Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Heroes of Olympus Series Review

The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, & The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
Published: October 2010, October 2011, October 2012, and October 2013 (respectively)
Synopsis: (Super short overview) Set in action by the Prophecy of Seven, seven demigods: Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase, Jason Grace, Piper McLean, Frank Zhang, Hazel Levesque, and Leo Valdez, of either Greek or Roman background must learn to work together to unite the demigods against Gaea and her forces.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
So this isn't really a book/series "review" per say. It's going to end up being more of my thoughts on the series as a whole (so far at least since Blood of Olympus isn't out yet). Let's get started shall we? Get ready because this is probably going to be a long one. But be warned: If you haven't finished all four books yet,
The Heroes of Olympus starts off right where the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series ended and it's all about the fulfillment of the new Great Prophecy from Rachel Elizabeth Dare at the end of The Last Olympian which is known to the Romans as the Prophecy of Seven. We get a lot of new characters and I think I can get the gist of all I have to say about the series out by talking about each one individually. So, up first: Jason.
Jason Grace, Thalia Grace's long lost brother. Jason is a son of Jupiter and therefore one of the strongest demigods out there. In The Lost Hero, he's the catalyst for the Prophecy of Seven. Hera steals his memory and dumps him onto a school bus where we meet Piper and Leo, two other demigods who are being watched over by the satyr Coach Hedge before bringing them to Camp Half-Blood. As I was reading through the books (putting my initial Percy withdrawals in The Lost Hero aside), I began to feel that of all the new characters we get in this series, Jason is the one I get a feel for the least. All the other new characters have such vibrant back stories whereas Jason is just known for being the son of Jupiter and a praetor of New Rome. We don't really get much more than that. I think Hazel said it best in The House of Hades when she said she "couldn't get a read on Jason Grace" (ch. 27, pg. 207). I think this is partially because Jason probably has the least point of view sections in all the books compared to any other character. In the first book, he didn't know who he was therefore we as readers didn't either. He wasn't in the second book but it wasn't the same for Percy even though he lost his memory too because we know him already from the first series. He literally did spend a lot of Mark of Athena knocked out and didn't get a lot of character development time even in Piper's sections. In House of Hades, I felt like his sections consisted of a lot of diplomacy and were the calm times of the book. When he hugged Percy in the ultimate bros' bear hug, I remember thinking 'Oh okay, so he does like Percy then.' I couldn't really figure it out before and the bear hug seemed so sudden and out of place for Jason's character. I will give him props though for not judging Nico after the Cupid incident and then for trying to be Nico's friend.
Piper McLean, a daughter of Aphrodite and a major movie star father. I'll be completely honest here. Of all the new main characters, Piper is my least favorite. Sometimes she seems like a replacement Annabeth when Annabeth isn't there but she definitely doesn't come close to Annabeth's smarts and general awesomeness. Her major demigod power is charmspeak which is cool but compared to the other characters' doesn't compare and is probably the least reliable power considering it works best for people who are already attracted to her and who are typically not gods. She does have her knife which is helpful for visions but she's always reluctant to use it. Then, there's the cornucopia. I love Rick Riordan's humor but, really?! One of her main weapons is a cornucopia that shoots food at enemies? Craziness! Aside from all that, it kind of bothers me that she claimed Jason at the end of  The Lost Hero. I get that Drew is horrible but it just rubbed me the wrong way that she claimed him like he was nobody's property but hers when all of her feelings for him were based off Mist induced memories. I don't hate Piper; she just not my favorite.
Leo Valdez, son of Hephaestus. Oh Leo, Leo, Leo... how did you manage to nudge your way into my heart so much? I love Leo almost as much as I love Percy. He has the most delightful personality and his narration sections are so very clearly his. I think of all the point of views that are in The Heroes of Olympus, Leo's stands out the most. He's funny, quick witted, can control fire, can fix just about anything (even if it might blow up later), and he can cook - what's not to love? He has such a distinct character voice even when it's not a section of his POV. I love the idea that he isn't good with 'organic organisms' like his father and therefore sleeps in the engine room of the Argo II. Rick Riordan just wrote him as such a vibrant character, it's hard not to love him. Leo also has an amazing backstory and I love that it's entwined with Hazel's. Hopefully, we'll find out if there's any deeper meaning to that. And Calypso! I really need Leo to find his way back to Calypso in The Blood of Olympus. It just has to happen. Period.
Hazel Levesque, daughter of Pluto, and Frank Zang, son of Mars. I like these two and I enjoy reading out their perspective. I really liked Hazel from the get go because she's kind of spunky and I like that. Plus, she's Nico's little sister and I love Nico. Like I said with Leo, I love her backstory and I love her character progression. She's not prone to bits of crying or self-pity like Piper is sometimes. Instead, she's take action kind of girl. Also, she's pretty cool with the Mist manipulation. I'll admit I had to warm up to Frank. In The Son of Neptune, I got a little worried because it seemed like he was on his way to becoming more important than Percy what with all his special powers and being descended from Poseidon as well as being a son of Mars. No one is allowed to take Percy's place of pure awesome. However, I do like Frank. He's not your average macho, guy's guy kind of hero but he's a hero and a leader in his own way and in his own right. And a big cuddly teddy bear which makes him most certainly likeable.
Now onto our beloved characters from the Olympian series. Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena. Aw, she was so upset in The Lost Hero when she couldn't find Percy. I was kind of sad that she didn't go with Jason and the gang but, you know, of course searching for Percy was more important. (Duh!) However, I love that she kissed him then proceeded to judo-flip him upon reuniting again. That interaction just summed up their relationship entirely. It was perfect. It was sad that she lost her knife in Tartarus. The knife was her last tie to Luke and her past before she arrived at Camp Half-Blood. Being her main weapon, even thought it was not a wise choice of weapon, it was extremely important to her. I'm glad that it was Damasen who gave her a new weapon though because in the same way her knife always symbolized her time with Luke and Thalia, her new sword will be a new symbol of Bob and Damasen and their sacrifice. After reading these books and getting to read through Annabeth's POV, Annabeth is now right up there in my favorite female character list along with Hermione Granger. Don't mess with either of them - in debates or battles. She followed the Mark of Athena and defeated Arachne with a broken ankle for goodness sakes! Annabeth is great and I love her even more after reading this series. 

