Monday, May 30, 2011

The Kane Chronicles #2: The Throne of Fire By Rick Riordan

Ever since Carter and Sadie Kane found out that the world of Egyptian Gods and Egyptian magic was real, they have been focussing on a last-ditch effort to beat back the forces of Chaos and save the world from dissolution. Now, Sadie and Carter are focussing on retrieving the Book of Ra. But it won't be that easy. Even now that they have students learning their own brand of Egyptian magic under the tutelage of Sadie and Carter, their uncle Amos is recuperating with the rest of the Egyptian magicians in Cairo after the events of the Red Pyramid, the first book in the series.

Carter and Sadie are convinced that the Book of Ra will lead them to victory and allow them to triumph over the forces of Chaos and save the earth and all the people on it. But when they go after the Book, they discover that the book has been sundered into three pieces, and each piece is well-guarded, both by magic and magical guardians, like a Griffin. But after they have retrieved the first part of the book, Sadie calls for a well-earned rest. Her birthday is tomorrow, and she's taking off from the search for the book to go to London and spend time with her friends.

Carter is upset with her, but he decides to let her do what he wants while he gets on with business. Unfortunately for them both, the forces of Chaos aren't going to let Sadie off the hook, even on her birthday, and she ends up in a confrontation with two minor Gods so that Carter and one of their students, an amulet-maker named Walt, must rescue Sadie with the help of another Egyptian minor God, Bes, the God of Dwarves. He can also help them get the next piece of the book, which is located in Russia. But that piece is guarded by the Russian magicians, and they are not going to let, Carter, Sadie and Walt just waltz out with the Scroll. The Keeper of the Scroll, Vlad Menshikov, apparently once wanted to bring Ra back as well. But by using only one part of the scroll, it caused massive burns to him inside and out, leaving him heavily scarred and with a raspy voice.

Now, however, he just wants revenge on the God whose scroll disfigured him, and he is working with Apophis to destroy the world. When the three young magicians appear to take his scroll, he summons actual demons to try and kill them, and Carter is forced to release the Red-Headed God, Set, to help them escape. Set may be bad, but at least he doesn't want to destroy the world like Apophis does. However, during their escape, Carter is bitten by a two-headed snake whose venom will soon kill him, and Sadie bargains with Set to help them by giving him back her knowledge of his secret name. Set agrees, and Sadie uses Carter's secret name to heal him.

In addition, Set gives Carter and Sadie a gift- the true location of Zia, the girl who Carter fell in love with in Red Pyramid, the first book in the series. At the end of that book, it was revealed that the girl he fell for was actually a Shabti, a servant made of clay who was linked to the real Zia by magic. Carter is desperate to revive the real Zia, and so he and Bes go to where she is buried beneath the Red Sands of her home village, while Sadie and Walt end up going after the third piece of the scroll, buried amidst a tomb of Roman mummies. When the mummies attack, Walt, who Sadie has come to like and feel something for, tells her that he is dying. Those of his family are fated to die young, because his family descends from Akhenaten, who was cursed by the Priests of Amun-Ra. So even though his using magic makes his curse happen more quickly, he does like Sadie and wishes he could be with her longer. They are saved by Ptah, the God of the World, and manage to retrieve the last piece of the Book.

Meanwhile, Carter and Bes manage to find where Zia is buried beneath the waters of the Nile. But she is not happy that Carter uses mouth-to-mouth to revive her, and he finds that she was buried with the rod and flail of Kingship. But they are attacked by Vlad and Desjardins, the current Lector of the Egyptian magicians. Vlad has convinced Desjardins that Sadie and Carter are trying to bring about the end of the earth, and while Desjardins doesn't seem to completely believe it, he still dislikes the two, so has no problem attacking them. Carter, Zia and Bes manage to escape and make their way to Cairo where they meet Sadie and Walt. While they are there, Carter spends some time with Zia and manages to make her at least end up liking him.

But when a Ba dream tells them that the Brooklyn house is under attack, Walt and Zia leave to help, leaving Carter and Sadie to try and save Ra alone. But they will have to discover the location of the God and resurrect his sun Barque, then travel the length of the Underworld in twelve hours, as Ra once did on his journeys through the Underworld. But can Carter and Sadie accomplish all those things, and even if they do, will Ra's sanity and mind return so that he can lead his fellow Gods into battle against the forces of Apophis and the chaos-snake itself? Or should Horus lead the fight and Sadie and Carter forget about Ra? What is the right choice, and what are the consequences of being wrong? And can Carter make the right choice for the battle to come?

Well, this was certainly an eventful novel! So much happened, and even though it's a thick book, the amount of story that goes on in the book was rather amazing, as the characters travel from Brooklyn to London, Russia, Egypt and the underworld itself in search of Ra. Ra is a powerful God, but when Isis made him step down from his job to install his son Horus in his place, Ra lost much of his mental power and went senile. But even if he is returned to his former position as the head of the Gods, can it reverse the inevitable mental transformation that took place when Isis stripped him of his power and Kingship?

I personally, hoped it would happen, but suspected it wouldn't. Ra's senile ramblings actually do make a bit of sense at the end, but wouyld you trust a senile God to lead the rest of the Gods in battle? Horus tries to convince Carter to abandon his plan and let Horus lead the Gods, but Apophis is such a threat that Carter doesn't know if the Power and Might of Horus will be enough. And this time they have allies. Not just Zia and Walt and Bast, but Bes himself joins Carter and Sadie on their journey. But can even Gods survive the trip through the underworld, and the destruction of their mental faculties?

And yet again, we find the Egyptian magicians fighting on the wrong side of the battle, and against Carter and Sadie. Though they manage to end the problem of Vlad Menshikov, they also lose an unexpected ally, and the new lector of the magicians may not be able to support them as fully as he likes because of the perception that the Kanes want to take over the Magicians and pervert them to the will of the Kanes, whose motives are suspect. This was a taut, suspenseful and well-plotted book that made the story exciting and almost real.

Rick Riordan's books are one of the best series for kids I have ever read. And the fact that he's writing these while also extending and filling out the Percy Jackson series is amazing and I would find it hard to write two such series, about two so very different pantheons, simultaneously. If you haven't checked out these books and this author, do so now. You will not be disappointed in any way. Highly recommended for all ages who love a cracking good adventure story. Read them now.

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