The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan (2010, Hyperion Books, middle grade on up, 516 pages)
When their mother died, Carter Kane and his little sister, Sadie, were split up. Carter travelled the world with their archaeologist father, while Sadie lived with their grandparents in England. Now, six years later, they hardly know each other, but they are in agreement that a trip to the British Museum is not what they want to do during their brief Christmas reunion.
But the museum visit is even worse than they thought it would be. Their dad shatters the Rosetta Stone in a mysterious explosion that raises a fiery figure who entombs him in a glowing coffin. Life for 14-year old Carter and 12-year old Sadie has just become more than somewhat interesting.
Whisked off to New York by their uncle, whom they had never known before, the kids are thrown into a maelstrom of ancient Egyptian magic. The gods and goddess of Egypt have been woken, and the titanic struggle between chaos and order that characterize Egyptian mythology is being fought again. Carter and Sadie, whether they want to or not, have pivotal roles to play.
Riordan has created a world of non-stop action, danger, and adventure, filled with fascinating ancient Egyptian magic and mystery. The non-stop action was a bit much for my personal taste--I appreciated the moments of relative peace, where one could quietly contemplate the magic of ancient Egypt, all the more because they seemed so few and far between....On the other hand, I found the premise and the intricacies of the plot fascinating, and I really enjoyed the character of Bast, the cat goddess, who takes the kids under her paw. The pages kept turning rapidly, (although in part this is because I skimmed various scorpion/crocodile attacks).
The Red Pyramid is told from the alternating perspectives of Sadie and Carter, a device that allows the author to show how their relationship deepens as their adventures progress (providing a nice side-note to the non-stop action, although I would have preferred a bit less snide-ness). Sadie and Carter are bi-racial (black dad, white mother). Carter takes after their dad, while Sadie looks like their mom, and Carter, in particular, openly discusses the implications of this.
I didn't like this quite as much as The Lightning Thief, but that could be because I'm more familiar with the Olympian gods, and so got more immediate enjoyment from Riordan's take on them. It could also be that 500 pages of tension, no matter how interesting, engaging, and entertaining (which this book is), is just too much for me.