Percy Jackson and Co. are back for another terrific adventure in The Mark of Athena. In the third installment of Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus, the demigods must fly to Rome to save Nico from some twin giants and find Athena’s statue that will unite the Greek and Roman camps. After spending books 1 & 2 introducing the demigods and establishing the stakes of the overarching quest of the series, all seven characters are now united together, making this the most crowded of Riordan’s novels.
Riordan continues his trend of four consecutive chapters narrated by one character as the story shuffles from person to person. Fortunately, he doesn’t give all seven of them chapters; but, instead, focuses on Annabeth, Percy, Leo, and Piper, emphasizing their characters arcs in this novel (saving us from the tedium of Hazel and Frank chapters that bogged down the previous novel, while providing fodder for their unlikely love triangle with Leo). Unfortunately, Riordan gets into a frustrating structural loop with the four chapters per person cycle. The first two are dedicated to expositional and travel purposes and the other two build up to a battle scene with gods or monsters. The perspective then switches to the next character and the cycle is repeated. It quickly becomes both predictable and tiring, which makes slugging through the middle of the book a challenge on par with these demigods’ quest.
But Riordan knows how to tell an engaging story, and all his plot threads tie up perfectly. And this series is so well thought out, that he can already hint to the events to come in the next book—giving each of these books a great cliffhanger ending. So far, I find the Heroes of Olympus series a much more fascinating and rewarding read than his original Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (which I also absolutely adore).
Posted by xoxojk on February 5, 2013
The Son of Neptune is the second book in The Heroes of Olympus series, which is a continuation of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The twist being that this series puts a decidedly Roman spin on the Greek mythology we so studiously learned about in the first 5 books. Riordan’s books transplant ancient mythology by Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and even the Chinese into our contemporary world spinning a web of action, comedy, and suspense that is as entertaining (and somewhat educational) for its YA audience as it is for older readers.
The first Olympus book, The Lost Hero, follows the adventures of Jason, Leo, and Piper as they try to save the beloved Camp Half-Blood from the growing threat of Gaea. In the end we learn that Jason isn’t actually a Greek demigod but a child of Zeus Roman counterpart Jupiter and that he was switched with Percy Jackson (who was MIA in this book) by Hera/Juno. Son of Neptune begins with Percy Jackson’s ominous entrance into Camp Jupiter, the Roman counterpart of Cap Half-Blood on the West Coast. Percy’s memories have been blocked and everyone thinks he’s a Roman demigod, although a highly unusual one.
He teams up with fellow outcasts Hazel (a cursed daughter of Pluto who was set free from the Fields of Asphodel by her brother Nico whom we last saw in The Last Olympian) and Frank (an awkward-looking Asian Canadian child of both Mars and a Chinese god who has a secret past of his own). The trio goes on a Mars-mandated quest to stop the giant Alcyoneus in Alaska who has captured Thanatos and opened the Doors of Death with the help of Gaea. With Death in chains, Gaea has unleashed all conquered villains and monsters and nothing the demigods do is able to keep them dead. On top of that, one of Alcyoneus’ brothers (Polybotes) is marching down the coast with his own legion of evil creatures to destroy Camp Jupiter. All of which must be accomplished within a few short days with almost no resources.
Neither Percy nor the readers are new to such impossible missions and we are almost certain he will prevail. Riordan’s books are always jam-packed with obstacles that require the characters to look inside themselves and discover new abilities that they didn’t realize they had. But these obstacles are always sprinkled with gods and have a comedic levity that prevents the story from becoming too heavy-handed or monotonous. I found their run-in with the Amazonians to be as amusing as the acronym for Iris’ Rainbow Ogranic Foods & Lifestyles shop (R.O.F.L.).
However, though I’m usually pleased with Percy’s companions, I found Hazel and Frank to be somewhat unengaging characters. Their budding romance and Hazel’s constant feeling of guilt and shame (for both her curse and her romantic feelings) were tedious and dull. I was also displeased to find that I had to suffer through 4 chapters of Hazel and Frank each before I could get back to the more entertaining and engaging Percy chapters (as opposed to Riordan’s system of shuffling through 2 chapters per character in the previous book). Despite this, I was wildly engaged with the overall story and found Roman mythology to be very interesting (if not somewhat confusing when constantly compared to the Greek side of things).
