Every year or so, I reread one of Rick Riordan’s young adult series. This year, I reread his Egyptian mythology trilogy, The Kane Chonicles. (Now that it’s all published, I’ll read the Trials of Apollo sometime soonish)
Rick Riordan has become one of my favorite young adult authors and I really hope our son likes his works when he gets old enough to read them. And the Kane Chronicles was the series that turned me into a fan.
I had read Percy Jackson and the Olympians when it came out. I felt like it was better than a lot of the books that flooded the shelves post-Harry Potter (Indeed, I described The Lightning Thief as Harry Potter as an American jock to friends) However, I felt like it was also pretty uneven. There were a lot of silly, even juvenile touches. And I don’t mind silly. I love silly. But it felt out of place with the more serious stuff.
In the Kane Chronicles, Riordan had a much more consistent tone. He did a much better job with character development. And there was a stronger sense of mythic, vastness of the setting. Riordan had ironed out how to write for middle schoolers and showed his chops as a writer.
I can’t honestly say that the Kane Chronicles are darker and edgier than the earlier series. The serious elements are just as serious. The funny elements are just blended in better. And that also lets Riordan write about more serious topics more effectively.
And that tendency carried on to the Heroes of Olympus and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. The latter is actually a strangely effective blend of grim and absurd. Riordan grew into a young adult writer. A bit like comparing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with The Magician’s Nephew.
It’s been six or seven years since I first read the Kane Chronicles. Rereading it reaffirmed my faith in Riordan. His books are action movies but they are kind where you care about the characters so the stakes work.