In The Red Pyramid, the first book in The Kane Chronicles, Rick Riordan's new series for middle readers, a child has godlike powers but doesn't know it until strange things begin to unfold. A parent disappears, prompting introductions to ancient characters and travels to otherworldly places. There are battles with evil and a looming deadline by which the child must complete a mission, lest society descend into chaos.
If this sounds like Percy Jackson & the Olympians, the author's five-book, New York Times bestseller fantasy series (and source of the film The Lightning Thief) that's no coincidence. Why mess with a successful formula, especially if you can use it to make your new story just as fast-paced and intriguing?
With The Red Pyramid, Riordan has done just that. Here there are two protagonists instead of one — siblings Sadie and Carter Kane — and their powers hail from gods who are Egyptian rather than Greek. Their mission: to find their archaeologist father, who accidentally blew up the British Museum and, as a result, was absorbed through the museum's floor.
On Christmas Eve, no less.
Once again, Riordan masterfully meshes modern life with mythology and history, reinvigorating dusty artifacts such as the Rosetta stone and revitalizing ancient Egyptian story lines.
As Sadie and Carter teleport from London and Cairo to Paris and Phoenix and shape-shift into various animals, they come to understand they aren't ordinary kids. They're magicians, even if attempts to summon swords sometimes result in butter knives. More significant, they're descendants of pharaohs, and their earthly bodies are temporarily inhabited by Egyptian gods.
The similarities between Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Red Pyramid are numerous, but if The Red Pyramid comes off as derivative, at least Riordan is deriving from himself.
Regardless, his new story is inventive and well told and has the added benefit of making history interesting again.