The Serpent's Shadow
North Africa / Egypt / Fiction
Disney / Hyperion
When Apophis, the chaos snake, threatens to plunge the world into eternal darkness, siblings Carter and Sade Kane plan to use an ancient spell to destroy the snake, but first must rely on the murderous ghost of a powerful magician.
In this the third installment of the Kane Chronicles, Riordan completes his saga of Carter and Sadie Kane and their attempts to preserve the order of the universe in the face of assaults by the evil snake Apophis. In this tale we find Carter and Sadie on a new set of adventures across the world, mainly situated in Egypt, but especially in the realm of Duat. Here the spiritual aspects of Egyptian gods and demons are fully expressed and the Kanes must navigate a number of trials in order to be able to perform the needed summoning spell to destroy the shadow (shut) of Apophis, take control of Apophis and allow the rebirth of the sun god Re. Without ruining the ending, I can reveal that they are successful, but that is only part of the story.
In a clear tour de force Riordan has the Kanes search for and rescue the magician Setne from his trial before the god Osiris in the Hall of Judgment. They need Setne’s knowledge and experience with the Book of Truth to conjure up the needed spells. The difficulty is that Setne is a ghost so he cannot perform the spells himself and is a criminal charged with having performed numerous deeds of mayhem against the gods (this is why he is being tried before Osiris). But the Kane twins persevere, get Setne released and are then hoodwinked by Setne at various times in their adventures. For this reviewer the role of Setne as a criminal magician is a bit of a stretch. In traditional lore Setne Khaemwast was the son of Ramses the Great and first true Egyptologist. He performed many deeds during his lifetime and was later memorialized in later ancient Egyptian literature as a great magician.
However that does not detract from Riordan’s ability to take the series of arcane and mysterious Egyptian deities and to weave them into a modern group of individuals as sub-characters in a rich, young adult saga. I did see one minor error in his hieroglyphs that he provides in that he gives us Isfet, roughly translated as ”chaos,” but in actuality the hieroglyphs say ”Apophis.” I can see the reason for his confusion as Apophis is the manifestation of chaos in the universe. Otherwise this volume was again a fun read and one can hope that Riordan’s future efforts continue strong positive characters such as Carter and Sadie Kane.
Published in Africa Access Review (March 11, 2013)
Copyright 2013 Africa Access
Reviewed by: Eugene Cruz-Uribe California State University – Monterey Bay