The Serpent’s Shadow

Spoiler alert!  If you haven’t read The Red Pyramid or The Throne of Fire, turn back now!  If you don’t want to know what happens in the third book of Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, The Serpent’s Shadow, turn back now!  This will be your only warning.

Normal is not a word that the Carter and Sadie Kane are familiar with.  They are magicians descended from Egyptian pharaohs, and they often communicate and take on the forms of Horus and Isis, gods of ancient Egypt.  They run a school for young magicians out of their house in Brooklyn, their dad is Osiris (god of the afterlife), and their mom is a ghost.  Sadie has feelings for two different guys:  Walt, a descendent of King Tut who is cursed with a very short lifespan; and Anubis, god of the dead who tends to take on the form of a really attractive teenage boy.  Carter is enamored of a fellow magician, Zia, who spends most of her time babysitting Ra, a senile sun god.

As if life is not abnormal enough, add in a god of chaos, Apophis, who wants to swallow the sun and destroy the entire world.  The incredibly ginormous job of stopping him falls to Carter and Sadie and their merry band of misfits.  It’s up to them to unite magicians and gods in fighting Apophis and his minions, but how can they possibly destroy something so huge, terrifying, and powerful?  Well, they may have found a way, but it involves trusting an evil psychopath (not usually a smart move) and risking their own lives (also not preferable).  Carter and Sadie will have to face unbelievable horrors to save the world, and it still might not be enough.

Can the Kanes defeat the god of chaos without losing themselves?  Can they save those they love in the process?  Is there any hope for a normal life if their longshot of a plan actually works?  Probably not, but they have to try.  In a world that is falling into chaos, it’s up to two teenagers to restore order.  (I was laughing as I wrote that last bit.)  Read The Serpent’s Shadow to find out if their completely crazy heroic quest saves the world or destroys it forever.

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Liesl & Po

All sunshine has gone out of the world.  Life is dull and gray for everyone, especially two children, Liesl and Will, who want nothing more than the hope that things will get better…

Liesl spends her days and nights trapped in an attic by her vile stepmother. Her father passed away three days ago, and Liesl feels more alone than ever before. That’s about to change, though. When a ghost named Po–and his ghost pet Bundle–begin to visit Liesl from the Other Side, she doesn’t feel quite so alone. She even begins to hope that her life can change a little and that she can even find some way to reconnect with her father.

Will is an apprentice to an alchemist. He spends his days doing errands, assisting with potions, and never getting anything right. (He’s beginning to think his name is really “Useless.”) The only bright spot in Will’s life is looking at the girl in the attic window and wondering what it would be like if they were to ever meet. As fate would have it, he is about to find out…

When Will mistakenly switches a box full of powerful magic with the box that contains Liesl’s father’s ashes, forces collide that take Liesl, Po, Bundle, and Will on a path that will lead them to each other.  They will fight against evil, cruelty, loss, sadness, and some misunderstandings to get to something better than what they’ve known.  In the process, they will discover friendships that cross the boundary of death.  They may even find a way to make the world a brighter place for everyone.  After all, when magic and hope are involved, anything is possible.

Torn

Warning!  Torn is the fourth book in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s The Missing series.  To have any hope of understanding this book, you need to read the first three:  Found, Sent, and Sabotaged

In this series, Haddix combines elements of historical fiction and time travel.  In essence, the series revolves around the missing children from history and the struggle to return them to their places and “fix time.”  We were introduced to this story line in Found; in Sent, we traveled to England in the time of Richard III; in Sabotaged, we journeyed to the lost Jamestown colony with Virginia Dare; and in Torn, we make our way to the icy waters around northern Canada with the notable explorer Henry Hudson.

Like the previous books, Jonah and Katherine are trying to fix time and get back home.  This time, Jonah must pretend to be John Hudson, Henry’s son, and Katherine has to become invisible.  After all, they’re aboard a ship filled with less-than-pleasant sailors, and a girl on the ship would be considered odd, to say the least.  As Jonah and Katherine struggle to make sense of things in 1611, they’re also trying to figure out why and how time is being manipulated in the first place.  Can they fix things in this time, rescue their friends stuck in 1600, and return home without making a total mess of things?  I’ll leave that for you to figure out when you read Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

If you like mysteries, time travel, and historical fiction, you might want to give The Missing series a try.  For more information on the series and author Margaret Peterson Haddix, visit http://www.haddixbooks.com/home.html.

