I really wanted to like this book and this series but Riordan continued the weird and strange transcript method of storytelling for this otherwise interesting and well written book. It’s such a strange thing as the writing itself was compelling and all the characters were interesting and well developed yet this one choice ruined so much. While there were other smaller problems here and there, the notion of essentially ruining the ending of the book, and the series, held back The Serpent’s Shadow as well as the whole Kane Chronicles from being as great as Riordan’s other series.
The whole “ruining of the end” would not have been as bad had it not been for the fact that a lot of plot points revolved around the “will they survive at the end” and it’s completely ruined. From the beginning we know that Carter and Sadie are going to survive whatever happens at the end since the story is a transcript of what’s already occurred. Not only that, but the usually sass and playful attitude we see from Riordan’s characters is present in the recording which means they most likely don’t fail in the end. It’s hard to really feel invested in their character development as we kind of already know how it ends. It’s quite unfortunate as Carter and Sadie do have rather compelling and interesting growth and harrowing moments that are completely undermined by this transcript style narration.
That being said, the side characters are once again the main source of tension and drama as their fate is unknown to us and they are very important to Carter and Sadie. As the story progresses, it’s never quite certain what will happen to them which makes their growth compelling. The reader doesn’t know if they’ll be ok, if they’ll survive the coming doomsday climax. Because of that, their choices and growth become far more interesting. Riordan makes a good choice in focusing a lot on the side characters and their character development to add that missing sense of tension.
Other than the ending essentially ruined from the get go, the plot actually has some fascinating twists and turns. There’s so many things that occur in quick yet meaningful moments to the overall story as well as the character development of those involved. When the reader can forget the blatant fact that this is a transcript of past events, the flow of action, exposition and plot progression is smooth and creates enticing twists and turns.
However there was a weird problem that kept recurring which didn’t quite make sense. Often times a character would hint at information or something bigger when talking to Carter and Sadie and then suddenly say they’ll explain later. It happens so often and in different ways that it’s quite jarring and breaks the flow whenever it happens. What makes it worse is that it happens at times when they do actually have the time to fully explain what they mean. There’s one plot line that actually incentivizes the character to fully explain the situation but, for some reason, when they had the chance to do so, they chose to explain it later. It comes off as blatant padding to entice and hook the reader but it comes off more weird than anything else.
As expected of Riordan’s works, his dive into the chosen mythology for the series is quite compelling and interesting. It’s woven into the plot and character development of the full cast and isn’t simply dumped onto the reader in an annoying expositive manner. That being said, unfortunately my knowledge of Egyptian Mythology is not extensive enough to know if the depictions in The Kane Chronicles is accurate so I can’t comment on that part. However, the way Riordan choses to describe the realms within the Duat is very well done and exciting, especially in one area at the end of the story.
I genuinely do not understand this method of storytelling and why anyone would choose to do this. Recounting past events is nothing new within storytelling and often serves to improve the stories in which it’s used sparingly. However, when the entire story is told through the lens of past events, it makes it hard to feel invested in what’s happening. Often I found myself losing my interest in moments that are supposed to be tense because I know, in the back of my head, Carter and Sadie can’t die at the end of the story. It really harms the story when there’s parts of the story that imply that Carter and Sadie could die (there’s a plot point where it is a strong possibility) but the reader knows it’s not.