Rick Riordan is a master of modern tween story-telling. He keeps the action fast-pitch, his characters feel distinct and real, and he writes kid-funny. No wonder his name is repeatedly at the top of the best-sellers list.
The Red Pyramid is a 516 page battle of good vs. evil. Sadie and Carter are two siblings that grew up apart. Little did they know their parents were powerful magicians in Egypt’s ancient House of Life and descended from the line of Pharaohs. Little did they suspect that, with their combined bloodlines, Sadie and Carter were the most potent magicians born for centuries. Nor were they aware that Chaos was rising, gaining power, and only a union of gods and men would be able to save the world. But to do so would require the breaking of a thousands-year-old law, and that would turn the House of Life against them. All this was news to Sadie and Carter; unfortunately, Mum and Dad were too dead to tell them the easy way. The children only learn their fate as it whirls around them, catching them up in a vortex of danger and magic–the mother of all adventures.
I enjoy Mr. Riordan’s intriguing writing style. One dilemma follows another, but they’re relayed with half a smile and little smirks of humor. There’s an ongoing joke about cheese being one of the five elements of nature and a lot of silly references to chickens. And Riordan makes great use of understatement: “I couldn’t believe I was standing there having a chat with my somewhat dead parents.” Best of all, Riordan takes it to his readers, inviting them in, hinting that they might be personally involved. It begins: “We only have a few hourse, so listen carefully. If you’re hearing this story, you’re already in danger. Sadie and I might be your only chance.” By the end, we understand the kids are recruiting others who also have the blood of the Pharoahs in their veins. “If this story falls into your hands,” they warn in the closing moments, “there’s probably a reason.” It just makes my spine tingle thinking–hoping–“maybe it’s all true?”
The writing is free of swear words, but it does contain multiple uses of OMG. And it features a whole host of Egyptian gods. When Sadie asks her uncle, “You’re telling me our parents secretly worshipped animal-headed gods?” he answers, “Not worshipped. By the end of ancient times, Egyptians had learned that their gods were not to be worshipped. They are powerful beings, primeval forces, but they are not divine in the sense one might think of God. They are created entities, like mortals, only much more powerful. We can respect them, fear them, use their power, or even fight them to keep them under control…but we don’t worship them.” That whole “use their power” thing can get a little weird, as hosting and possession feature into the story numerous times. But the story never takes on dark occultic tones. It’s a fun fantasy, an epic struggle to overcome evil, and the good guys eventually win.
I have to admit, I liked Riordan’s “The Lightning Thief” better. This one was very long and complex. It was wildly entertaining, but it was also somewhat confusing keeping gods straight and sorting out the implications of all their separate death-defying adventures. But it was a powerfully fun read. 12+
Book two: Throne of Fire