narfna’s #CBR5 Review #103: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

house of hadesPlot has taken over where character development used to be in Riordan’s writing. I suppose it was inevitable when he started writing two books a year (at least he’s back down to one, now that the disappointing Kane Chronicles series is over with). And actually, the action and the mythology are still really, really fun, I just prefer the old version of this story. The original Percy Jackson series felt intimate and original.

In fact, I kind of hope after he’s done with this series that he moves on to writing about other things besides mythology-is-real books. I think he’s pretty much milked the concept for all its worth at this point. (I say this knowing full well he’s got a Norse mythology series in the works.)

That’s not to say I don’t like this book or this series, because I do. I especially liked this one, which I think is my favorite in the series so far.

It’s been almost two months since I finished it, so details are a little hazy. The action is basically split in two: half of it lies with Percy and Annabeth in Tartarus, and the other half with the remaining demigods as they fight their way to the Doors of Hades from the other side, encountering gods, monsters, and mythological creatures along the way. Frank in particular got some great stuff in this book, after basically being a doormat in the last two. And the mythological tricksters The Kerkopes made me laugh out loud.

But really, my heart belonged to Percy and Annabeth in Tartarus for this one. That whole arc, as they make their way to the heart of Tartarus, is genuinely terrifying, and frankly, kind of ballsy for a middle grade author. The themes they were dealing with down there were super intense. Also, Riordan introduces the Titan Bob, who gets some good stuff out of Percy, and is completely delightful (and surprisingly heartbreaking) in his own right. He almost entirely makes up for the fact that the Titans have been sort of neutered by this series. They were horrifying in the original series, and here they’re barely a concern.

Anyway, very much looking forward to the next book in the series, and I have faith that Riordan can pull it off.

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Bunnybean’s #CBR5 Review 9: Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

Unknown-6I read the third book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series: The Titan’s Curse.

Percy and his friends Annabeth and Grover are sent on a mission to find two new half-bloods at a boarding school in New Hampshire. Something goes wrong, there is a battle, and they are rescued by Artemis and her hunters. But Annabeth is kidnapped and may be in terrible danger, and it’s up to Percy and his friends to save her.

The goddess Artemis is also captured by someone that Percy and his gang don’t know. The half-bloods need to save Artemis and Annabeth, and stop a new villain called The General and their old enemy Luke from getting their evil army stronger.

Back at the camp, the students receive a prophecy that states:

Five shall go west to the goddess in chains,
One shall be lost in the land without rain,
The bane of Olympus shows the trail,
Campers and Hunters combined prevail,
The Titan’s curse must one withstand,
And one shall be perished by a parent’s  hand.

The students who are sent on the quest are: Zoe and Bianca (two of Artemis’ best hunters), Grover, and Thalia. Even though Percy isn’t chosen, he tags along anyways. He really wants to save Annabeth.

It was hard to save Annabeth and Artemis, though.

Atlas was the person who captured them both. He made Artemis hold the universe for him, and he threatened that if she didn’t hold it, he would kill Annabeth. He wanted to get revenge on the gods. But Percy and his friends came along and saved them.

Sadly, only 3 people survived on this quest: Grover, Percy, and Thalia. Bianca sacrificed herself for the quest. And Zoe turned out to be Atlas’ daughter, who was killed in the battle against him.

But the quest had succeeded! And all is well until the next book, The Battle of the Labyrinth.

You can read more of Bunnybean’s reviews on her mom’s blog.

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #19: The Red Pyramid

For more on young adult fantasy literature (especially meta-cognitive thoughts about the nature of YA Franchises) check out my regular blog: The Scruffy Rube.

Rick Riordan never really left the page. One year after finishing the Percy Jackson series he was back with not one but two series. The similarly Greek themed “Heroes of Olympus” and an Egyptian styled series called: “The Kane Chronicles”. My school happened to have a cache of The Red Pyramid the first book in “The Kane Chronicles”, so naturally I picked up a copy both to see if Riordan still had a deft touch for action-adventure with a dollop of mythological education, and to see if it was worth discussing in the classroom.

