by Rick Riordan
An extension of the Percy Jackson universe, gods, magic and heroes live among us in this tale of the Kane children, Carter and Sadie, as they learn they are the descendants of Ancient Egyptian magicians.
If you or your children liked the Harry Potter books, these may be the natural extension of that type of world and myth building. By bringing ancient myths into the present day, this tale of action and adventure teaches as well as entertains.
Now that all the boring stuff is out of the way, what did I think really?
What I liked
- Myths and legends of Ancient Egypt are really cool. Riordan’s interpretation of these figures in modern day settings makes for some fun and entertaining moments, such as the cat goddess grooming herself and other things that sound creepier than they are. Also, pointing out all the little Egyptian artifacts that are still in use today makes walking to the store all that more exciting.
- Riordan does not talk down to the audience. This book is kinda mean in the way the characters (preteen children) are knocked around, beaten down, and straight up told they are going to die more than once.
- Small nods. There are various small nods to both the Percy Jackson books as well as other mythologies, the biggest being Moses. I am excited to see if Riordain expands on this. (I really, really want him to write a Norse myth series.)
- F-Yeah moments. More than one time you will find yourself raising your fist as Carter and Sadie rise to an occasion, beat a bad guy silly, or just get off one good line.
What I did not like
- The characters are a little stale and oddly defined. As mixed race children, more than once it is mentioned that Carter is African American and Sadie looks more European American and was raised in London (complete with an British accent) but this rarely comes through in the story. This is an interesting choice, but part of me thinks it was wasted and the other part of me thinks it was done to give depth the kids did not need. I would have liked this choice better if it had been handled with more subtlety rather than the odd mention or use of British slang terms as this would have given each character a unique voice rather than the same voice with different terms.
- Alternating chapters. An extension of the last point, as each sibling hands off the story to the other, the effect is either jarring or simply “man, I was having fun with him/her.” The effect is used in other fiction (Game of Thrones) to give alternating perspectives on the same events or “what was also happening while...”, but here (with few exceptions) both children are present for every event and have the same perspective. Each of their voices is nearly the same, asking why this had to be written this way.
- Use of Egyptian Names. This could have bothered me more than in the Percy Jackson books because I am more familiar with Greek/Roman mythology, but each time I was given the name of this god or that, I forgot it. Notice how above I keep mentioning “cat god?” No idea what her name was and she was my favorite character. Saying this and also saying that it teaches me stuff (above)... well, I am old and do not really care. I do see this making children go running to Wikipedia, though. (God help us.)
- Setting. Hogwart’s. Camp Halfblood. Sound familiar? Because these are home base. They are a safe harbor and a known entity. Children’s books need this place, a comfortable setting, because they give the audience a place to return to where everything in the book can operate with the book’s world rules. I am fine with Indiana Jones running around the world, but Harry Potter better get his ass to Hogwart’s at some point. This book does not have that, or at least introduces then destroys at least two. It keeps the story loose and moving, but this also takes away something for the audience to connect to.
Why was it banned? Justified?
I could find no instance of the Red Pyramid being banned in a school or library, but that does not mean it could not happen. The abundancy of mentions about worshiping the gods (not Christian) and mention of Christian mythology may lead more religious parents to dislike this book, if not for the blatant mention of magic. Some parents may also not wish their children to be introduced to the idea of mixed race children (however poorly handled) until the child (and parent) is ready to tackle the idea of racism (or they could just be bigoted assholes. Yeah, I’ll judge you on that.) A wild number of murders and deaths also happen in the book, mostly offscreen, that may make some parents want to hold off until the kid is older.