Study Guide

The Red Pyramid Family

By Rick Riordan

Family

When you only see each other twice a year, it's like you're distant cousins rather than siblings. We had absolutely nothing in common except our parents. (1.47)

This is how Sadie and Carter start out in the book: alienated from each other and not really knowing how to connect or care about one another. Little do they know that soon their lives will depend on each other… mwahaha. Is that how family works in general?

Nut shrugged. "Set has always been Set, for better or worse. But he is still part of our family. It is difficult to lose any member of your family… is it not?" (20.49)

The Egyptian gods have had some pretty bitter quarrels over the millennia, but Nut sums it up here: they're all still family. Do you agree with her? Is family always family, no matter what?

As much as Carter annoyed me, I hated it when people assumed we weren't related, or looked at my father askance when he said the three of us were a family—like we'd done something wrong…It happened every time Dad and Carter and I were together. Every bloody time. (3.68)

Being a mixed-race family is no bed of roses, especially when other people's racism prevents them from acknowledging that such families even exist. It's all the more striking when Sadie acknowledges this, because she thinks that a) Carter is a useless jumble of homeschooling and facts about ancient Egypt, and b) she's normally too much of a rebel to be bothered by what other people think of her.

"The gods do not think of relationships the way we humans do. Their hosts are merely like changes of clothes. That is why the ancient stories seem so mixed up. Sometimes the gods are described as married, or siblings, or parent and child, depending on their hosts." (15.101)

Iskandar's explanation of this phenomenon is still a little weird, but it explains why the family tree of the gods is… complicated. Sometimes it's just easier to say that you're family than to try to define the relationship. Is family always based on blood relationships? Is it always easy to define?

"You think we're hosting gods," I said, absolutely stunned. "That's what you're worried about—just because of something our great-times-a-thousand grandparents did? That's completely daft." (16.152)

So, because of something buried way deep in your ancestral past, you can be captured by magicians and accused of the forbidden act of hosting gods. We're with Sadie: it takes a special kind of paranoia to pursue this line of thought. But the magicians ended up being right, so hey, maybe paranoia is justified when you live in a world filled with crazy magic.

I didn't want to admit it, but I couldn't stand the thought of being separated from Sadie again. She wasn't much, but she was all I had. (6.172)

Progressing from "can't stand the sight of your sibling" to "would rather have them around than not" sounds good, right? But Sadie and Carter have a lot further to go if they're going to work as a family team to defeat the forces of chaos.

"Carter, believe me, I've tried to remember. It's no use. Iskandar is the only family I've ever had." (17.49)

Zia is probably not the only orphaned magician out there—it's a hard lifestyle, after all—but our hearts go out to her nonetheless. What must it be like to know that you lost your family to magic, and not be able to remember anything about them? Also, Zia's relationship with Iskandar shows that family can sometimes be something that isn't based on blood ties; it can also be based on other kinds of relationships.

"Champollion died before he could join the House of Life, but the Chief Lector accepted his descendants for training. Desjardins is very proud of his family… but a little sensitive too, because he's such a newcomer." (18.197)

Apparently being from a newer family when everyone else in the game has a lineage that goes back millennia is enough to make you kind of cranky about the whole thing. Welcome to a world where having the right family connections directly grants you access to power—magical power. Is that different from the way families work in the mortal world?

But more than that, in Carter's wary expression I saw the way he used to look at me on our visiting days—when we were practically strangers, forced to spend time together, pretending we were a happy family because Dad expected it of us. I didn't want to go back to that. I wasn't pretending anymore. We were a family, and we had to work together. (40.52)

By this point in the book—the battle of the red pyramid—Sadie realizes how much progress her family has made just in banding together, even if they're not perfect. More importantly, she realizes that she doesn't want to go back to the way things were, even if it was easier being on her own.

Understanding passed between us. I was surprised how easily I could read him. I thought it might be the influence of the gods, but then I realized it was because we were both Kanes, brother and sister. And Carter, god help me, was also my friend. (40.134)

They say that you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. It is awesomely lucky that Sadie ends up with both in her brother, Carter. This is yet another reason they make a great team. Can friends also be family? What are some of the ways this novel shows that you can build family?