“The Red Pyramid” by Rick Riordan

                Fun, but predictable and bland. Two siblings—the fourteen-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter of a Nubian father and a white mother—are separated after their mother’s tragic death and suddenly reunited on the night that their father basically blows up the British Museum. Don’t worry, the Rosetta Stone-turned-shrapnel reassembles itself…like magic. Because it ‘s ancient Egyptian magic!

                Carter and Sadie are apparently descendents of the Pharaohs and thus have great magical powers. And Sadie’s cat—reminiscent of both Ramses Emerson’s feline partner-in-crime Bastet and Hermione Granger’s too-intelligent kitty Crookshanks—turns out to be Bast (or “Bastet”), the cat goddess, whom Carter and Sadie’s father Julius sent to protect his children. Although the “revelation” that Muffins was actually a goddess was, well, hackneyed, the antics that result are the best parts of the novel. Bast must protect Carter and Sadie, right? Well, that includes protecting them from giant steel balls (which pass for modern art in NYC). After she pounces on the priceless piece of “art” and makes it disintegrate, she tells the children, “It was a ball! You never know with balls!” At another point, the adolescents must turn themselves into birds. Bast applauds their first successful transformation: “Good job! You look delicious… I mean wonderful!” The silly scenes birthed from the irony of two humans turned into birds and the cat goddess turned into a human are the best parts of the novel.

                 But the novel is rife with plot elements as predictable as the whole Muffin=Bast exposé. If you’ve read the first Percy Jackson novel, The Lightening Thief, you’ll be able to predict every single major plot twist in The Red Pyramid (Except for two, one of which I predicted about 150 pages before Riordan actually revealed it. The other, however, was a complete shock.). Riordan’s creative enough to give us a pimpled, wedding-dress clad satyr named Grover (who loves enchiladas) who, trapped in a cave by Polyphemus,  must forever weave and unweave his bridal veil in an effort to postpone his wedding with the vicious Cyclops until help arrives (that was in Sea of Monsters, the gloriously hilarious second Percy Jackson book). So I don’t understand why Riordan has to resort to the same old plot.

                Moreover, while Percy’s quirky, snarky narration made Riordan’s first series a standout among young adult literature, Riordan’s choice to use both Carter and Sadie’s POV in his narration ultimately makes the novel fall flat. Riordan has Carter and Sadie speak the story in turns into a tape-recorder during a car trip after the story takes place. So we switch, every two chapters, from a level-headed, American, teenage guy’s voice to a disrespectful, quasi-British, preteen girl’s voice. Carter’s a much more engaging narrator, partly because his “obnoxious” sister really is a bit obnoxious. And Sadie sounds more like someone trying to sound British than someone who is British. That’s probably Riordan trying to dumb down the Englishness for a readership of American kids who don’t watch BBC like I do…or it’s Riordan not knowing what he’s doing. That said, the narrative device would work if Sadie wasn’t obnoxious and Carter so bland.

                If you want a witty, easy-to-read, PG-rated novel populated by snarky teenagers, mythic figures, and enough magic to make The Wizard of Oz in Technicolor look as insipid as ordinary suburbia, read The Lightening Thief and its excellent sequels, not The Read Pyramid. Better yet, pick up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone if you haven’t yet. Or reread The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Two Stars



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