The Red Pyramid
Cover of first edition
Michelle Gengaro-Kokmen (Hieroglyph art)
|Cover artist||John Rocco|
|Series||The Kane Chronicles
|Genre||Fantasy, Egyptian mythology, young-adult fiction|
|May 4, 2010|
|Media type||Print, audiobook|
|Pages||516 (first ed.)|
|LC Class||PZ7.R4829 Re 2010|
|Followed by||The Throne of Fire|
The Red Pyramid is a 2010 fantasy-adventure novel based on Egyptian mythology written by Rick Riordan. It is the first novel in The Kane Chronicles series. The novel was first published in the United States on May 4, 2010, by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Publishing Worldwide. It has been published in hardcover, audiobook, ebook, and large-print editions, and has been translated into 19 languages from its original English.
The book follows the Kane siblings Carter and Sadie, as they discover they are descended from both the pharaohs and magicians of ancient Egypt. As a result, they are able to both host gods and wield magic. The duo unknowingly hosts the Egyptian gods Horus and Isis, while their father is taken as a host by Osiris who is captured by Set. They are thrown into an adventure to rescue their father, while simultaneously trying to save the world from destruction. The novel is written as though it is a transcription of an audiorecording by siblings Carter and Sadie Kane, alternately narrated in first-person by the siblings.
The Red Pyramid received generally positive reviews with critics praising its pace, action and storyline. The novel was on the Amazon Children's bestseller list. It also won a School Library Journal Best Book Award, and was also shortlisted for the 2011 Red House Children's Book Award. The audiobook of The Red Pyramid, narrated by Katherine Kellgren and Kevin P. Free, was a finalist at the Audiobook of the Year Award.
The novel opens with Carter and his father Julius Kane going to visit Carter's sister Sadie, who has lived with her maternal grandparents since the death of their mother, Ruby Kane. Julius, who is secretly a magician, but posing as a simple Egyptologist, takes the siblings to the British Museum, where he tries to bring Osiris (the Egyptian god of the Underworld) back into the mortal world. His magic also has the unintended side effect of summoning the gods Horus, Isis, Nephthys, and Set, as well as alerting the magicians Zia Rashid and Michel Desjardins to his actions, which are illegal in the magic community. Set, a god of chaos, captures Julius and destroys the museum. Unbeknownst to Carter and Sadie, each of the gods chooses a mortal host from the humans in the room.
Carter and Sadie are taken to Brooklyn by their uncle Amos, who tells them they are descended from a long line of magicians, beginning with the Egyptian pharaohs Ramesses the Great and Narmer. He also explains the grave danger Set poses to the world, and goes to find him. While he is away, the mansion is attacked by Set's minions. With help from Sadie's cat Muffin, who is host to the goddess Bast, and Zia Rashid, they escape to Cairo. Once there, Carter and Sadie discover they are hosts to the gods Horus and Isis, respectively. They train in magic until the magicians' leader Iskandar dies and Michel Desjardins orders their deaths for collaborating illegally with the gods. The siblings escape and formulate a plan to defeat Set — hoping to rescue their father and clear their names within the magic community.
They travel to Set's lair in New Mexico, gathering ingredients for a magic spell and evading hostile monsters and magicians. After Bast sacrifices herself defending them from Sobek, Carter and Sadie encounter Amos and then Zia. The foursome heads to Set's hideout where they learn the final piece of the spell they need from a dying Zia, the unknowing host of Nephthys. Carter, Sadie, Horus, and Isis use the spell to bring Set to his knees, although they stop short of completely destroying him because they realize his actions were dictated by a far worse enemy — Apophis, a much more powerful god of chaos. Desjardins reluctantly allows Carter and Sadie to go free after they part with Horus and Isis.
After a tearful goodbye with Zia, who turns out to have been a magical copy of the real young magician, Carter and Sadie return to Brooklyn. They visit their father, now in the underworld with their ghostly mother, and are saddened to be parted from him. As a gift, Osiris (hosted by the deceased Julius) helps Bast return to the mortal world. The novel ends with Carter and Sadie describing their plans to recruit other magicians to (illegally) study the path of the gods. Carter also resolves to seek out the real Zia Rashid, while Amos Kane begins therapy after being forcibly possessed by Set.
- Carter Kane: The host of the war god, Horus has the "blood of the pharaohs," being a descendant of Narmer and Ramses the Great through both sides of his family. He is one of the main protagonists, and is described initially as always dressing "impeccably" in dress shirts and pants, but relaxes into a more modern style as the series progresses. He has dark skin, curly dark brown hair, and brown eyes. After the death of his mother, he spent six years traveling with his father and, as he put it, "living out of a suitcase." His specialty is combat magic and his preferred weapon is a khopesh, an ancient Egyptian sword.
