Nic's Reviews > The Throne of Fire

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
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's review
Jul 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: made-me-cry, on-a-boooat
Read in July, 2011

** spoiler alert ** As with The Red Pyramid, I'm impressed at the emotional punch this one packs. I definitely didn't see some of the stuff coming: in particular, Walt's curse and the whole bit about Bes and Tawaret (who is, like, my favorite character, despite appearing for approximately 1.2 chapters).

Somehow, I'm still not as engaged with this series as I am with the Percy Jackson books (or the new, Percy-Jackson-related series starting with The Lost Hero, which is so far my favorite of Riordan's books). Not sure why. There are a few humorous elements that don't quite click with me; for some reason, Khufu has always kind of annoyed me, and the new trainee kid who keeps summoning penguins makes me kind of roll my eyes.

(On the other hand, when the Kanes retrieve the senile Ra, who keeps going on about zebras and weasels, I was rolling my eyes again, thinking, "Don't we already have a character whose comic relief moments are based around the a-propos-of-nothing application of a somewhat-inherently-comedic animal?" And then I realized, at the same time as Sadie, what "Zebra" and "Weasel" meant, and I was like, "Whoah." I'm quite impressed that Riordan managed it so that that little twist was neither obvious nor totally indecipherable. I think "zebra" works better than "weasel", because it actually sounds like "Zia" without being too similar or looking like the same word, but I guess Riordan had to be more careful with the Senile Sun God word for "Walt", as the, "weasels are sick" messages are a little less cryptic; if readers figured those out ahead of time, they'd almost certainly figure out the "zebra" business, too.)

I have a vague theory that Anubis and Walt will somehow wind up merged - maybe Walt being Anubis' host? - because I suspect that Sadie's going to end up romantically involved with one of them, and Riordan's really not making it obvious (to me, at least), which one. I'm not sure which one I'd favor for her, myself - Walt's a nice guy, and I appreciate that Sadie can actually have conversations with him rather than alternating between swooning and criticizing; on the other hand, I think fiction has conditioned me to root for Anubis because:

1. Sadie met him (and liked him) first, and,

2. Obviously all the swooning and criticizing is due to the power of the chemistry between Sadie and Anubis, and also he is a god, so dating Walt would really be settling. (Thanks, paranormal romance, for doing this to my expectations, even though I've hardly read any of your genre.)

Obviously, from a purely practical standpoint, neither of them looks like great boyfriend material. On the other hand, from a purely practical standpoint, Zia has the right idea: romance is the last thing any of them have time to worry about right now.

Thinking of things that aren't obvious in the book, I'm impressed at how well various characters here argue and push their own positions on the whole bringing-Ra-back plan, Horus especially. It does a good job with undercutting the certainty that this plan is a good idea, even as our protagonists are constantly risking their lives to make it happen. Of course, there is the strange meta-knowledge that this is probably the right plan - after all, the nice characters mostly support it! It's our heroes' plan! There isn't another clear course of action! And Ra is the true, original king of the gods, right?

And there it is again, probably the one theme about which I wonder the most in all of Riordan's books I've read so far (and a number of other books, too): the ultimate right of those who are royal, the power of lineage and/or of being "chosen" (very often because of lineage), destiny and how it interacts with people who want to change it - because what if Ra was the original king, but Horus really would be a better king now? He doesn't get a shot at proving it, because Ra was king first, and therefore has dibs forever? (And yeah, I guess Horus got a shot at some point in the past, but hey, so did Ra.) Why is it almost always the bad guy who wants to challenge Fate, to the point at which challenging Fate pretty much marks you as a bad guy? (Not that Horus is a bad guy here exactly - actually, the uneasy alignments, alliances, and levels of neutrality of the various gods are one of the interesting things about the books.)

I'm not a rabidly patriotic type, but the whole lineage-based-destiny feels to me, among other things, rather . . . un-American. Which is funny because Riordan's books are so popular here in the US. I mean, isn't a good bit of the American Dream the idea that you can make your own destiny, pull yourself up from nothing, and so on? Most of the characters in Riordan's books that I've read so far do have to work hard to earn their rightful places, but only their lineage gives them even the option of doing so; regular humans, no matter how smart or nice or hard-working or whatever they might be, still get to be demon-bait without even the ability to see what it is that they're constantly being attacked by. Not terribly surprising, of course; American audiences are pretty besotted with royalty, and this is not a big step from there.

Oh, also, a couple of instances of Awfully Convenient English-speaking, notably when the Russian baddie speaks English to the minion he's murdering and then to Set. Especially funny because, when he's disrupted, he's all, "Nyet!" - like he's upset he's been caught not speaking Russian.

I do kind of like the reference to Manhattan having other problems, and Carter mentioning he thinks he saw a winged horse; these books and the Percy Jackson ones both make it clear that multiple sets of gods (and powers, e.g. magic and science) can exist in their world, so it's kind of cool to have a confirmation that they take place in the same world.

EDIT: After some reflection (just a few hours), I'm inclined to think of this as more of a 3.5-star book than a 4-star one. I didn't have the same fun reading it that I've had reading most of my 4-star books and - while I was waiting impatiently for it to end or anything - I wasn't sorry to see it end. (It may have been a bit longer than it needed to be, as far as I'm concerned.) I don't think I'll actually bump it down star-wise, but thought I'd add a note. Boy, I sure do get nitpicky about the stars on these things . . . :P
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Carmen Great review. You put a lot of thought into this. I really liked your thoughts on lineage-based-destiny...this never occurred to me, and it's a great point. RE: Sadie, I definitely think she should date Walt, and not Anubis. Dating Anubis is just asking for trouble (and not the good kind). Just my two cents on the romance dilemma.

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