The Kane Chronicles: Review
I think it’s pretty obvious by now, but I am a huge nerd. For my high school Quiz Bowl team, I was tasked to study various mythologies, including Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hindu. It’s no surprise that Rick Riordan’s books speak that inner mythology geek in me, despite being catered towards a middle school audience. Kane Chronicles was my next foray into Riordan’s incredibly imaginative modern-mythology world. Read on for my spoiler-free thoughts on what worked and what *maybe* didn’t (for me!).
Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.
Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.
Again, I am years above Kane Chronicles’ target audience. This trilogy is ideal for students in grades 6-8. It consists of three books:
- The Red Pyramid
- Throne of Fire
- The Serpent’s Shadow
It revolves around our two main characters, Sadie and Carter Kane. They start off as estranged siblings, with Sadie living a normal life with their maternal grandparents in London, and Carter traveling the world with his egyptologist father. However, it’s soon revealed (and this isn’t a spoiler- it’s right in the Goodreads summary above) that both siblings are heirs to powerful magic and have the ability to commune with the ancient gods of Egypt.
The storytelling has a twist to it. If you’re familiar with Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, or Heroes of Olympus- well, throw that to the wind, because Kane Chronicles has a slightly different vibe. The series is narrated entirely in first person, but chapters flip between Sadie and Carter telling the story. They’re essentially recounting all of these events that happened in the past. We know this, because there will be present-tense quips throughout the narration, for example:
We’re getting a written version of their narration because some kind soul who happened upon their tapes decided that their words needed to be transcribed and read by as many people as possible.
This is clever! And I’m sure a younger audience would have appreciated the differences in Sadie’s and Carter’s storytelling, as well as the present-tense quips about the past-tense events. But I unfortunately just found it a little annoying. In the back of my head, I kept asking myself, “How in the world are they able to recall every bit of dialogue and detail in these moments of battle?” or “Isn’t Sadie only twelve years old?????”
A friend of mine who LOVED Riordan’s Greek and Roman mythology-inspired books listened to Kane Chronicles via audiobook and said that this storytelling trick worked exceedingly well there. That makes a lot more sense and in retrospect, I wish I would have gotten over my self-imposed no-audiobook rule and listened to the trilogy instead. Oh well.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Egyptian mythology, but I have decent knowledge of its pantheon of gods and goddesses after many high school nights poring over Wikipedia pages. In my limited “professional” experience, I think that Riordan did a great job of conveying the complexities of Egyptian mythology. There are an enormous number of deities and creatures, and he makes an effort to note that they change over time, just as humans’ beliefs, desires, and wants do, as they find something new to belive in. Throw in a layer of reincarnation as well, and there are some pretty complex concepts to make sense of in just three books. As such, you can expect the first book in the series, The Red Pyramid, to mostly be an info dump.
Another reason why I docked stars here and there was the pacing of the trilogy. Side quests seemed to drag on forever, and maybe that’s because Sadie or Carter might have narrated with excessive detail, or gone off track. That definitely happens a few times. I wasn’t invested in them enough to find those moments endearing. Instead, I kinda rolled my eyes and thought, “Let’s get on with it! Magic! Gods! KABOOM!” To be fair, we get a fair amount of action, but nowhere near the payoff that we deserve with all of the buildup.
Kane Chronicles didn’t live up to my expectations, but of course Heroes of Olympus set a really high bar. Riordan did his best to break down the complexities of Egyptian mythology and history, but the series is clearly meant for a younger audience. And though I didn’t listen to the audiobook editions of Kane Chronicles, I would suggest it on my good friend’s recommendation!
I rate Kane Chronicles trilogy 3.5/5 stars.