Title: The Red Pyramid
Author: Rick Riordan
Pages: 516 pages
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2010.
“Hold on,” Carter said. “My father’s disappeared, and you want me to leave the country?”
“Your father is either dead or a fugitive, son,” the inspector said. “Deportation is the kindest option. It’s already been arranged.”
“With whom?” Gramps demanded. “Who authorized this?”
“With…” The inspector got that funny blank look again. “With the proper authorities. Believe me, it’s better than prison.”
Carter looked too devastated to speak, but before I could feel sorry for him, Inspector Williams turned to me. “You, too, miss.”
He might as well have hit me with a sledgehammer.
“You’re deporting me?” I asked. “I live here!” (42-43)
Carter and Sadie are brother and sister, but they barely see each other and they look nothing alike. While Carter spends his time traveling the world with his archeologist father, Sadie spends her days living in London with their maternal grandparents. The siblings never really knew the specifics of their mother’s death or the fight between their grandparents and their father. All that’s about to change though, when an explosion blows apart the Rosetta Stone and their father is charged as a terrorist. Fleeing the clueless police, Sadie and Carter discover that the Egyptian gods and goddess might not be as ancient history as they thought. Along the way, the realize that they might have some ancient powers of their own, which they’ll have to learn quickly in order to stop the evil from spreading.
Maybe I read this book too fast. Maybe I was expecting too much because of the hype. While I enjoyed the book while reading it, I have a hard time remembering all the details that I had read two weeks later. And for a book this intriquite, the details are important!
Here’s what I liked:
I liked the shifting narration. Alternating back and forth from Sadie’s and Carter’s perspectives added depth to the story, especially when so much of what happens is internalized, due to their struggle to control and learn their powers or their spirit’s transportation to godly realms while they’re asleep.
I liked the explanation of the powers. Amos tells Sadie “If you and Carter were raised together, you could become very powerful. Perhaps you have already sensed changes over the past day. […] it was clear even then that you two would be difficult to raise in the same household.” (79-80) Rather than just have the powers appear with the onset of adolescence, it seems that they need to be close to each other for their powers to be active. (It’s been a while, but doesn’t that sort of sound like the Twitches movie by Disney?)
I liked the biracial aspect of Carter and Sadie. It doesn’t really come up alot, but it comes up enough to get it through to readers that the children’s mother was white and their father is African American. Physically, Carter takes after his father while Sadie takes after her mother, making for some awkward and interesting interactions. While the presentation can seem heavy-handed occassionally, I’m thrilled from a librarian stand-point that an insanely popular book contains a person of color. (Story Siren is doing a whole week of POC young adult books at her blog right now, so it really brought it to my attention).
On that same train of thought, I liked the social issues explored because of their biracial heritage. Like in this scene, where Carter is explaining to readers why he dresses “his best” all the time.
My dad put his hand on my shoulder. “Carter, you’re getting older. You’re an African American man. People will judge you more harshly, and so you must always look impeccable.
“That isn’t fair!” I insisted.
“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same,” Dad said. “Fairness means everyone gets what they need. And the only way to get what you need is to make it happen yourself.”(67)
Anyone else think that’s a great quote? Another instance of this inequality is when Carter and Sadie’s father introduces them to the curator of the museum as a family, and “Dr. Martin’s stare went temporarily blank. Doesn’t matter how open-minded or polite people think they are, there’s always that moment of confusion that falshes across their faces when they realize Sadie is part of our family.” (18) It made me wonder if I have the same expression when faced with that scenario.
Anyway, another thing I liked is the presentation of the Egyptian gods. I was not aware that Egypt had so MANY gods and goddesses. The story informs readers about the vast levels of mythology, although just like with Percy Jackson, I would have appreciated a family tree somewhere. Just like the more well-known and popular Greek gods and goddesses, they are all inter-related. In fact, Riordan does a great job of addressing the issue that some stories have conflicting details.
“… when Osiris and Isis frist walked the earth, their hosts were brother and sister. But mortal hosts are not permanent. They die, they wear out. Later in history, Osiris and Isis took new forms–humans who were husband and wife. Horus, who in one lifetime was their brother, was born into a new life as their son. […]
This is why the ancient stories seem so mixed up. Sometimes the gods are described as married, or siblings, or parent and child, depending on their hosts.” (179-180)
Things that prevented me from loving the book:
The initial set-up of this being a recording. That just seemed unnecessary to me. There were a few asides that reminded readers (somewhat jarringly at times) that we’re supposed to be listening to this. But they were so few and far between that it was hard to accept. I think if he’d just written the story like he had the Percy Jackson series, and not bothered framing it as a recording that had “fallen into his hands”, I would have been able to imerse myself into the story more.
The distribution and training of magical qualities seemed willy nilly. The same qualm I had with Witch and Wizard I have with this book. You have two strong characters, supposedly related, supposedly just as strong, and yet one seems to receive more magical ability than the other. In this case, most of Carter’s powers manifest themselves in avatar fighting skills, while Sadie has her own avatar along with the ability to blow stuff up, open portholes, and read heiroglyphics. Their training is best described as haphazard, with some basic instruction and one lackluster duel leading to magnificant abilities in the ultimate fight against evil. The fight is not the end-all be-all that it’s made out to be, with the conclusion similar to Percy Jackson meets 39 Clues. It sets-up the over arching conflict that must be solved by jet-setting around with a chaperone who is more than she appears to be.
Overall, I think it’s a fast-paced read and an enlightening introduction to the little examined Egyptian mythology. My qualms will not stop me from eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.
Oh, and I’m sure most people know this already, but there’s apparently an online website as well as an online game. Warning, it looks like you’re going to need the book to complete some of the puzzles for the online game, so I would wait until you either own a copy or can keep the library copy for more than three weeks. I don’t know how involved or challenging the puzzles are.