This is my first middle grade review, and I know most of my followers are not into MG stuff, but this is an exception I think because the book is The Red Pyramid, the highly anticipated new series from author Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame.
Summary from Goodreads:
Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.
Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.
Reader's crit: Ok, so here's the paradox. I had a hard time getting into this book and as I was reading it, some things just irked me *see below*, but at the same time I know that when the second book comes out I'll probably buy it. Now, I don't know if that's my book collector spirit taking control of me or what, but there you have it. Overall, I was rather disappointed with The Red Pyramid because I loved Percy Jackson so much and was so eager to check out a new series by him. My son LOVES Percy, and part of me was really excited because it takes a lot to get my son excited about books. In some ways I think that the subject material (Egyptian mythology) is partly to blame. It's just a little bit harder to digest than the Greek Gods that we're all so familiar with - reading about them in Percy was like revisiting old friends. In The Red Pyramid, I had vague (really vague) memories of some of these Gods, and the mythology wasn't familiar to me at all. Things that I did like about the book - a kickass female protag, an african american male protag, the bonding between the sibs was real sweet, and the little animal sidekicks (a baboon and a cat goddess) were a hoot. Also, I was interested in the culture as a whole by the ending and I like that some things in the book were based on fact.
But there were some little things that irked me as a reader:
1. The female MC, Sadie is portrayed far too mature for her age. She's twelve, and she gets the hots for Anubis, a God who is said to look about 16. Now, I know what you're thinking, so what, right? When I was twelve I crushed over pop stars and stuff, so what's the difference? Well, the difference is that Riordan makes it seem like the relationship is possible, that the attraction is fully reciprocated and that just IRKED me. Maybe it's the parent in me that's stepping in here, and for my younger followers I apologize, but really? A twelve year old and a sixteen year old flirting with each other? *shivers*
2. Going along with Sadie acting too mature are her words: "I mean, I'd asked for the truth, but usually you don't actually get it, especially from guys." Ok, what twelve year old knows that much about men to say something like that? Unless I'm living under a rock. IRK!!
3. Over use of descriptions. There are a lot of strange creatures in this book, and yeah, I know that there were a lot of weird half-crocodile, half-lion things creeping around ancient Egypt. But did Riordan have to put them on every single page?? I couldn't keep track of them all, and it just got so redundant after awhile. It was like, oh, another strange creature to fight - how surprising. After 500 pages of it, it just got to be TOO MUCH.
4. Length - 500 pages for a MG book is rather long.
Reader's score: 3.5 If I hadn't been so enamored over Percy Jackson I would have opted to loan this from the library instead. And now that obsessive book collector thing is kicking in *grumbles*.
Writer's crit: You're probably already getting that I'm not as crazy about this book as I was with Riordan's other work. The thing is, I think that Riordan really stumbled on a bit of luck when he thought up Percy Jackson - the story there is compelling. It's good. But when the story isn't as engaging, as it is here (and also with the 39 Clues, another series of his), then Riordan's weaknesses as a writer show through.
Problem #1. Set up. For a MG book, this one takes way too long to get into. By page 100, not a whole lot had really happened. Riordan does a lot of telling in the first chapter or two. New writers couldn't get away with that.
Problem #2. POV. The story is told in alternating FP POV of the brother and sister. In retrospect, I can see why Riordan chose to do this because both kids end up having equal powers at the end, but in the beginning and middle of the book it was very distracting. Since both characters have a bit of snarkiness to them, it was often hard to remember who was speaking. This is bad for a kid's book when you have to really fight to keep the reader's attention, and I think the book probably would have been done better if it had been in third person. Then Riordan could have jumped between characters without the reader getting confused as to who was speaking.
Problem #3. Excessive description, especially of the monsters that all seemed very much alike by the end.
Problem #4. Confusion. Ok, so there were 5 major gods to keep track of, and their parents, and then there were about 4-5 minor gods, and then there were several instances where characters weren't what they appeared to be or had hidden agendas, and then there were a lot of dreams/spirit floating to interpret, and on top of that, the Kanes' mission to defeat Set was really just a small part of this bigger problem that was out there. Granted, there were lots of Greek Gods as well, but in Percy Jackson, not all of them were introduced in one book. The reader was eased into it and again there was the sense of familiarity. But in this...well, I just got confused keeping track of it all. It's a good lesson for kids, but a lot to handle I think. My son is about a third of the way through and after he reads it, I'll have a better feel for how well kids do with it, but I would guess that they would be rather confused, as I was, by the end.
Overall writer's score: 3