The Serpent’s Shadow, a Review

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.  DON’T READ PAST HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK NAMED IN THE TITLE.  I REALLY MEAN IT.

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Anyone still there?  Good.

This is a book review for The Serpent’s Shadow, by Rick Riordan.  Brief summary:

Carter and Sadie Kane have the irrational urge to stop the world from ending.  They succeed.

Okey-dokey.  On with the review, shall we?

The first thing I’d like to talk about is this: I know Riordan’s fatal flaw.  Well, it isn’t that fatal, really.  The flaw is that he doesn’t have originality when it comes to concepts.  He is quite original– the driving force behind his humor and characters– but when you look at the concepts, they’ve been borrowed.  Of course, when you’re writing books about Greek, Roman and Egyptian myths, you’re going to use concepts from said myths.  But I believe that Rick Riordan doesn’t have the originality to think up concepts without the help of those myths.  It is true that ancient mythology is such great stuff because the people making it up didn’t have any physical laws or theories that they would be forced to refute, such as shadows being made from the dearth of light, or the sun circling a spherical earth instead of going through an underground tunnel/river/washing machine at night.  Since the ancients had no logical explanations for natural phenomena, they made stuff up.  That makes myths the best fantasies there are.  But a great fantasy writer can be defined as one who can make up concepts that fit in with the natural world as we know it.  That’s why I like authors such as Chris D’Lacey, TV shows like Fringe; they all have concepts that are mind-boggling, yet slightly plausible.  (Of course, you can always refute the theories if you think hard enough, but who wants to do that?)  I believe that though Riordan is a great author, he borrows a little too much.  This might be hypocritical, but that being said, I would be perfectly fine if Riordan borrowed random concepts from ancient mythology and incorporated them into his own, original works.  But when the storyline, the confict, and the antagonists are all borrowed straight out of a mythology textbook, it gets a little bit tiresome.  Take PJ+O, for example.  Kronos is the bad guy in both ancient and modern times.  Percy Jackson runs around doing all of Hercules’s tasks for the second time, as well as countless other Grecian heroes’ tasks.  Yes, there are a couple of things that you couldn’t find in Watered-Down Greek Myths for Children, but they are still taken straight from the ancients.  All Rick Riordan has to do is modernize it all and stick a few jokes in, and voila! a New York Times’ #1 bestseller!  It’s like making Instant Mashed Potatoes instead of the real thing.  (Personally, I rather like Instant Mashed Potatoes, but we’ll let that go.)  He’s shooting out “just-add-water” books, which can explain why he can write so many in such a short time.

Now for some better stuff.  That rant up there was based mainly on the fact that I have almost nothing bad to say about the book.  That paragraph was written just for the sake of being balanced.

The humor level was, as always, fantastic.  Anywhere from chapter headings (“Sadie Rides Shotgun.  Worst.  Idea.  Ever.”) to the main characters’ thoughts (“Walt, when did you become a junior lawyer?”) to the gods’ personalities (Hapi, Bes, Disturber, Hot Foot, senile Ra…  Need I go on?), it was all brilliantly written.  There was hardly a page where I wasn’t laughing.

The conspiracy theories are another Riordan trademark.  Setne assassinating Archduke Ferdinand in “self-defense” was a big one.  They were more prevalent in PJ+O and HoO, but nevertheless.  It wouldn’t be Riordan without the conspiracy theories.

Plot twists.  The author manipulates the characters and situations into massive surprises.  Riordan’s solution for the love triangle was the best I’ve seen yet: just make the two guys the same person.  No big deal.  Of course, he’ll be schizophrenic ever after, but it’s a small price to pay for a happily ever after.  Wait…  Happily ever after?  With the Kanes?  No way!  *starts singing Magic School Bus theme song*

I was surprised at the fact that Riordan left the door open for Greeks, Romans and Egyptians to merge together.  Yes, there was the pegasus sighting over NYC in book one, but I didn’t expect more than that.  I’m still trying to decide if I like the idea or not.  Also, he enabled himself to continue the series by looking for Setne.  I was under the impression that the Kane Chronicles was a trilogy, but at least the name allows for more than three books.  He won’t have to change it to “The Kane Cycle“, like one author I could mention.  (I mean, why do you call it a cycle if it just goes one way?  There was a beginning… and there was an end.  That doesn’t sound much like a cycle.)

I think I’m done with my review.  What did you think?

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6 Comments

  1. Charley R

     /  May 5, 2012

    Hmm, I’ve never been the biggest Riordan fan, but I do love me some Egyptian myths … and funnies. I canne survive without me funnies.

    Also, finally got around to following the blog – meant to do it sooner, but was too often distracted. By things that shouldn’t really be distracting.

    Anyway …. onto stalkify more of the blog, I say!

    Reply
  2. A cycle is a book series with four books – essentially a trilogy plus one. So the Inheritance Cycle is called that not because it’s like a cycle (that would be Book Ends) but rather because it has four books.

    Reply
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