 

To be sure, Riordan has a teacher’s style, a strong ear for teenage dialogue and a fair sense of fun when delving into exposition heavy monologues. He attacks Egyptian mythology with the same sincere appreciation of history and coming-of-age stories that made Percy Jackson such a pleasure to read, and seems all too happy to guide readers beyond American shores into London, Paris and Cairo.

 

Beyond different deities, Riordan separates “The Kane Chronicles” from Percy Jackson in one major way: altering the narrative focus from a single first-person point of view, to a pair of narrators telling their story through an “audio recording” that comes close to second-person point of view. It’s a clever conceit, one that I haven’t seen done in young adult series before and it helps to equalize the power balance between his two protagonists, the siblings Carter and Sadie Kane.

 

Unfortunately, that conceit also mucks up the act of story telling. The story starts with a plea to go quickly and a sense of urgency, then the narrators fixate on prosaic style. I readily believe that teenagers (whether they’re descended from an ancient order of Egyptians or not) would record their every thought, feeling and interest. I don’t know as I can make the leap from that kind of teenager, to the kind who possesses an incredible recall for events of several months before or who casually incorporates description like: “His clothes were similar to those he’d worn the day before, and I had to admit the guy had style. His tailored suit was made of blue wool, he wore a matching fedora and his hair was freshly braided with dark blue lapis lazuli“particularly if there’s an urgency to telling the reader a particular story.

 

While Sadie and Carter often sound like teenage siblings (particularly in the bickering, squabbling, under-your-breath insult arena), they also sound far more worldly than any teenager/magician/possible demi-god has a right to. The narrative bogs down in their descriptions and whenever there’s a hint of an explanation coming up, both characters are hurtled into a fresh action sequence, jumping from one monster to the next with a seemingly interchangeable array of adult guardians.

 

Still, give Riordan credit. He knows enough about what fans want to read (action and a healthy dose of mythology) that he can satisfy them while exploring other avenues of his own artistic interests as well (altering the narrative format, expanding the world around him). He even gives a satisfying glimpse into social dynamics of a mixed-race family, even if that point gets largely subsumed by falcon heads, swinging swords, ravenous hippopotami and plenty of explosions. I might not have asked for an encore to Percy Jackson, but I can’t say that Riordan’s half-assing his way off stage.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #89: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

The novel begins with Percy Jackson being pursued by gorgons. Percy has had a rather bad week – he can’t remember anything about his past except for his name and a girl named Annabeth. He is being hounded by monsters from mythology, and he has to get Camp Jupiter for safety. When he finally arrives at Camp Jupiter, he still doesn’t know if he’s actually safe since he is met with suspicion. His abilities clearly mark him as a son of Neptune, who isn’t exactly a favorite among the Romans. He quickly makes friends with two of the other misfits in the camp – Hazel, a daughter of Pluto, and Frank, who is still unclaimed though his 16th birthday has passed. Hazel has secrets about her past that she is hiding, and Frank is still grieving for his mother, a Canadian soldier that died in Afghanistan.

Full Review.

Bunnybean’s #CBR5 Review 7: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

UnknownI listened to this audio book on the way to our family’s beach trip on Cape Cod. Its the second book about a boy named Percy Jackson (I alreadyreviewed book one of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Lightning Thief), who goes on a quest to save his beloved camp, Camp Half-Blood. Percy is the son of Poseidon, and Camp Half-Blood is a place where all of the children of the Greek Gods can live in safety.

Thalia’s magical tree that protects the camp’s borders from monsters is dying, and the magic is slowly fading away. And that means that there is no safe place for the half-bloods anymore. Percy and his friends Annabeth and Tyson (as well as Percy’s enemy Clarisse, daughter of Ares) go on a dangerous journey to save their old friend Grover, who knows where the famous Golden Fleece is. The Fleece is the only thing in the world that can cure Thalia’s magic pine tree.

Luke, a villain from the first book, is the one who poisoned the tree. He’s also trying to raise an army to destroy all of the half-bloods and the Gods on Mount Olympus.

