Tag Archives: The Heroes of Olympus

Book Review: The House of Hades Asks Readers to Rethink

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This review contains MAJOR spoilers.

It was a long wait for The House of Hades, fourth in The Heroes of Olympus, the sequel series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.  The third book, The Mark of Athena, left our heroes literally plunging to a fate worse than death, and it didn’t seem likely that a rescue was possible without death or the sacrifice of someone to that worse than death fate.

Given all that, I was pleasantly surprised by the comparatively happy ending of The House of Hades.

Frank’s and Jason’s characters are greatly built up in this latest novel, as is Percy’s.  Riordan questions as he never has before the morality of the demigods’ way of life, killing to survive and drawing black-and-white battle lines, where all monsters are bad (Percy Jackson and the Olympians has previously questioned if all demigods are good).  Tartarus’ description never failed to be appropriately terrifying and disgusting.  Leo’s story is given a sharp plot twist, that I think has all of us cheering for him.

[The major spoilers begin here.]  The big story around The House of Hades is likely to be Nico’s revealed sexual orientation.  Riordan has said that Nico’s non-heterosexual orientation arose organically, that the character told him rather than Riordan telling Nico—and that’s as it should be; I’m pleased to hear it.  Though I recognize that Rowling revealed Dumbledore’s sexual orientation because she was prompted by a fan’s question and because to do so showed her support for LGBT community and because it did not effect her plot, doing so did not effect the plot or explain any actions that otherwise seemed out-of-character (I would have believed—and do believe—that Dumbledore’s instinct would not have been to kill Grindelwald, even if he and Grindelwald had never loved one another, and I did not question why it took so long for Dumbledore to confront Grindelwald because it didn’t effect the present plotline).  Revealing Nico’s sexual preference within the contexts of the plot, I am more open to hearing about it.  It reveals more about Nico’s prickly hesitation to try to belong or to become close to anyone.

But Riordan did not continue (or has not yet continued) along the plot trail as far as I wanted him to do (for the sake of good storytelling not because it is pleasant).

I have a greater understanding of the term “head canon” than I perhaps ever had before.  Nico’s distrust because of his sexual orientation and his fear that he will be rejected for it ought to be worse for him than for any other character who could reveal himself to be of a LGBT orientation because he is a child of World War II Europe.  Had it been any other character with the exception of Hazel, they would have been children of the 1990s.  Growing up and coming to realize that they were attracted to the same gendered characters, they might have feared bullying and social isolation, but in the 1930s and 1940s, had Nico not been whisked away to America and to the Lotus Hotel, he would have had to fear being dragged from his house and thrust into a crowded railcar.  He’d have had to fear forced labor, unethical scientific experimentation, gas chambers….  And this is why Nico’s painful confession, dragged out of him against his will through taunting, necessity, magic, and a beating, hurt me so much.

In my head canon, Hades, being a god, knew and took Nico away from Europe and away from his half-brother, Adolf Hitler, because he couldn’t bear to have one son kill another and wanted to protect Nico—because Hades really has seemed to be a surprisingly compassionate and present parent.

Many people have also been lauding the burgeoning of new powers in Hazel and Piper, both sorcerous.  While interested in the power to bend the Mist, I actually felt that very little was done with their characters this book.  I think partially because Piper’s and Hazel’s new powers are of a similar vein, I had a difficult time keeping the two of them distinct from one another.  Also, sorcery has often been viewed negatively in Greek mythology and within Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus, and while I don’t think it is Riordan’s intention to any way create negative associations for Piper or Hazel, I worry that I could academically argue that he has done so by making them both sorceresses in the vein of Circe, Medea, Pasiphaë (all villains in both Riordan’s series and most of mythological stories), and even Hecate, a minor goddess who had previously sided with the Titans.

I’m also very interested in the revelation that Greek and Roman may not be determined by birth, that a side can be chosen.  I think that that will have a major effect on the whole of the plot—and probably Jason ought to have revealed what he has learned about the definition of Greek and Roman to Reyna before they parted ways again so that she could reveal it to the Greeks and Romans in America—though I totally understand why he did not.  How does one casually tell a friend that one has decided to disown one’s race to identify with another race with which one’s birth race is currently at war?  Will deciding to identify as a child of Greece rather Rome affect Jason’s powers or personality?  I think not.

Peppered with the usual Riordan humor and plenty of “Perceabeth” moments, this was a well-paced novel, still not as breakneck as The Percy Jackson series, but more quickly paced than The Mark of Athena.

