Skip to main content

SERIES REVIEW: THE KANE CHRONICLES


First Published in Daily Times (Pakistan) / 07 July 2013 under the title 'Walk Like an Egyptian...god'
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

When ancients get their marching orders, it comes with an unexpected makeover. When Rick Riordan dabbles in mythology, it comes with some expected upgrades. The Heroes of Olympus, spin off to Percy Jackson and the Olympians series awakened both Roman and Greek gods for a few rounds of ‘mortal’ combat. Things happened. During the brief intermission, he rolled out a fresh set of gods, tracked down more heroes and stumbled upon a shiny new quest. The Kane Chronicles is bound for the land of Pharaohs with a brother, sister duo in tow who are descendent from an ancient line and have an Egyptologist for a father. One “lives out of a suitcase” and the other is “British.” And then they discover their true lineage and hearing voices in their collective heads becomes part of the Kane package.

Eastern mythology crackles with the same feverish energy witnessed earlier in the Greek/Roman universe that lies not too far from Brooklyn House, safe haven for this particular merry band of misfits. Never seen before deities leap out of the shadows, celebrated gods reclaim the limelight and because this is Egypt, magicians emerge from the woodworks.

Sadie and Carter Kane always seem to be on some deadline, like their counterparts in Manhattan, and must work on an ultra-steep learning curve. Egypt, best known for its preserved kings and perhaps some ‘Cold Bepsi’, naturally figures in these escapades but since the siblings have been raised apart (on differing continents), both the UK and the US can be their home away from home.

A Riordan adventure is typically sponsored by the usual brand of courage, sacrifice, honour and loyalty, and unleashing elaborate sequences of death and destruction and freelancing baddies to keep our heroes on their toes is the norm. Its modern settings notwithstanding, magic becomes the centerpiece, leaving magicians’ time to argue over the implications, political or otherwise, of hosting flighty gods. A dash of absurdity livens up the skyline. With Armageddon knocking at the gates, onlookers can always do with some levity.

Despite the similar sounding outlines, high velocity arcs and ridiculously high stakes, the multi-ethnic contours of this world add some texture to the narrative and allow thinly veiled ghosts of racial discrimination to rise to the fore. The series is supposedly a collection of recordings thoughtfully transcribed by the author and both Sadie and Carter’s perspectives come in play. Also, deities sporting a ‘Made in Egypt’ label come in stronger flavors and richer contrasts. Where Greek and Roman gods have alternating aspects, Isis and Horus can truly add “it is very, very complicated” to their status. They can be siblings, off-springs or a couple depending upon the time of the day; the convoluted family tree is carefully sorted out in The Red Pyramid before readers proceed any further. An expedition to their old stomping grounds renews old cycles, building new citadels upon a foundation of forgotten legends and ancient battles reignite the simmering tensions between Kanes and their nemesis. Their charming little realm refines reality, the ability to see both aspects of a person, here and in the Duat (Underworld, Egyptian style), for instance, which has been brilliantly rendered in striking detail.

The chronicles are furnished by same casual irreverence that marked previous mythologies giving Kane-ville an interesting edge with its compelling storytelling and historic dimensions. Each book wraps up the loose ends within the allotted time frame putting off the ‘evil vanquishing part’ for the grand finale. In Book III, Riordan cleverly ties in the Arab Spring with his mythical vision subtly binding both worlds in matching shades of chaos. A legion of endearing characters does join the crusade in Book II, a few get sidelined, however, and feel like window dressing to the quest. The Kanes happily bicker in the voice-over but this constant switching between viewpoints of a 12 and 14-year-old can be tad disorienting. It takes a while to get acclimatised to the Kane universe, their magical heritage, professed destiny and whirlwind itinerary. They get their divine powers from bloodlines and possession and not, as is the case with Olympus, godly parentage, which tends to leave strange side-effects.

Demigod followers might experience a slight drag in Book I; tedium threatens to set in during some chase sequences but the cunningly laid out trail of breadcrumbs linking The Throne of Fire together with The Serpent’s Shadow is too enticing to ignore. Riordan, who retains his number one The New York Times bestselling author crown may not be done with the new recruits. The trilogy spells an end for their quest and though the ominous words on the first page marks it as the last recording, readers could be in for another round of mayhem. Egypt’s path will not cross with Greek/Roman Empire yet, though there are tantalising glimpses of Percy’s world visible in the background. They may be fleeting but these ‘missed connections’ could potentially lead to something bigger. Should that ever happen, having a multi-cultural anti- rogue demon/monster/god fighting force in the arsenal could ‘up the ante’. In May 2013, the much anticipated Carter/Percy crossover finally took place in The Son of Sobek, a short story added to the final book as a bonus feature. Those who have mastered all three mythologies can now ruminate on the possibilities of an alliance between east and the west. Stranger things have happened. The Kane Chronicles brews up an old fashioned blend of exotic sights and amusing scenery and invites the mortal world over for a long overdue reunion. As Sadie might say, “What can possibly go wrong?