The Throne of Fire

If you haven’t read The Red Pyramid, turn back now!  You’ve been warned!

Carter and Sadie Kane can’t just have a normal life.  It’s not enough that they’re descended from pharoahs, or learning to harness their skills as magicians, or teaching others like them to do the same.  On top of all this, they’ve got to find a way to prevent Apophis, the god of chaos, from rising while trying to find the Book of Ra so that the sun god can rise and help them to defeat the forces of chaos threatening to take over the world.  Easy-peasy, right?  Um, not so much.  As usual, things don’t exactly go quite as well as the Kane family would like.

Carter and Sadie are encountering new and unexpected things in their latest adventures:  girl trouble (for Carter), boy trouble (for Sadie), two gods taking over the forms of their grandparents, an unbelievably ugly–but helpful–dwarf god, a bad Russian magician lovingly called Vlad the Inhaler (he has some respiratory issues), and a bunch of gods, goddesses, mummies, and magicians who seem to want the Kanes dead.  It wouldn’t be so bad if all of this wasn’t interfering with their search for Ra.  (Did I mention that they have absolutely no idea where Ra is or what condition he might be in when/if they find him?  No?  Well, now you know.)

Things aren’t looking good for Carter and Sadie and their fight to restore order to the world.  Chaos is breaking free, and it will take immense strength and a fair bit of sacrifice to prevent Apophis from destroying everything.  Are Carter and Sadie up to the task?  What–or who–will they have to give up this time to win the battle before them?  And will it be enough to strike a blow in the war that is coming?  The answers are never easy, but you can discover them yourself when you read The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan.

The Red Pyramid

In The Red Pyramid, we meet estranged siblings Carter and Sadie Kane.  When their mother died, the siblings were split up.  Carter traveled the world with their archaeologist father while Sadie lived with their maternal grandparents in London.  This Christmas, though, the brother and sister will be reunited for what they think will be an uneventful holiday with their father.  They could not be more wrong.  And it all starts when they blow up the British Museum.

As you can imagine, an explosion in a popular museum is a pretty big deal.  It’s an even bigger deal when the explosion causes your dad to be imprisoned in a sarcophagus and several gods to be released into the world.  It seems that dear old Dad was up to something, and it’s up to Carter and Sadie to figure out what’s going on and set things right before the world devolves into complete chaos.  But how?  How can two kids who barely know each other unite to stop Set, one of the gods who was released, from destroying all of North America?

Well, Carter and Sadie aren’t exactly normal kids (as you may have guessed).  They are descended from pharaohs, and have the potential to be very, very powerful, especially when it becomes clear that a couple of Egyptian deities have taken up residence in their heads.  Carter and Sadie are also being assisted by their Uncle Amos (who may or may not be on their side), the cat goddess, Bast (who Sadie always knew as Muffin, a beloved pet), a magical baboon named Khufu, an albino alligator called Philip of Macedonia, and a few gods, goddesses, and magicians that have agendas of their own.

Carter and Sadie must stop Set from completing construction on his red pyramid before sunrise on Set’s birthday.  If they don’t, the pyramid will become a magical force that will ensure the spread of chaos and desolation across the continent and eventually all over the world.  Can Carter and Sadie, two kids with very limited knowledge of their magical heritage, possibly defeat such a powerful force?  What sacrifices will they have to make to even the odds?  Will Carter and Sadie (and their lovely assistants) be able to restore balance to the world, or will chaos reign forever?  Read The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan to find out!

I truly enjoyed how Riordan melded the modern world to Ancient Egypt in this book.  It was interesting to read about how the Egyptian belief system evolved, and devolved, over time and how Carter and Sadie were charged with restoring it to its former glory.  I appreciated how many of the gods and goddesses were viewed as neither good nor bad.  Each being had both flaws and redeeming qualities.  Additionally, I liked how Carter and Sadie grew closer together throughout the book.  They were at their most powerful when they were united.  I also loved the subtle allusion to the events in the Percy Jackson series at the beginning of the book.  (It’s one of those blink-and-you-miss-it kind of things, so be on the lookout.)

As I’m sure you probably know, The Red Pyramid is the first book in a series, The Kane Chronicles.  The second book, The Throne of Fire, is already out.  The third book in the series is scheduled for a spring 2012 release.  If you’d like more information on this series or author Rick Riordan, visit http://www.rickriordan.com/my-books/kane-chronicles.aspx.  Have fun!