Sunday, 1 July 2012

Review: The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan (Kane Chronicles)

Carter and Sadie Kane, descendants of the magical House of Life, are in pretty big trouble.

Despite their bravest efforts, Apophis, the giant snake of Chaos, is still threatening to plunge the world into eternal darkness. Now the Kanes must do something no magician has ever managed - defeat Apophis himself. No pressure there then.

Battling against the forces of Chaos, their only hope is an ancient spell - but the magic has been lost for a millennia. Will they find the serpent's shadow, or will they be led to their deaths in the depths of the Underworld?

I find that last in trilogy/series books are always the hardest to review, as it is difficult to say much about the story without giving away key plot points from earlier books in the series. As I was reading The Serpent's Shadow, the final book in Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles trilogy, I was making my customary reviewer notes as I went along, but now looking at them I still can't see much that won't spoil things for readers who are yet to discover this series. I think that I am therefore going to have to resort to my occasionally used cop-out of using bullet points to highlight some of key aspects of this book.
  • It has everything we have come to expect from Rick Riordan, with a story that races along and is filled with some of the best action sequences that he has written.
  • It will make kids laugh out loud in places. This series is aimed at a slightly younger audience that his Percy Jackson series, and Riordan uses humour a lot more to lighten some of the darkest moments, as this is a fantasy story and not a horror story (even though some of them Egyptian gods can be pretty horrific at times). The growing relationship between the Kane siblings, who have spent most of their lives apart, has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of these books for me, and the banter between them is perfect, as is the dialogue between them and their godly friends.
  • The characters. Not just Carter and Sadie, but also Walt, Zia Rashid, Bast, Anubis... I could go on and on. In this final instalment Riordan fleshes out some of his supporting cast who up until now had seemed a little two-dimensional, and shows that they are not just there to background figures, but that they too also have a key part to play if Apophis is to be prevented from bringing ultimate chaos to the world.
  • In this final book Rick Riordan answers all the questions that have built in readers' minds over the earlier instalments. And let's face it, at the end of The Throne of Fire I think we had lots of questions that needed answers. In the end, the answers to some of those questions can be seen coming pages and pages before the end, but Rick Riordan also deftly throws in a handful of twists that will have young jaws hitting the ground.
  • I have to mention the Egyptian gods. Again, Rick Riordan has done his research, and we are introduced to even more of the lesser-known ancient deities. I know from experience that some children have found the number of gods in these books a little confusing at times, so I would suggest that any reader who struggles with this (like I did at times) should keep a little notebook handy, with a page for each god. I notice that later this year Puffin are due to release The Kane Chronicles: Survival Guide and I imagine that this might become a very useful addition to the series.
Long time readers of The Book Zone may remember that I was less than impressed with The Red Pyramid, the first book in this trilogy as I felt that it was nowhere near as strong as his Percy Jackson books. Rick Riordan then won me over with the sequel and he has maintained this with this strong finale. Before I sign off on this review though I would like to mention that at the end of the book there are a few hints that will have Rick Riordan fans screaming OMG at the top of their voices. I'm not talking about the way he leaves things open for another series featuring Carter and Sadie Kane, but more of the way he hints that there might be some cross-over coming with another certain world he has created. On the final page of the book, narrated by Sadie, we are teased by the following: "In the meantime, there are still hotspots of evil magic and demon activity all over the world that we have to take care of. We've even got reports of unexplainable magic as close as Long Island. Probably have to check that out." And surely I'm not the only one who thinks that Anubis and Nico (from Heroes of Olympus) are just too similar for it to be a coincidence?


  1. This book was excellent. It kept you guessing and you can't put it down. The twists and turns had me on the edge of my seat. I love this author and his works. He never fails.

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