Book Reviews: Demigods in the Garden: The Game and The Titan’s Curse

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Spoilers abound for The Game and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.  I will not mark them; they are too many.

I bought The Game, a novella by Diana Wynne Jones, after hearing a paper (mentioned here) on the book as a character-based “prophecy arc” at the 2011 Children’s Literature Association Conference.  The premise of the book as presented sounded right up my alley, and, what’s more, I had already read all and enjoyed most of Jones’ The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, though I feel that the most recent installments of that particular series fall more flat than did earlier stories.

The Game lost a battle with Rick Riordan’s third book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians quintet, The Titan’s Curse.  My sister left Percy’s book lying in the open, and I stopped reading The Game mid-chase to finish The Titan’s Curse for who knows what time through.  But I think that reading these books simultaneously actually enhanced The Game rather than hurting it.

Published the same year, ironically, the books bare remarkable similarities.  They each feature a demigod who must journey to and enter the Garden of the Hesperides on a quest, then face the wrath of Zeus (or Jupiter in The Game), who unjustly hates the hero, thinking that he or she should never have been born and worrying that he or she might dethrone him because of a prophecy.  Both books prominently feature the tensions between demigod and god and Titan.  Both prominently feature the Hesperides.  Both low fantasies suggest that mythological figures are alive still and that they can be found in our own world, and both suggest too that the figures of the constellations existed.

As such, I had all of the parallel mythology of Percy Jackson tumbling through my mind as I finished The Game and the true lives of the mythological figures with whom she interacts are revealed to Haley, heroine of The Game.

The two stories differ in their quest, their villains, and the heroes, though, however similar the elements of the stories.

The two mythologies take a very different view of the gods and the Titans, the Titans being the primary threat in Percy Jackson and the gods the primary threat in The Game.

Unlike Percy, Haley’s quest is not for the benefit of civilization, order, or love, but a very personal quest for freedom, family, friendship, and fun.  Though the prophecy in which she features similarly threatens the gods and though her actions actually shake Olympus more so than Percy’s ultimately do, Haley is never weighted by her choices; in fact, it could be argued that her only choice is whom to trust rather than what to do (she defeats her enemy by doing as her friends tell her to), probably because Haley isn’t really given time to ponder the prophecy, nor, I would argue, does she ever accept it in the same way that Percy does.  Her fight seems less epic for that and because we have mostly others’ opinions to bolster our dislike of Jupiter in The Game, while five books build up our dislike of the Titans in Percy Jackson.  I wish I could claim outright that the differences in their battles have nothing to do with the gender of hero and heroine, but particularly Haley’s quest seems to me to take a very stereotypically gendered view of what is important and how to act.

***                         *****

Jones, Diana Wynne.  The Game.  New York: Firebird-Penguin, 2007.

Riordan, Rick.  Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Three: The Titan’s Curse.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2007.

These reviews are not endorsed by Diana Wynne Jones, Rick Riordan, Firebird, Hyperion, Penguin Group, or Disney.  They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.

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