Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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The Kane Chronicles, Book One: The Red Pyramid (for young readers) by Rick Riordan

Reviewed on: December 1, 2010


Disney Hyperion Books:  New York
2010 (HC)

Several months ago I posted a review of an archaeology-based novel for young readers (roughly ages 9-12) with the promise of more in the future.  Therefore, just in time for Holiday shopping, I strongly urge parents, grandparents, loving aunts and uncles and older siblings to consider a gift of Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid for that special youngster on the Christmas gift list.

Author Riordan just recently completed the hugely popular five-novel cycle of the adventures of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which, in a sense, up-dated Classical mythology.  With The Red Pyramid, listed as Book One of the Kane Chronicles, he has turned his considerable talents to the equally rich, but less familiar world of Egyptian mythology.  His very compelling protagonists, 14 year old Carter and 12 year old Sadie Kane, are the children of world-renowned Egyptologist Julius Kane, an African American, and their British mother, Ruby, who had died under very mysterious circumstances at the site of London’s Cleopatra’s Needle some six years earlier.  A bitter custody battle following Ruby’s death resulted in Carter living the life of a gypsy as his father took him on excavations in far-flung parts of the world and Sadie living with her maternal grandparents in London.

Then one very fateful Christmas Eve, Carter and Sadie are brought together to accompany their father on a most unusual tour of the Egyptian Gallery of the British Museum and thus begins an epic adventure for the two siblings.  The children watch in horror as their father, in an apparent attempt to “make things right,” brings forth a frightful wraith-like figure, disappears in a fiery blast that destroys the famed Rosetta Stone and leaves the Egyptian Gallery in shambles.

From under the noses of the London police, Carter and Sadie are whisked off to New York City in a magical Egyptian ship made of reeds.  Their father’s mysterious brother, Uncle Amos, sets them up in a fantastic mansion on the east bank of the East River in New York, and begins to explain the mysteries behind their father’s disappearance and their mother’s death years earlier.  They learn that they are children of a most ancient bloodline of Egyptian magicians known as the House of Life—they are in fact descendants of pharaohs, the most powerful of magicians.  Their father had been attempting to conjure the god of the dead Osiris, who would be able to raise his beloved Ruby from the dead.  But the attempt failed and now the five chief gods of the Egyptian pantheon—Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set and Nephthys—have been set free.  Of these, Set is the fiery demon god—the Red Lord– they witnessed in the British Museum.  Sadie and Carter must accept the challenge to defeat Set—and save their father and very possibly the world—within five days—the Demon Days—that end the solar year.

What follows is a swashbuckling and madcap race across America – from New York to Washington DC to Memphis (Tennessee)—and a battle at Elvis’ graveside at Graceland!—to New Orleans and finally to Camelback Mountain outside Phoenix, Arizona, where Set is directing the construction of the Red Pyramid, which when completed, will allow him to lay waste to North America.

This is a tale of great high adventure that is leavened with wonderful comic relief.  There is Khufu, the sidekick baboon who wears a Lakers jersey and loves to play basketball; there is the protector crocodile named Philip of Macedon in the New York mansion pool; there is the impish shabti (a pint-size avatar servant that Sadie and Carter call “Doughboy,” who prefers his Egyptian name, “Supreme-Force-Who-Crushes-His-Enemies”; and there is Professor Thoth of the University of Memphis (Tennessee) who is the embodiment of the Egyptian god of wisdom but is more akin to Gyro Geargoose of “Ducktails” fame.

This is a delightful book, full of adventure and humor, but brimming with information about the rich mythology of ancient Egypt.  Four trowels for Book One of the Kane Chronicles—maybe there be many more!

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens