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Yesterday's review.

The second of Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles continues to be a pleasant and erudite ramble through Egyptian mythology in the same way the Percy Jackson series is for the Greek. I think the Kane books are aimed one notch up in age of audience; they certainly have more factions and more complex motivations for the primary villains.

However, in basic outline, this is of course Egyptian mythology's Greatest Hits. Last book we had the Horus/Osiris/Isis story; this time we get the journey of Ra through the underworld in the boat of the sun-- well, not precisely the journey of Ra, but the journey of Sadie Kane and her brother Carter to try to get Ra back into the cosmic driver's seat so that there's a chance of defeating the evil chaos snake Apophis. Sadie and Carter have on occasion been possessed by Isis and Horus, which means that the human magicians who ought to be their greatest allies against Apophis don't trust them, because it is not reasonable to trust gods as far as you can throw them. (Very sensible.) This is a world in which it's plausible for everyone to be against the protagonists, even the factions which are actually on the side of good, and I appreciate the complexity of the various sides' motivations, which are thoroughly tangled but also expressed clearly and without confusion.

I think Riordan is generally improving as he goes; the Percy Jackson books got better as the series progressed, with the first book of series two being definitely his best so far, and the writing of the Kane books is at about that level. The major issue I have here is that the Egyptian stuff is sticking to the Greatest Hits, that I could predict the exact plot of the endgame of this book at fifty paces and the general outlines by reading the title. He did a lot better at making the Greeks surprising-- there are some references in those that are genuinely obscure. I get the feeling Egypt is not his primary field.

But this continues Riordan's wise-cracking voice, fast-paced action scenes, and ability to deliver good execution of the scenes you can see coming ten miles away, so it's completely readable and I'm sure I'll pick up the next. It just... well, if you'll forgive me, Throne of Fire never quite ignites.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
I expected the Percy Jackson books to be terrible, back when I picked the first one up. One of my majors was Greek religion, so I figured my reaction would be 'kill it with fire'. I was so amazed that that turned out not to be the case that the momentum carried me through the entire series.

They're not great books-- they have some major pacing issues, a couple of which serve to make the author look as though he is being stupid for fairly long stretches of time (he isn't, but one shouldn't have to spend a book and a half thinking he is), and they read very much as the work of a writer who has not, as yet, quite figured out exactly the tone and voice he is aiming for and who consequently wavers back and forth a bit. But they hold together much, much better than I had thought possible and I think they do pretty much what they were setting out to do, so I picked up the first book of the sequel series.

The first thing I noticed is that Riordan has definitely found himself. This is just simply better writing. It is also, and I do not think this is coincidental, one age group notch up from the previous. I think it suits him better, as I suspect that part of the tonal wavering was an inability to figure out the exact sophistication level of the group he was first aiming at. This is now solidly older teen: good call.

The second thing I noticed is that he has turned something which could have been a major structural problem for this series into a significant asset-- has used the introduction of a whole bunch of new characters in a very clever way to establish the series as something that can be read independently of the previous. He actually hit that rare sweet spot between 'the previous characters are cameos' and 'you can't read this without knowing who these people are'.

Also, he's using the opportunity to complexify his worldbuilding immensely. He's got the first book out of yet a third series, about Egyptian mythology, and it's fairly obvious it takes place in the same world as these two; the structure he's building here is internally self-consistent and, while really pretty obvious, fun.

He has not as yet fucked up anything mythological in this series but he has gotten to things about which I care even more and is consequently on probation until the dismount. ([profile] seishonagon? Have you bought this yet? This series is clearly For You.)

There are still major pacing issues, he's still heavily into tell-not-show, and I can still predict every major plot twist from more than two hundred pages in advance blindfolded while thinking about something else. But it's quite superior beach reading, and if he keeps improving like this, it may eventually have the potential to be something more than that.


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March 2017

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