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So, your mom is dead, and your dad's an Egyptologist. Then, out of the blue, you and your annoying sibling are saddled with the responsibility to learn how ancient Egyptian magic works—because, you know, it's part of your heritage and all. And oh, yeah—you also have to save the world from destruction.
Wait, let's start over?
We would, but that's pretty much how it starts for Carter and Sadie Kane in The Red Pyramid, the first book in the Richard Riordan's Kane Chronicles.
Siblings Carter and Sadie are separated when their mom dies in an accident six years before the book begins. Now, fourteen-year-old Carter travels the world with their Egyptologist dad, while twelve-year-old Sadie lives in England with their grandparents. Despite the fact that the siblings feel like total strangers to each other, they're forced to work together to save the world when their dad releases a bunch of Egyptian deities from imprisonment—not all of whom have good intentions for the world.
Turns out Carter and Sadie have a magical heritage that they need to get a handle on ASAP in order to prevent the violent god Set from destroying most of North America. Luckily, they've got some allies, such as the purr-ific cat goddess Bast, but they've also got enemies a-plenty. The House of Life, an order of Egyptian magicians, absolutely forbids associating with the gods—which Sadie and Carter sort of embody, as they are the modern incarnations of Isis and Horus. Oops.
With the House of Life magicians and Set's minions after them, Sadie and Carter go on the Great American Road Trip to pick up ritual items, visit the Land of the Dead, and survive the long drive that is Texas, all in time to prevent Set's Red Pyramid of Doom from being completed and blowing up the continent. So, like, no pressure.
Published in 2010, it's no wonder that The Red Pyramid was a New York Times #1 bestseller. It also picked up awards like a School Library Journal Best Book of 2010 and Children's Choice Book Awards 2011: Best Book, Grades 5-6. We already know that Rick Riordan is a fantastic author from his Percy Jackson books, which deal with Greek mythology in a modern setting. Here, Riordan does a similar thing with Egyptian mythology, and he does an awesome job of convincing us that, holy moly, this stuff is interesting and important and could kick your butt when you're not looking.
So. You're a young character in a book where ancient forces are trying to boss you around, make you act out their power games, and play certain roles that have to do with your "destiny" and stuff like that.
For Sadie and Carter Kane, it's annoying to be treated like pawns by the gods, and it's also annoying when the magicians from the House of Life say, "Oh, but you can't possibly know what you're doing. Let us step in and get those other forces out of your life so you can do things the way we want you to do them."
Yeah. Sound familiar? Like, say, if you are any young person ever? Whether it's ancient gods or stuck-up magicians or your parents or teachers telling you what to do, chances are good that you can relate to Sadie and Carter's story, because it's an exaggeration of the power dynamics in your own life. We're not sure what it is about older people (or gods) wanting to tell us what to do when we're younger, but man, they sure do a lot of it. And they can't always agree about what they want us to do, either, which is totally obnoxious, since you can't please everyone.
In The Red Pyramid, we see Sadie and Carter get bossed around and manipulated over and over… but then they find their own way in the mess that results from the clash between gods and magicians, order and chaos. By not letting either the gods or the magicians or the forces of chaos have it their way, Sadie and Carter basically stick it to The Man. We can root for them and get a thrill from watching them go through the whole thing.
Then maybe, just maybe, we might think about things in our own lives that we want to challenge, even if people tell us we're too young or inexperienced to challenge them.
The Kane Chronicles on Rick Riordan's Website
Plenty of info about The Red Pyramid and the two books that follow it, which make up the Kane Chronicles.
The House of Life
Riordan's site gives you a tour of ancient Egyptian magic and includes the Kanes' family tree.
Greatest Hits of Egyptian History
Exactly what it sounds like—tidbits that'll help you get a sense of what was going down in ancient Egypt.
Meet the Egyptian Gods
You'll see some familiar faces from the book, and also encounter a few Egyptian gods that weren't mentioned in The Red Pyramid. Maybe they'll make an appearance in the sequels…?
Disney's Kane Chronicles Site
In addition to info about the books, you'll find preview videos for book releases and other events.
Rick Riordan's Take on Ancient Egypt
Click on this for snippets of an NPR interview, or to listen to the radio story itself, or to read an excerpt from the second chapter of the book.
Interview with Riordan
This other interview touches on different things, such as why magicians played such a prominent role in ancient Egypt.
The Red Pyramid Book Trailer
What is the point of a book trailer, you might ask? To make the book look exciting, of course. We'd say this trailer succeeds at the task.
Another Red Pyramid Trailer
This one keeps it short and sweet.
Sadie & Others
Click around this Disney gallery for pics of Sadie, Carter, Bast, and other characters from the book.
The Eye of Ra Slaying Apophis
That image Sadie and Carter see tacked onto Elvis's tomb? Here it is.