Book Review: “The Serpent’s Shadow” by Rick Riordan

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The third and (for now) final book in the Kane Chronicles begins with an apology “for any inconvenience the end of the world may have caused you.” As the story unfolds, narrated alternately by siblings Carter and Sadie Kane, you’ll become increasingly inclined to accept their apology. Some catastrophes are really hard to prevent. And though the young Kanes often feel responsible even for things that are out of their control, they are finally ready to save the world, once and for all, from the ancient Egyptian serpent-god Apophis and the chaos he represents.

Naturally, they have only a few short days to get ready. Another equinox is coming up, an auspicious time for Apophis to make another attempt to tip the balance between Ma’at (order, harmony) and Isfet (chaos). The only idea that could possibly save the world sounds crazy. They need to learn a lot more about it before they can even try it. But Apophis has destroyed every copy of the magical scroll that explains it—copies of the Book of Thoth that were annotated by an evil magician named Setne in the time of Ramses the Great. Thoth himself can only help them so much, being pinned down by enemy forces in an abandoned sports arena that happens to be shaped like a pyramid. Finally they have no choice but to visit the Underworld and intercede before their Dad, who is also the god Osiris, in the trial of Setne’s ghost. Once they have Setne in their custody, it’s simply a matter of tracking down the original Book of Thoth (also containing Setne’s notes), finding and capturing Apophis’s shadow, and saying the spell to banish Apophis from the mortal world right into his face.

Like that isn’t going to complicated at all.

The first wrinkle in this smooth plan is the fact that Setne is not to be trusted. More slippery than ectoplasm, he has a record of turning the tables on everyone who captures him and killing them. Then there are the dangerous places their quest leads them, including a tomb loaded with curses and traps, a riverboat whose otherworldly crew is just looking for an excuse to turn on their masters, and a land of demons whose shore is rapidly crumbling into the sea of chaos. They face a hunting goddess who has marked them as her prey, a faction within the House of Life that would rather let Apophis win than follow the Kanes, and all kinds of giant monsters that want to eat them for lunch. All this while Carter is distracted by his girlfriend’s struggle to bring back the senile sun-god Ra, and Sadie has to watch time run out for her dying boyfriend Walt, and their chances to save the world depend on whether the magic they have learned can bring their ugly dwarf-god friend Bes back from oblivion, and many more emotionally confusing issues. When the fate of the world depends on two teens getting their heads around all this and more, you may well tremble, duck and cover, and wonder whether their opening apology will really cover it.

With this book, the author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series does more than successfully tie up a trilogy about present-day kids taking on ancient Egyptian mythology. He also ties it in with his other series, in which he does the same thing for Greek and Roman myths. He does it with an entertaining blend of smart-mouthed attitude, comic relief, kid-friendly romance, and enough action and special effects to fill a summer blockbuster. Along the way he sneakily teaches us a lot that we didn’t know about the gods and magic of ancient Egypt. And he paves the way for a new series of crossover novels featuring characters from both the Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles. Their titles, to date, include The Son of Sobek and The Staff of Serapis.

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Rick Riordan’s Website
Recommended Ages: 12+

This book was excellent! I highly recommend this book – buy it now!
This book was excellent! I highly recommend this book – buy it now!