Genre: Fantasy novel

Publisher: Disney Hyperion and Puffin Books: 2010-2012

Image from Rick Riordan's Press kit (website)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

BOOK REVIEW: Thinner Than Skin

Published inDaily Times (Pakistan) / 23 Feb 2013
Author: Uzma Aslam Khan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of critically acclaimed, award winning books like Trespassing and Geometry of God. Her new novel, 'Thinner than Skin' goes off the beaten track for inspiration. A realm built upon incomprehensible layers of intrigue, violence, fairytales and legends provides the stage. People foraging for a lifeline become the props. And the inevitable soundtrack of radicalism now coursing through every fibre sets Pakistan’s modern heart to an ancient beat.

It is these paradoxes that bring its US-based protagonist, Nadir, along with a German-Pakistani girl, Farhana, on a trek from northern California to the Kaghan Valley. Wesley — the American in the background — is drawn to the mating glacier ritual, which is an actual thing. And their trusty ally/guide Irfan charts the course to their path of self-discovery past majestic mountains and ice encrusted lakes.

Their quest …

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace? (2006)

Written many moons ago when i was an Asst. Ed with Social Pages.

Published in Defence Journal September 2006

Republished in PROBENEWS(2006)


Legend has it that a Sabre took off from Sargodha airfield to intercept Hunters on a fateful September morning & landed back with an Ace.

120 Seconds: Squadron Leader Alam in a Sabre is on Air Combat Patrol accompanied by his wingman. Upon observing IAF Hunters exiting after an unsuccessful air strike over Sargodha, Alam sets off in hot pursuit of the enemy formation. He pursues a fleeing Hunter and eventually shoots it down with a missile shot.


He spots the other members of the Hunter formations flying very low and as he approaches the trailing member he is spotted and the entire formation breaks (violent turn) in the same direction - a fatal error as in less than two minute Alam has taken out four of them, (as confirmed by more than one independent eye witness) 1 bringing his tally for the mission to five…… And an Ace is born - a legendry ins…

BOOK REVIEW: Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West

Published by Daily Times / 5 May 2012

When characters in a modernised version of Sherlock Holmes make a passing reference to Karachi — they only have Daniel Pearl in mind. When the ISI agents are featured on TV shows — it is because they can stand in for the US’s favourite Cold War foes.

Such imagery goes well with the popular narrative doing the global rounds. A widening gulf between Islam and the West, the oscillating nature of the Pak-US relationship, and the alarming levels of toxicity within, is a source of concern and confusion. Now, it is the subject of a book. At the launch of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West, veteran columnist Irfan Husain briefly touched upon these incongruities. In the book, he delves deeper into a cheerless terrain where reason has been cast adrift and paranoia is king.

Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West meticulously sifts through centuries of suspicion and decades of scorched earth left behind by Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan t…

KARACHI DIARIES: 6th LADIESFUND® Women's Awards 2014

First Published in Economic Affairs (Apr 2014) P-36


They conquered Everest in their spare time & crafted empires; their names were featured in Forbes ‘30 under 30’. Somewhere along the way they had reset the bar. Their contributions had not gone un-noticed.





The people who had made the list included trailblazers, trendsetters, risk-takers & crusaders, seen at the 6th LADIESFUND® Annual Women’s Awards. An event to salute an unlikely band of heroes who left a legacy of courage & compassion also acknowledged exceptional women on the rise.


LADIESFUND® launched by Dawood Global Foundation (2007) & headed by Tara Uzra Dawood, celebrates these achievements by adding powerhouse women and their noble causes to their wall of fame. It also makes its core mission - Educate 1000 Girls, the lynchpin & encourages the entrepreneur within our ranks. The talented Alycia Dias, who performed the anthem & walked away with a musical scholarship, would be joined by other hopefuls, …

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

BOOK REVIEW: Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (2007)

Author: Zahid Hussain

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUNE 14, 2007

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam goes for the jugular with an insiders look at a deformed culture borne of a dated ideology, fueled by vested interest and driven by intolerance; and a nation’s complicity.

Not surprisingly, the legitimacy granted jihadists by ISI-CIA ran out soon, as did the sympathy for their jihadist actions formally perceived as heroic. Once used to counter the threat of communism, the rapid shift in their objectives that placed Pakistan’s national interest on a collision course with its security rendered them an anachronism.

This led to a parting of ways with the ISI; consequently, the deadliness of operations and depth of penetration in society seen in the context of 9/11 forever breached the line between liberators and terrorists.

Veteran journalist Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", …