I never thought I would be so taken with a children’s book after Harry Potter. I mean really, who can beat Potter? So here’s what’s interesting: whilst the Harry Potter books are a slow build up to an ultimate battle of all that is good vs. all that has gone wrong with an abandoned boy who becomes a most feared wizard, and I liked it that way, the Son of Neptune and ( from excerpts I have read) The Lost Hero, is an action packed ongoing battle between mortal, immortal and demi – taking on from the Percy Jackson series, where the gods of Olympus -well, their Roman facets, continue to be meddling, sadistic and egotistical enough to wield their power, manipulate circumstances and the kids( demi gods) into doing their bidding, all to save themselves from disappearing completely and restoring balance between the living and the dead.
I can’t believe I have not read the ‘Lost Hero.’ I am going back of course, for clearly what has happened in book one impacts this one. Where was Rick Riordan when I was studying Greek and Roman mythology at school? I would have loved reading this series back then. I applaud him for including all the must-know bits of Roman Mythology and I love that Percy Jackson is once again a huge part of this story. I also love the humorous bits i.e. the implication that Amazon.com is run by a well oiled, strong, battle ready bunch of Amazonions, poor mortals have no idea when they order online, they are actually ordering from war hungry women who walk around in tight leather suits with tablets that look like iPads. Even Elysium is explained simply and beautifully, for paradise in the underworld is hard to imagine.
I also liked that this book travels through the West coast and takes me to cities in my home town of San Francisco. Riordan makes it so realistic by using the Caldecott tunnel ( a three bore highway tunnel) as the entrance to the camp, and stirs the imagination when he suggests that mortals drive in oblivion through fog which swirls throughout our city on most days, perhaps missing out on crucial events taking place within the mist. I enjoyed his style of narrating in the 3rd person, It was easy to keep track of the plot from the perspective of the three main characters – Percy, Hazel and Frank. The characters are well-developed because of their detailed introduction and past, it is a nice change from the first person format in the Percy Jackson books.
Since I have not read ‘The Lost Hero,’ let me begin with this one… Percy is confused, has no memory of what has happened to him, he does not understand how Hera is Juno and Ares is Mars, even more so because they seem more civilized, nice even or for lack of a better word- modern. All he knows is that two very un-appealing gorgons( female shaped demons with vipers in their hair, with the ability to turn anyone making eye contact with them into stone) are after him, not only because he killed their sister Medusa ( in Percy Jackson and the lightening thief) but because Gaea ( Greek Goddess of Earth, creator of the gods of Olympus and the heavens) consumed with anger toward the Olympians has called upon all monsters to join her battle to take over the world and destroy the gods and their demi god children at any cost. She is about to unleash monstrous giants into the world, has kidnapped the guardian of the underworld – Thanatos– and has therefore thrown the entire life/death cycle into turmoil, for any monster that is destroyed, keeps re-forming posing quite the challenge. Although Gaea is the very personification of earth, she is known to be merciless and cruel, much worse than the gods of Olympus. Percy, unsure of what his role is in all of this and heavily pursued by surefooted gorgons, encounters Juno in the guise of an old woman, who asks him to carry her across heavy traffic to the entrance of Camp Jupiter. When he figures out who she is, she gives him a choice: either join the gods, save the camp and get his memory back by fighting Gaea or stay where he is, be assured of safety and never remember his past.
Percy’s choice is the catalyst for a very interesting adventure. We meet the fantastic demi gods of Camp Jupiter, the lares or house gods ( kind of like the heads of houses in Harry Potter) and the legions much like old Roman army. Percy becomes embroiled in a new quest which takes him, his new friends Hazel and Frank all the way to Alaska – away from any help from the gods and right into the middle of Gaea’s trap. Riordan uses many situations to show us the difference between the Greeks and Romans and even the difference between gods themselves. Percy’s friends are really intriguing; the beautiful and exotic Hazel is the daughter of Pluto, endowed with the gift of wealth and the ability to produce jewels or metal of tremendous value, she is also cursed with the burden of touch … in the sense that if someone were to touch or pick up the jewels they would be cursed with terrible consequences. Frank is the son of Mars, blessed with the gift of archery. With the help of Mars, the demi gods set out to complete their quest. What I most admire about the characters is their diversity; Frank is Asian, from a family of strong women, he is on the verge of discovering his special gift- and it is quite a surprise. Hazel is African-American and has a past that haunts her for most of this quest. Together they appeal to a greater readership, for their banter, teenage issues and emotions are well handled. In this book Riordan also sheds more light on the prophesy of seven, I need to read some more to know where it is going but I liked the clues I got. I wanted the end to go on and on.. You must read this book… no really, you’ve got to.