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Book Review: The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan

The Serpent's Shadow cover imageSo, when I reviewed the first two books of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, I promised you a review of The Serpent’s Shadow, the third and final book in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles(1). I’m happy to say that it is a satisfactory finish to the excellent trilogy that ties the current plotlines up well and leaves the possibility (but not the necessity) of further books featuring the Kane siblings.

In between The Throne of Fire and the beginning of The Serpent’s Shadow, things have been getting increasingly serious. The nomes (various wizard family/bases) are still fighting among themselves rather than facing the real threat from Apophis, the chaos serpent. Some may even be in league with him. Apophis, in the mean time, has taken time out from universal destruction to start attacking different nomes, apparently in order to destroy copies of one particular book. Sadie and Kane don’t know why, but, naturally, his interest provokes theirs and they race for the final copy. Closer to home, Walt, one of their students and friends is still dying, another friend has lost his soul helping them, and Ra, the sun god they went to so much trouble to rescue, is still a senile old man, worse than no help in the upcoming battle.

As with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, Riordan ramps up the tension as the series goes on, confronting his heroes with greater and greater threats. As with the two Olympian series, the increase in danger is believable–there are reasons why the opposition cannot gather all its strength at once and comes in different times in different forms. The cost also increases, though I think the Kane Chronicles is the less dark of the two: The heroes do pay for their victory, but the cost isn’t quite as high as in the Percy Jackson books. In any case, they do make for a sharp, enjoyable read.

One of the things that makes this series work so well is pairing Carter and Sadie as narrators. They have distinctive voices and viewpoints, and their relationship as siblings is well portrayed. They are building a family as they fight chaos, getting to know one another and drawing others, students, to them, and the tensions and difficulties are well-portrayed. Their bickering is affectionate; irritation is genuine but so is affection, and the balance between the two is among the best I have seen in print.

I have found myself wondering, though, if Riordan didn’t initially intend to portray them as twins: Sadie does not seem any younger than Carter. It isn’t really of much importance as people do develop differently, and it is believable, given their backgrounds, that Sadie is the more worldly-wise of the two, it is simply one of those things one wonders(2), from time to time.

Highly recommended.

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(1) Confession time: The library didn’t take <i>quite</i> all this time to get the book to me. I just read other books in between.
(2) Or at least this one.

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