The novel ends by setting up the characters’ quest for the next book and I’m eager to be reunited with old characters while also hoping I’ll find more satisfaction in the love triangle that Riordan slyly sets up at the end. The fall season can’t come fast enough for this wannabe demigod.
Posted by xoxojk on February 5, 2013
The third (and final) book of The Kane Chronicles deals with Carter and Sadie’s attempts to stop Apophis from destroying the entire world with Chaos. This book definitely improves on the first two in that it feels like the characters have really matured (and it wasn’t as painful to read). Rick Riordan definitely did a superb job in wrapping up this series and giving a very satisfying climax to this story.
Like in all of Riordan’s books, Carter and Sadie have only a couple days to run around the globe (and through the Duat) to save the world from eminent destruction. This time their quest involves finding the shadow of Apophis, which they will use to execrate him.
In the downtime of their adventures, Carter and Sadie also have to deal with relationship dramas. Carter and Zia finally get to hang out (she’s been busy over in Egypt taking care of the senile god Ra). They also get tasked with watching the notorious criminal of Egypt—Setne (who is by far the best thing about the book). Riordan created a very compelling villain in Setne and I would love to see him get his only stand alone book or something.
Sadie has her own dramas in her love triangle with dying Walt and god of the dead Anubis. The gods forbid Sadie to see Anubis any more because they are too close to getting hot and heavy (god-human relationships are more forbidden in Egyptian mythology than Greco-Roman mythologies). Walt has also been attempting to keep Sadie distanced from him since his inevitable end is only hours away. Sadie is frustrated by both of them (even more so when she learns that they’ve been planning something together and haven’t told her).
There are the usual twists and turns and character-defining moments, and Riordan manages to make them feel fresh. Although he officially closes the story, he does leave some open-endedness in the story for more stories. Personally, I would like to see Riordan do a stand-alone story that doesn’t revolve around the entire world’s destruction. He also hints at other kinds of gods in the world (a clear reference to his other books that deal with the Greco-Roman gods); I would really enjoy seeing some form of crossover adventure with the Percy Jackson et al and the Kane siblings (but only after he’s finished the Heroes of Olympus opus).
Posted by xoxojk on May 25, 2012
The second book in Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles feels like a rote regurgitation of the writing formula he developed in the Percy Jackson books. It begins with an extended action sequence. The protagonists Carter and Sadie have already learned of their quest for the book (something that usually takes 50-100 pages in the other series). The reader is immediately thrown into their mission to steal a scroll from the Book of Ra (which they need to summon him from retirement so he can defeat the lord of Chaos Apophis).
It has been a year since I read the first book, and I found myself nearly lost when I jumped into this book. I was slow in remembering the Kane siblings, and I was even slower in remembering the rules of their magic and the names of their Egyptian gods (it doesn’t help that I recently read his Roman god series). After the first mission is complete they gather back at their headquarters in Brooklyn House with an injured teammate who was just introduced and I thus have no feelings about whatsoever. The other character forced into the beginning of the book was Walt (a love interest for Sadie who is also hiding something from her).
From then on, the clock is ticking. With only four days (a common Riordan time constraint) to awaken Ra and save the entire world from destruction (the stakes of the quest are referred to all too frequently in this book), Carter and Sadie must rely on new characters to help them reach their goal.
The Kane Chronicles have a more juvenile feel than the Percy Jackson books, which for a young adult book series is not unwanted; yet it does distance older readers from the text. I think because Carter and Sadie are squabbling siblings, it gives the books that juvenile vibe; but as an adult reading the book I found it off-putting. Overall, this book is definitely designed for adolescents, and they would certainly enjoy the action and comedic style of the book. But this series definitely loses the broader audience appeal that many find in the Percy Jackson books.
Posted by xoxojk on May 24, 2012