Meanwhile, Polyphemus, a terrible cyclops, has captured Grover the satyr. Grover needs help and can also lead his friends to the Fleece.

While on their quest, the demigods face many terrible monsters, such as the hydra, the sirens, and Charybdis and Scylla. They travel on many different boats, and all of the either got lost, blew up, or sunk.

In the end, the get the Fleece and save Grover. The Fleece cures Thalia’s tree, and turns her into a regular girl again (she is the daughter of Zeus).

I really liked the new character of Tyson, a baby cyclops, who turns out to the Percy’s baby brother and new friend. I also liked Annabeth, Percy, and Chiron the centaur who helps to save Percy and get back to the camp.

I liked this book a lot and am already reading the third one!

You can read more of Bunnybean’s reviews on her mom’s blog.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #57: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

While it isn’t necessary to read Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series prior to this novel, The Lost Hero takes place afterwards so the reader will be missing some background. Since this novel focuses on three characters that are new to this world, however, it is very easy to just follow and learn along with them, while realizing that there are past relationships and nuances that you aren’t in on. The Percy Jackson series is fun, and there are only five, so they are definitely worth checking out and this book contains minor spoilers for that series, at least regarding whether certain characters lived or died (Riordan does a good job of not giving away much about the big events and twists, though).
The novel begins when Jason, one of the three new heroes, wakes on a bus, surrounded by strangers, unable to remember anything about himself. The first two students to address him are Piper, who says she is his girlfriend, and Leo, apparently his best friend. After an attack from a wind spirit, they are rescued, and introduced to a whole new supernatural world, one in which gods truly exist, and they are demigods, the offspring of a human and a Greek god. Piper and Leo are quickly claimed by their supernatural parents, though Jason isn’t. However, as confused as he is, Jason appears to have some familiarity with what is going on, recognizing the gods, the symbols, and much of the mythology, even if he keeps using the Roman rather than the Greek terms. All three are under a spell or mist – Piper and Leo have been made to believe that they know Jason while Jason’s memories have been taken. Soon after their arrival, they are given a quest to free Hera from her captors. In the process, they hope to find out what is going on with Jason and why, and Piper has her own motivations as well.

Bunnybean’s #CBR5 Review 3: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Unknown-2I just read The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson & The Olympians, Book One) by Rick Riordan. Its a book about a boy named Percy Jackson, who lives in New York, and one day finds out that he is actually the son of Poseidon, and that the Greek Gods are real. And that Mount Olympus is on the top of the Empire State Building.

Someone has stolen Zeus’s big lightning Bolt, and if he doesn’t get it back, the Gods will go to war. Percy has to go on a quest with his friends to go and return Zeus’s master Bolt. He meets up with lots of monsters, including the minotaur that killed Percy’s mother. At least, that’s what Percy thinks he did. Percy really wants to get his mother back.

The three friends cross the country and make their way to the underworld (in Los Angeles), because they think that Hades has the Bolt, and Percy sees his mother there. Hades’s helm of darkness is stolen (it turns him into a shadow), so the only way to get back his mother is to find Hades’s helm too.

Ares, the God of war, actually stole the helm and tricked Percy by giving him a backpack with the Bolt in it. When Percy sees the Bolt, he runs from the underworld, leaving his mother behind for now.

Percy has a fight with Ares, gets the helm back, and sends it back to Hades, who returns his mother to the living. Then he goes to Mount Olympus and gives Zeus his Bolt.

Percy and his friends go back to their special summer camp for half-bloods and enjoy the rest of the season. Until one of Percy’s friends admits he was the one who stole the Bolt and then tries to kill Percy. The friends all go their separate ways in the fall, but will get back together for the next adventure.

I just studied Greek and Roman history and myths in school, so this was really interesting to me, and a little bit familiar. I knew about Medusa, the minotaur, and the 12 Gods on Olympus. And this week, we saw the movie made out of this book, but it wasn’t very good at all. I’ll definitely keep reading the rest of these books, but no more movies for me.

 You can read more of Bunnybean’s reviews on her mom’s blog.