The Red Pyramid

47-coverAn adaptation of the popular book of the same title by Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid follows teenaged siblings Carter and Sadie Kane as they struggle to avert an Ancient Egypt-flavored apocalypse.

Carter and Sadie’s mother died when they were children, and the two were separated — Carter traveled with their father, a renowned Egyptologist, while Sadie lived with their grandparents in England. But tonight their father takes the teens for a visit to the British Museum that ends with the Rosetta Stone exploding, their father disappearing, and Egyptian gods unleashed on the world. Carter and Sadie are soon on the run, discovering an uncle they’d never met, a (supposedly) safe house in Brooklyn, and their own magical powers. They have five days to stop Set, the Big Bad of ancient Egypt, from dissolving North America into chaos (followed, presumably, by the rest of the world). Carter and Sadie aren’t alone — they have their uncle, the cat goddess Bast (until recently known only as Sadie’s cat, Muffin), and a renegade magician from the House of Life, an Egyptian order of magic users. But Set wasn’t the only thing awakened at the museum and even the children’s allies aren’t all what they seem.

Having read the text version of The Red Pyramid, I would call this a pretty good adaptation. The characters look much the way they’re described, down to hairstyles and skin tones. A lot of the book’s content is incorporated, but it doesn’t feel crammed in or out of place, and the necessary context to understand it is mostly intact. Every once in awhile, a reader who is not familiar with the original book or with Egyptian mythology might stumble (exactly what a shabti is and does, for example, isn’t made all that clear, despite the fact that shabti appear several times, sometimes in important roles). Still, most of the plotlines are present and comprehensible, and there are some nice hints of others that readers of the original book will likely catch. (There is other cleverness worked into the pictures, as when the characters pass a pizzeria called Riordano’s.)

The original book alternates between Carter’s and Sadie’s points of view and uses a framing device wherein the book is supposedly an audio recording left for other super-powered teens to find and use. The graphic novel version dispenses with the latter device, but adapts the former by giving pieces of narration in text boxes with different colored outlines: blue for Carter, orange for Sadie. This works well, as their voices and viewpoints are pretty distinct, and it’s nice to have both preserved.

The artwork is a beautiful, soft, painted style, which is a little unexpected in a book so full of action, where one might expect more crisp lines and comic-book effects. Facial expressions are occasionally a little wooden or off, but the mythical beasts and gods are wonderfully done, as are scenes that I had imagined would be difficult to illustrate (the animation of the sky itself into the sky goddess Nut, for example). And many of the Egyptian-style demons — like Bloodstained Blade, the ship’s captain with a battleax blade for a head — were so vividly described in the original book as to beg for illustration, which does not disappoint.

The protagonists are both young teens and there is no sexual content, just a little flirtation between Carter and Zia and between Sadie and Anubis. The violence is frequent but not graphic, the tone a good match for that of the book it is adapting. Fans of the original may snap this up in part just to see the wacky demons and other unusual creatures in glorious full color. Those who do may be impressed at how well the story, too, is conveyed.

The Red Pyramid
by Rick Riordan
Art and Adaptation by Orpheus Collar
ISBN: 9781423150688
Disney Hyperion Books, 2012

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