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.