Nico di Angelo, son of Hades. I have to say, Nico's character arch from when he was introduced in The Titan's Curse all the way up to The House of Hades has been my favorite to follow. He was introduced at first just as Bianca geeky, semi-annoying little brother who was obsessed with Mythomagic cards. (Side note: Mythomagic seems like a pretty awesome game by the way even though I've never really been into card games like that. I also love that he and Frank had a little geek out.) Since then, however, we really got to see Nico grow up through the books. Sure we've been able to see Percy and Annabeth grow up as well but with Nico, the way his character has progressed is really prominent. My feelings about Nico have always been jumbled, like Percy's, because there are certain points in the books where I'm never actually sure if he's a trustworthy character or if he really means well for the group. But, that's all just a reflection of the way his character is growing because even though Nico tries to hide his feelings and shut them away from everyone he is most definitely the most emotionally charged character of all. It's obvious in the way he tried to get in contact with Bianca, how he interacts with Hazel, how his powers effect the things and people around him, etc.
Now, about that Cupid confession - I definitely did not see that coming. Nowhere in any of the books did I get hints that Nico had feelings for Percy other than as a friend. However, I can sort of see it now and I can definitely see how that's been a big part of Nico's development. I'd also like to give a shout out to Rick Riordan for not being afraid of any backlash that could have happened by revealing a major character's homosexuality in such a widely popular middle-grade book series. The question of sexuality is something that real teenagers have to face at some point in their lives and I applaud Rick for depicting it in a manner that's true to the books but also real. I hope as Nico's character develops more in the last book - especially since we're supposed to be getting POV chapters from him - he will be able to inspire teens who may be going through similar feelings to not be afraid to show who they really are. Jason didn't judge Nico and I know none of the other seven would either. Real friends and people who truly care about another person wouldn't do that. I do hope Percy finds out so he can understand Nico's reasoning for being distant. Nico's still our little Nico no matter what.
Last but certainly not least, Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon. After spending the last two months reading all the Percy books (with the exception of The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters which were a part of my January TBR), I have not been able to get Percy out of my head. Seriously, he's impeding my efforts of reading a new non-Percy book and putting me into a reading slump. But he's Percy with his cute baby seal eyes so he's forgiven.