- Sadie Kane: She is twelve and was a host of Isis goddess of magic. She was six when her mother died, and afterward lived in England with her grandparents. She is described as having blue eyes and caramel-colored hair, not brunette or blonde. As she remains in England, her skin is paler than Carter's and she has a slight British accent. Her father gave her a cat she named Muffin, although it is actually the goddess Bast, who is the protector of the Kane siblings. Sadie is the bold one of the Kane siblings, and is more reckless and more of a troublemaker. She teases her brother all the time, though she actually cares for him.
- Julius Kane: An Egyptian magician who becomes a host of Osiris. He is Carter and Sadie Kane's father. His wife, Ruby Kane, died trying to seal away the chaos snake Apophis in Cleopatra's Needle. He is also an Egyptologist.
- Amos Kane: An Egyptian magician. He is Julius Kane's brother, and a former protector of the Kane children.
- Zia Rashid: An Egyptian magician who is a host of Nephthys.
- Bast: Bast is the Egyptian goddess of cats. She becomes the Kane children's protector and becomes their friend too
- Set: The Egyptian god of evil. He is the main antagonist of the novel, but later becomes a minor protagonist of the series.
Development and publication
According to Riordan, the idea for The Kane Chronicles series came from his realization that the only ancient history subject more popular than Ancient Greece was that of Ancient Egypt. He had already written and published several books in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, which dealt with the interaction between Greek mythology and the modern world. The idea of having two multiracial siblings narrate the book also came from his experience as a teacher. Carter and Sadie Kane, the titular characters, were inspired by two siblings he taught, as well as the fact that Ancient Egypt was a multicultural society. He adhered to the longstanding Western tradition of separating Egyptian history from the history of other African societies. In an interview with Publishers Weekly at the BEA 2010 Show, where Riordan signed copies of the novel, he said that Ancient Egypt "fascinates kids." He did extensive research so that "The magic, the spells, the shabti, are all grounded in reality." The Red Pyramid was the first time Riordan used alternating points of view because it was "very important ... that both genders have protagonists they can identify with."
The Red Pyramid had a first printing of one million copies. The series was planned to consist of one book per year to build anticipation. The novel featured cover art by John Rocco, with interior illustrations by Michelle Gengaro-Kokmen. As of 2010, the novel had sold 630,000 copies. The Red Pyramid received a lexile score of 650L making it appropriate for 11–14 year olds. Since its release, the novel has been translated into 19 languages.
The Washington Post said that Riordan "begins [the book] with a literal bang" and "the pace never flags as the narrative cuts between Carter and Sadie." The book was also listed in The Washington Post's summer book club. The New York Times's Bruce Handy was mildly critical of The Red Pyramid saying it had "eruptions of mayhem every few pages and exposition falling like hail," as well as "a sea of churning narrative." However, Handy said, "Riordan fans young and old will eat this new book up." He also commented that the book was "wholly satisfying while also setting the table for what promises to be a rip-roaring saga with nasty villains" and "engaging love interests." Kirkus Reviews thought the story was similar to Riordan's other works like The Lightning Thief in terms of chapters, characters, and plot, but noted, "that's not all bad."
School Library Journal named The Red Pyramid a Best Book of 2010, and it was also shortlisted for the 2011 Red House Children's Book Award. The novel also appeared on the Amazon Children's bestseller list.
On May 4, 2010, a fourteen-hour and 32 minute audiobook version of The Red Pyramid, read by Katherine Kellgren and Kevin R.Free, who later read all the audiobooks in the series, was published worldwide by Brilliance Audio.
AudioFile magazine praised the audiobook, raving:
Author Rick Riordan explores Egyptian mythology in the Kane Chronicles series. Riordan’s works transition well to the audiobook format with their formula of equal parts nonstop adventure and well-camouflaged education. Dual narrators add a welcome level of complexity as Carter and Sadie Kane recount their story in turns. Kevin Free channels his inner adolescent well as the world-traveling Carter, and Katherine Kellgren’s Sadie steals the show with her sardonic wit. Even though Kellgren is once again portraying a young British heroine, Sadie is a far cry from Bloody Jack in class, setting, and temperament.
On October 2, 2012, a graphic novel version of The Red Pyramid, adapted and illustrated by artist Orpheus Collar, was published worldwide by Disney Hyperion. On September 7, 2012, pictures from the graphic novel were released by Rick Riordan on his official website.
Publishers Weekly praised the graphic novel, writing:
The plot lends itself fluidly to the graphic novel format, and Collar's cinematic artwork is well equipped to handle the story's larger-than-life mythological action. Gone is the digital recording narrative gimmick of the original book; instead, the twists and turns of Riordan's intricate story line are delivered through dialogue and through Sadie and Carter's dual narration, which appears in small color-coded panels. Collar, who also worked on Riordan's graphic novel adaptation of The Lightning Thief, packs his spreads with rousing technology and magic, as well as tongue-in-cheek details. New readers and existing fans alike will dive right in.
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