[Book Review] Dear YA authors: this is how you do it

Meg’s Review: The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Audiobook read by Kevin R. Free and Katherine Kellgren

I’m attempting to catch up on some series, and I’ve started with some Riordan yumminess.  I decided to grab the audiobook of Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid in order to brush up on plot. About three hours into listening, I had come to this declarative conclusion:

Dear YA authors: this is how you do it. (Yes, I’m talking to you)

The Red Pyramid is the opening adventure of Carter and Sadie Kane, two kids, siblings, descendents of Egyptian pharaohs and magicians.  When their father releases five of the great Egyptian gods, the brother and sister find themselves hosts to Horus and Isis—and suddenly in the middle of an centuries-old battle between magicians and gods.  Oh, and a crazy man is trying to destroy the world.  But that’s a trifle concern when you have a god trying to take over your body, right?

The story, set in the same universe as Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, jaunts through the first tasks and trials of the Kane children with brisk pacing, dynamic characters, and believable dialogue.  It is a fun listen (and read), and truly showcases how much Riordan has grown as an author since The Lightening Thief.

The mythology in this story was Riordan’s biggest challenge. With Percy Jackson, most people have a basic foundation of Greek deity trivia acquired over the years of pop culture and Middle School English. (I say Zeus, you say angry-lightening-man-that-likes-to-sleep-around.) With Egyptian mythology—unless you are a Stargate buff—the convoluted rompings of those gods are significantly more obcure. (I say Hathor, you say huh?)

Riordan could have easily fallen into a talking-head trap, going on and on for ages about the crazy antics of Egyptian mythology. But he only unravels what he needs when he needs it. And with the back-and-forth narratives (chapters alternate between Sadie and Carter’s points of view), he can reaffirm the finer points multiple times, burrowing the important facts so that we remember them when the time comes for the final showdown.

The story does drag in at least two instances, but I suspect that is due to long-term structuring issues. No question about it, Riordan knows he has license to make a series with this (after Percy Jackson, I’m sure Hyperion was delighted to find that he was prospecting another goldmine), and so there are places were he’s marking the dig sites that, I suspect, will be used to uncover significant plot elements in book two or three.

All well and good. But I’m an impatient reader. If it doesn’t deal directly with the current plot, I get ansty.

Audiobook observations: I’m split on my feelings about the readers (Kellgren for Sadie’s chapters, Free for Carter’s) for this book. A friend listened before and positively skewered the female reader, claiming that she was an old person trying to sound like a teenager. So I went in fully preparing to hate half of the book, but to my surprise, the female reader was positively delightful. Like, made-me-laugh-out-loud delightful.

No, Katherine Kellgren is definitely not a 12-year-old girl, but man, can she pull off the right amount of melodrama and sarcasm required for Sadie Kane. In fact, I was so underwhelmed by Kevin R. Free’s Carter that I found myself impatiently waiting for the chapter to switch back to Sadie. He was not a bad reader by any definition—I was just extremely entertained by his other half.

The Red Pyramid is a solid start for the series.

3 thoughts on “[Book Review] Dear YA authors: this is how you do it

  1. That’s interesting! I was always curious about the Lightning Thief myself. Good to know Riordan is going strong.

    I have not heard of an audiobook with more than one reader (then again, the only audiobook I have ever listened to is The Shining ;P). Who reads the prose when the siblings are together?

    • For this book, the narration was all first person. So the chapters labeled “Sadie” were read in whole by the female reader and those marked “Carter” were read by the male. I’m not actually sure if that explanation makes sense…

      There are some really great full-cast recordings of audiobooks. My favorite is still the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. Just a wonderful cast of really talented readers.

  2. Pingback: [ Book Review ] The Red Throne « thecanaryreview

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