           "He slaughtered my panda." - Percy, The Son of Neptune, pg. 66

My first thought upon opening The Son of Neptune (and probably everybody's first thought as well): "Yay!!! Percy's back!!" It just wasn't the same without him. However, The Son of Neptune felt a little strange at first. Percy's character felt a different than he did in the Olympians series. I couldn't figure out if it was because it was written in third person instead of first or because Percy had technically lost his memory. I think it is because of the switch to third person but, in any case, it took me a while to get used to the new Percy. He's still the same loveable, goofball he had always been I guess I just got used to reading his inner monologue. The change is different but it did not at all effect how much I enjoyed the books. Percy is, obviously, the most developed character of the series as a whole and he goes through a few interesting new changes in this series. I thought it was particularly interesting that he developed a fear of drowning. Being the son of Poseidon and being able to breathe underwater makes it contradicting, but it shows that for all his awesome powers (and I'd bet on Percy over Jason any day), he's still human. He no longer has Achilles's blessing to keep him from dying and he turned down the gods' gift of immortality so he's vulnerable like anyone else. I definitely think this fear of drowning will come into play again the last book since it's been brought up a few times: once when he was forced to face it in the well with Piper and Jason and it was referenced in the Cocytus with Annabeth as a cosmic joke from Gaia (HOH, pg. 38). Foreshadowing, maybe? Not sure, but it would be interesting. Percy's major character development happen in Tartarus. I think that the way he scared Annabeth by controlling the poison to kill Ahklys will come back again and maybe it will also tie in to the idea that it's dangerous not to give people a second thought. The idea of not giving people a second thought seems important for all of the seven as their actions will always have consequences but it seems more important for Percy in particular. Maybe it will have something to do with the choice Frank was told Percy would have to make that challenges his fatal flaw of extreme loyalty to his loved ones.
Aside from the major seven - eight, including Nico - The Heroes of Olympus has fantastic minor characters. I love Reyna. Even though she's conflicted over Jason, she's still a kickass female character. Poor Scipio, though! I love that Tyson and Ella are together; they're adorable. Octavian is horribly annoying and I love to hate him. And Bob and Damasen... I really hope that somehow they survived and we'll see them again. I highly doubt it but I really hope so.
I would and have been recommending these books to practically anyone who like mythology, fantasy, adventure, humor - basically anyone who reads, period. I think they're a great read for any child about age ten and up, particularly reluctant readers because of the books' faced paced action feel. I would also recommend this to teachers who are looking for books with a diverse cast of characters. It's a common question I get asked working in the children's department of a bookstore. It's not very often that characters' nationality or race plays such an important role in the their development and it's even less often that the nationalities and races represented are done so equally and non-stereotypically in a series. Again, I applaud Rick Riordan this time for creating such rounded and diverse characters. He is fantastic in every way.
And now, I can officially joining the mass of fans waiting for The Blood of Olympus which comes out October 7, 2014. Just remember, while we wait to tell the stars:
All pictures and graphics in this post (with the exception of the Heroes of Olympus book covers picture which I found through a Google image search) are created and owned by Viria. I take no credit for them.
Check her out. Her fan art is amazing.

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