Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Review: The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan

Anything Riordan publishes, you should read. Rick Riordan is an extremely talented YA author who, without a doubt, is the only author I know who can successfully write about something so educational and so unique, and who does it not only with talent, wit, and his own creative touch, but who is accurate.

While I am a fan of the Percy Jackson series more than The Kane Chronicles, I did enjoy this latest installment from the series. The cover art might also be my favourite out of all of Riordan's books. I love the colours and the way the whole image is balanced on the white obelisk. The importance of the obelisk is actually perfectly portrayed in this image. The obelisk finally makes an appearance toward the end of the book, when Chaos is close to devouring Ma'at (essentially Good/Light for those of you who have not read the books/know little of Egyptian mythology). The obelisk appears at the point of the book when the darkness is at its most threatening, but its white light is still there, glowing with power. It's size and the use of white space here is just perfect. I find it isn't often that the cover art truly exemplifies the plot, so I am truly impressed by the artist.

This book is again written in the alternating narrative of Carter and Sadie, using wit and playful banter between the siblings as comic relief from the intense, action-driven plot. Children heroes save the day in the end, including some wild and talented Kindergartens (lovingly referred to as ankle-biters, much to my amusement). Although I am certainly not buying into the idea the parents of these five-year-olds were totally fine with leaving their children at a house to train with magic and fight a war, the idea is nice. The story empowers children, like many YA series. The idea of empowerment is a nice one, so I won't judge too harshly.

The Serpant's Shadow is essentially about the final fight of good and evil: between mortals/magicians/gods/goddesses/The House of Life and Apophis, a giant snake who intends to plunge the world into nothing by devouring the sun and ending the rule of the gods. Much like The Last Olympian, the book ends with an exciting and nail-biting final battle between a titanic evil and good.

I think it's also interesting to note that a lot of Sadie's narrative includes a love triangle. This love triangle is complicated and resolved in an interesting way that might give Twilight's human-vampire-werewolf's love triangle resolution a run for its money. Sadie is in love with a magician named Walt who is slowly dying of an ancient and inescapable curse. Sadie also loves Anubis, a god of the underworld. Sadie's relationship with Walt is complicated by time and his illness, and her relationship with Anubis is complicated by the probability of his being a god. The resolution of this love triangle--which I won't spoil in this review--is very interesting and very weird. Personally, I'm not sure what to make of the resolution. I think I might prefer my werewolf-love-interest falls in love with my half-human, half-vampire baby.

Riordan handles the subject of pre-teen love very well, though. Parents can be assured that the relationships are rated 'G' and is tastefully done to hook the reader into the romance, while keeping in mind that this is a YA book and its primary genre without sliding into the teen romance classification.

The book is full of mythology and in typical Riordan-fashion, the gods and creatures are given distinct and realistic personalities so that this book is not only a fun, exciting read, but also educational. Isis and Horus are a little petulant at times, but one could argue the gods are vain and immature in the myths, too.

The book had me turning pages, eager for the final battle of the Kanes and Apophis. Friendly faces from The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire make appearances in The Serpant's Shadow, and there is plenty of running, destruction, and end-of-the-world drama. The inclusion of Egyptian hieroglyphs make frequent appearances and readers can definitely walk away with a sense that they know more about Egyptian mythology. This book brings to life a lot of the Egyptian history children learn about in elementary school, including names like Ramses and Tut, but also the Egyptian gods, both minor and major.

All in all, a wonderful read and a great series for parents to give their kids who are able to handle the novel. Scholastic has the paperback edition this September, so order your copy through their Book Clubs flyers for great prices and many other great reads!

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