Book Review: The Serpent’s Shadow: Darker, More Tangled, Better Written, But I Still Can’t Quite Give It 5 Stars

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I finished the latest in The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, book 3, The Serpent’s Shadow.  I had to first go back and reread the second book, The Throne of Fire,as I couldn’t remember how we’d gotten from the end of The Throne of Fire to the middle of a party in Texas.  The jump between books actually is quite abrupt; Rick does like to throw readers into the action.  This latest book, the third, amps up the romantic entanglements, angst, and the epic-ness and length of the battles, all elements of which I plentifully approve.

Overall, this latest book seemed less humorous, but as the concluding battle, it was darker than the previous two, and the Kanes have matured through the war, though I would argue that the asides of this book are more playful but less childlike, a reflection of their more mature sibling relationship.

Once I complained about the asides in the tape recordings by the Kanes, but I’ve come to realize that these asides say much about the Kanes’ characters and relationships, which actually, I greatly appreciate.  How the Kanes act in the midst of saving the world (in the story of the novel) differs somewhat from how they interact when they sit down to do a tape recording—and perhaps that comes through most clearly in this, (I believe) the conclusion of the series, the coming of peace after the epic battle against evil is won (come, that’s not a spoiler; this is a kids’ book, and you had to know that good would win).  In previous books perhaps the Kanes’ focus was too business-like and desperate for the asides to truly shine as character development.  Perhaps I just appreciated the asides more.

My knowledge of Egyptian mythology—or at least the mythology according to this series—has grown through this trilogy, and I think I stumbled less frequently over the obscurity of the myths, though I did still have to occasionally turn to the glossary to check the reign of the god or goddess with which we were dealing.

I believe I’m also beginning to understand Riordan’s style (maybe too well).  There was no rug-pulled-out-from-under me plot twist in this.  What I think were supposed to be surprises were not for me.  Only [SPOILER] Apophis’ temporary triumph [END SPOILER] came as anything of a surprise, and even that from a writer’s perspective I can see as a necessary attempt at surprise.  (Thinking about it now, this compares strongly with Harry Potter’s death in The Deathly Hallows.)  The formula of this concluding book is rather similar in a lot of ways to that of The Last Olympian, right down to the hero ending the book with a stunning date with his new girlfriend (the “best underwater kiss of all time” scene)—and actually the heroine in this book gets to do the same.

A part of me sees no reason why The Serpent’s Shadow, easily my favorite of the series, should not be rated my 5 of 5 stars (I do so love angst, and doubt, and if I forget that it has become Twilight, I love romantic dilemmas of the teenage heart too), but The Serpent’s Shadow did not sustained that warm fuzzy of a fantastic book throughout its 406 pages.  So how about

****1/2

Riordan, Rick.  The Kane Chronicles, Book Three: The Serpent’s Shadow.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by Hyperion Books, Disney Book Group, or Rick Riordan.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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About Kathryn

My love of books has been carefully cultivated by the adults who raised me and also by the friends who love to share. My life has led me down long library shelves, to online forums, fanfiction sites, the front of a lecture hall, and into the desks of college classrooms. With an English degree and a couple master’s classes in Children’s Literature, I am now a bookseller for Barnes & Noble. I have been an editor for Wizarding Life Networks (the people who brought you Wizarding Life, Panem October, and MyHogwarts now HogwartsIsHere).

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