Riodan, Rick: Kane Chronicles (The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, and The Serpent’s Shadow)

Let me pick a random thing from the never-to-be-cleared backlog: Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, consisting of The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, and The Serpent’s Shadow. I was a big fan of his Percy Jackson books, but didn’t want to start the sequel series until it was complete. (Well, also, I tried the first book at least twice and found that I missed Percy’s voice a lot, so clearly some distance is a good thing all around.)

The Kane Chronicles are about the ancient gods of Egypt; they technically take place in the same world as the Percy Jackson books, but you’d only notice the reference if you’d read them. I was inclined to like them from the start, because the central two characters are biracial siblings, a girl who looks more like their white mom and a boy who looks more like their black dad, and they both have sharp things to say about people’s racial prejudices as applied to their family. And I like that it sets up a general belief that the ancient gods of Egypt are dangerous and uncontrollable and then demonstrates that no, no more so than the ancient Greek gods.

But in the end, I didn’t think this series was nearly as good as the Percy Jackson books. Maybe I’ve gotten wise to Riordan’s plotting, but there was nothing that surprised me. Between books two and three, I actually said, “Could X be as simple as Y?” (spoilers, obviously). And alas, it was. More, the costs were surprisingly low, which combined with the predictability made me feel that it was all just too easy.

Finally, these books anchor their first-person POV to a specific device—voice recordings that the siblings are making for others to listen to—which is a mistake, because every time one of them mentions that, I lose my suspension of disbelief, because there is no way that these are narrated out loud. If you’re not going to commit hard to the form of a first-person narration, leave it free-floating and unspecified (see this journal post for a bit more discussion).

Short version: if what you liked about the Percy Jackson books was their tension and high stakes, these are not likely to be satisfactory substitutes.

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