****1/4

Riordan, Rick.  The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2013.

This review is not endorsed by Hyperion Books, Disney Book Group, or Rick Riordan.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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Book Review: Of Author Blindness Lost and The Demigod Diaries

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In reading reviews on Goodreads, I stumbled across the term “author blindness,” possibly coined by Andrea Caro.  Andrea “lost my awesome-goggles” that had blinded her to John Green’s flaws.  I think I have lost mine in regards to Rick Riordan, and this is a sad fact, because while I remember the thrill of the blindness, I am no longer experiencing it, and that makes almost every new thing that Rick writes at least a little disappointing.  I can recognize that with The Mark of Athena and The Demigod Diaries (his most recent works, excluding the graphic novel editions of previous novels), his writing is not becoming poorer, and other fans are not as disenchanted, yet I am not as enthralled, as I’ve already discussed in my review on The Mark of Athena.

The Demigod Diaries are a collection of short stories set in the world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series.  It includes three tales by Rick Riordan, author of those two series, and the premier work by his sixteen-year-old son, Haley.  Rick writes an entry from Luke Castellan’s diary, expanding the scene recounted in The Last Olympian where Annabeth meets Luke and Thalia; a short adventure that takes place between the two series involving Percy, Annabeth, and Hermes; and a tale of Leo, Piper, and Jason of The Heroes of Olympus series battling Maenads while on a quest to make peace with an enchanted table.  Haley’s story is the tale of one of the children of the minor gods who sided with the Titans who is rejected after the war by Camp Half-Blood.

This book also includes puzzles and author’s notes.  The puzzles were all too easy for me, but I enjoyed reading Rick’s conversational notes.

While all of these are enjoyable escapades, there is little overarching plot- or even world-building here.  Haley’s story may actually do the most to expand the world—and I’m not sure whether or not to consider his tale canon.

Possibly because I’d already read The Mark of Athena, the deadlines here, though just as imminent as any others written by Rick, seem to me to be less threatening.  Percy and Annabeth must complete their quest or Hermes will not finish his deliveries on time and will be greatly embarrassed.  Leo, Piper, and Jason must complete theirs or Argo II will self-destruct, taking a large section of the forest with it.  While Argo II is essential to the later save-the-world plot, it is not immediately necessary and I know that the Argo II does sail, and so I really wasn’t feeling the pressure as strongly as I’d have liked.  Luke and Thalia’s reads most like an excerpt from a larger Riordan novel—but then, it sort of is, since we’ve already seen the ending of that tale in The Last Olympian.

Haley’s story is the darkest, the tale of a demigod forced to go it alone, pursued by and dueling to the death with his godly sister.  Haley chooses and interesting point of view, taking the voice of a jaded, mortal author rather than his jaded demigod hero.  The writing itself is not as polished as I should like, occasionally shifting out of his narrator and occasionally breaking character, but it is certainly commendable for a sixteen-year-old.

***

Riordan, Rick.  The Demigod Diaries.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by Hyperion Books, Disney Book Group, or Rick or Haley Riordan.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: The Mark of Athena, the Slowest of Riordan’s Heroic Efforts

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This review has spoilers.

Percy and Annabeth’s romantic relationship may actually be the real highlight of Rick Riordan’s latest book, the third in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Mark of Athena.  I have rarely come across so sweet and yet still believable a relationship (Cammon and Amalie’s from Sharon Shinn’s Reader and Raelynx still surpasses Percy and Annabeth’s, but Reader and Raelynx is more primarily a romance than The Mark of Athena is primarily a romance).

This book lacked the urgency of Rick Riordan’s other books—perhaps even all of his other books (minus the guidebook companions—though it ought to have been as compelling as the quest still had a solid expiration date and dire consequences if it failed.

I am a huge fan of Nico di Angelo’s.  I wanted him rescued just because I was going to be really upset if he died (that he is important to the success of saving the world is only an upside to saving him for me).  I’m not sure that Riordan is as much a fan of his, given the reserve, coolness, and “mixed feelings” that Percy, Annabeth, Jason, and Leo feel towards him (also the illustration of him that I assume that Riordan must have approved is not at all how I picture Nico; he’s far more bad-boy attractive in my head, looking actually a little something like Riordan’s approved illustration of Anubis but more dangerous).  I wonder if Riordan’s ambivalence towards Nico partially detracted from the urgency of the plot.

