Like most of his books, Mr. Riordan’s second installment in his Kane Chronicles has positive and negative elements. I won’t object to my kids (12+) reading them, but I don’t push them, either. The books are exciting, imaginative and funny, a combination that has made them wildly popular with middle school kids. But they also delve into some subject areas that make this mom a little uncomfortable.
I do appreciate that Mr. Riordan keeps the language pretty clean. As always, he has some oh my gods jokes, and this one does use the word “bloody” an exorbitant number of times. That would probably concern me more if I were British. As it is, I mostly though it an overused expression, but others might find it objectionable. He also keeps guy/girl activities very innocent. The hazy area comes with the spiritual nature of his books.
This is a fantasy about ancient Egyptian gods. I know it’s fiction. I don’t believe in them, nor do I think it will influence my kids to pick up pagan religious practices. But I also believe there truly are spiritual forces, good and bad, so it makes me a little squeamish when the kids (13 and 15) in the story start channeling the gods’ powers, merging with them, using them, welcoming possession by them. I definitely want my kids to have a very solid knowledge of spiritual reality before they start diving into this kind of fantasy. Hence my 12+ age recommendation.
Another thing that bothers me a bit about these books is the absence of a solid line denoting right from wrong. Harry Potter contains some of these same issues, but the readers always know the good from the bad. With these ancient gods, that’s very nebulous. “Chaos” is negative and “Ma’at” (balance) is positive. The kids make deals with Set, a Chaos guy who actually helps them, though he is aiding his own purposes by doing so. Still, that line blurs. Meanwhile, Horus, one of the “Ma’at” guys, is “a good guy in many ways—brave, honorable, righteous. But he was also ambitious, greedy, jealous, and single-minded when it came to his goals.” So is he really worth cheering for? The line is hard to follow. Sadie and Carter, at least, do demonstrate very admirable qualities: friendship, sacrifice, loyalty, putting family first, their desire to save the world.
Anyway, let’s move along to plot. In this book, Apophis, a great and evil proponent for Chaos, is rising. In five days, at the moment of strong magic on the spring equinox, he will break his ancient bonds. To counteract him, the brother and sister team must awaken Ra, the god of gods who has been asleep for two thousand years. The instructions they need are in the Book of Ra, which has been broken into three sections and hidden separately. And the House of Life, that ancient alliance of magicians, is seeking to stop them. Their final mission takes them on a race against time down the River of Night in a leaky barge. It’s definitely high excitement.
And the silly details that make Riordan such an interesting story-teller are not absent. Take Bes, the dwarf god, who strips down to his “Ugly suit,” a blue Speedo and nothing else, (“His back was so hairy it looked like a mink coat. And on the back of his Speedo was printed DWARF PRIDE.) to frighten away demons. Or how about Sunny Acres, a retirement home for forgotten gods, many of whom drool and smell and tote around iv poles? This guy certainly has an imagination.
Overall, how would I rate The Throne of Fire? It’s fun, but approach it cautiously.
Book one: The Red Pyramid
Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles, book two), by Rick Riordan, 2011, Book Review