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.
First, I have to say that I’m a huge fan of Egyptian mythology (hello, I write my own series based in Egyptian mythology). However, I think Riordan missed the mark with this one. It seemed like he was trying to do too much. For anyone who’s ever studied even a snippet of Egyptian mythology, you’d know it’s unlike a lot of other mythologies out there – even Greek (which copied a lot of Egyptian ideas). Egyptian mythology is extremely complex, with gods changing names, changing powers, combining themselves together and forming new gods – it could give anyone a headache. So when Riordan tries to lump as many “tales” in The Red Pyramid as possible, instead of coming off as a great series, it turns into a confusing lump of myths.
The story itself is simple (as outlined in the summary above). Sadie and Carter Kane are brother and sister- estranged, at best, and when their father tries to “set things right”, he accidently unleashes the Egyptian god of chaos and storms, Set. Set captures their father, forcing Sadie and Carter to go through a series of hurtles and adventures to save their dad.
Each chapter is written either from Sadie’s or Carter’s point of view. I don’t really mind this since a lot of high fantasy is written from different character’s point-of-view, however, I can understand that if you only read children’s or young adult fiction, this could be an issue. However, Sadie and Carter’s “voice” didn’t seem that different to me (other than Sadie spoke in a British accent and Carter in an American one). They were very much the same character.
The story goes from one thing to the next and it felt a little drawn out. Almost every fifty pages or so, Sadie and Carter got into trouble (evil magicians tracking them down to stop them) and they had to rely on a mysterious sorceress, Zia, or the Egyptian goddess, Bast, to save them from danger (usually by Zia or Bast “holding off” the evil forces while Sadie and Carter escaped). If this was done a few times, it’d be okay. But literally Riordan repeated this “hold them off” and escape thing every fifty pages – so it got a bit tired and overused.
On the plus side, however, Riordan was very clever in how he described Egyptian magic. Sadie could use spells which the hieroglyphics would hover in the air like a translucent orb of energy. Carter could summon the gods power with a giant holographic combat avatar (which was really neat). I loved the idea of the House of Life and the magicians dedicated to preserving mankind. Riordan does a great job breaking down complex themes of Egyptian mythology (such as Ma’at) for children to understand – order versus chaos.
All in all, it was entertaining and I will read the second book in the series. I just hope that Riordan decides to focus on one myth, instead of throwing every possible god he can into the story just to make it seem more “Egyptian”.