Really, I’m sure that most of the sluggishness of the plot grows out of Riordan’s desire to allow his characters some time to just enjoy one another’s company before the major bad hits.  I think there’s a lot of character-service in this book, a lot more than has been in any of his other books—which only increases my certainty that the next book is going to be gloomy and dark.

Possibly having seven main characters (eight if you include chaperone Coach Hedge), Riordan just had too much to discuss within the group for monsters to attack, gods to visit, glimpses of the enemy to be seen with the rapidity of previous books.

Also, this is a bridge book—a better-written bridge book than many I have read, including City of Fallen Angels and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but a bridge book nonetheless.  The true objective of the book was “Get the demigods to the Ancient Lands.”  Even “Save Nico,” the, I would argue, secondary quest of this book, is not as epic as others in the series: “Save Hera” or “Recover the Eagle to save camp.”

I missed the urgency, impressed as I might have been by Riordan’s ability to handle more mundane interactions and drama.

It was nice to see him handle yet another style—slower, more character-driven—but it is not what I expect from him, and it was not what I had thought I was opening, particularly with that epic cover, which—yes—I used to try and guess at the plot.  I expected more fighting within and of the group.

If this is a bridge book, what are we moving towards?  I predict a lot of darkness, some old enemies, and more sweetness from Percy and Annabeth in the next book.

****

Riordan, Rick.  The Heroes of Olympus, Book Three: The Mark of Athena.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by Hyperion Books, Disney Book Group, or Rick Riordan.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: The Son of Neptune Succeeds Again

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The last line of Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero gave me of twinge of fear.  The Lost Hero had just completed the “amnesiac hero in the opposing camp, slowly remembering who he is” storyline, and the last line, combined with the next book’s title, predicted a repetition of the idea.  But, never fear, Riordan soars again.  Percy Jackson, unaware of who he is and in the Roman camp, is nothing like Jason Grace without his memory in the enemy Greek camp.

Percy returns as the hero we all loved through his title series in The Son of Neptune, book 2 in The Heroes of Olympus series, knowing nothing but his name.  Once at Camp Jupiter, he joins forces with misfits Hazel Levesque and Frank Zhang.

Fans of the Percy Jackson books will relish the chance to relive them as Percy encounters friends and foes and alludes to his previous adventures as the memories return to him.  And his quick wit and honest voice and observations have not abandoned him.

The supporting cast—heroes, anti-heroes, and immortals—are strong.  I am particularly fond of the characters of Reyna’s sister, Hylla; and Octavian, the smooth-talking politician and auger longing to be praetor.

As always, Riordan seamlessly and hilariously enfolds the ancient myths into our modern society, and creates great characters of the gods, heroes, and ancient villains.  (Rick, I want Pluto’s Skype address.)

Following Riordan’s usual quest storyline, Percy, Frank, and Hazel battle monsters and are helped or hindered by gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman mythology as they try to complete their impossible task.  Gaea’s and Juno’s plots thicken.  If I read the innards of my teddy bear correctly, Riordan is building towards a battle of proportions not matched by even The Last Olympian (final book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series).

This book is the first of Riordan’s to give us a full picture of the modern Roman world, though its existence was revealed by Jason in the previous book of the series, as exciting though more political than Camp Half-Blood (Rome is a Republic after all), as is the book itself.

Riordan attempts to increase awareness of modern, forgotten heroes—namely, the Canadian military.  (“Welcome to Canada, idiot.”  I don’t know that I, ignorant American that I am, have ever been prouder of our often ignored or ridiculed Northern neighbors… though we do have Canada to thank for some wonderful actors and places to film.)  This might also be a chance for him to make amends for the cannibalistic Laistrygonians’ nickname.

Yes, I have quibbles, but they are minor.  In the main, I gripe that Riordan failed to give Hazel the voice that she deserved.  (SPOILER) From World War II-era New Orleans, Hazel has every right to command odd turns of phrase and gestures.  Riordan makes a quick allusion to an old-fashioned gesture of Hazel’s seen from Frank’s perspective, but fails utterly at giving Hazel that unique time-traveler voice (END SPOILER)—which is surprising from a man who has won my admiration through his command of voice—particularly, albeit, Percy’s.

But ending as (almost) always with surprises, this is a definitely recommended read.  I thank you, Rick, for another fantastic book and eagerly await whatever comes next (Greek and Roman, Egyptian, or Norse).

*****

Riordan, Rick.  The Heroes of Olympus, Book Two: The Son of Neptune.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2011.

This review is not endorsed by Hyperion Books, Disney Book Group, or Rick Riordan.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.