Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Review: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus)
When Jason, Piper and Leo crash land at Camp Half-Blood, they have no idea what to expect. Apparently this is the only safe place for children of the Greek Gods – despite the monsters roaming the woods and demigods practising archery with flaming arrows and explosives.
But rumours of a terrible curse – and a missing hero – are flying around camp. It seems Jason, Piper and Leo are the chosen ones to embark on a terrifying new quest, which they must complete by the winter solstice. In just four days time.
Can the trio succeed on this deadly mission – and what must they sacrifice in order to survive?
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I hereby declare that Rick Riordan is back on form!
I know a number of Book Zone readers disagreed with my review of The Red Pyramid that I posted earlier this year, and I was really pleased that some took the time to question my judgement by writing comments on my blog. It is important that young readers formulate their own opinions about books and I respect every one of them. In case you haven't read my review, I personally felt a little disappointed on finishing it - in my opinion it just wasn't as good as the Percy Jackson books. Maybe my enjoyment of the PJ series is heightened by a greater personal knowledge of Greek mythology than that of Ancient Egypt? Whatever the reason, all that is in the past as in my eyes Rick Riordan is back on top with The Lost Hero, the first book in his new Heroes of Olympus series.
The new story starts sometime after the events of Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian, and rigth away we are introduced to a brand new set of demigods. First up there is Jason, of whom I can tell you very little. Why? Because he has amnesia - he finds himself 'waking up' on a school bus heading for an educational center at the Grand Canyon, surrounded by people who know him, and yet he has no memory of them at all. He is even more unnerved when two of them claim to be his best friend and his girlfriend. What is he doing here? Why does he not remember these people?
Next up is Piper, daughter of a Hollywood movie star, and in her memory at least, the girlfriend of the bemused Jason. Unlike Jason, Piper already has an inkling that something is going on as she is harbouring a dark secret that is burning her up inside, as she knows that she is going to have to cause great hurt and harm to her closest friends in the near future.
The third of our new demigods is Leo, troubled orphan, but very much the joker in the pack. He also has a special skill - he is great with machines and can fix just about anything, but he also possesses a power that he wants to keep hidden from the rest of the world as the last time he used it there were disastrous and painful consequences.
Whilst the Percy Jackson books were a voyage of discovery for one person, surrounded by an entourage of exciting and colourful characters, The Lost Hero is very much the story of all three of the new characters, and as such is told in the third person (as compared to the PJ series which was narrated in Percy's voice). Even though it is early days for these characters, because of Mr Riordan's telling of the story in this way, in just this one book I felt that I got to know them much better than the majority of the characers in the Percy Jackson series, even after reading all five books. The third person narrative really helps us as readers to get into the heads of the three new demigods, and as they all have so much to hide from each other this story just wouldn't have worked anywhere near as well in the first person.
Aside from great modern characters that perfectly fit the legacy of ancient greek mythology, another of Rick Riordan's trademarks are his adrenaline-fuelled action scenes, and fans will not be disappointed here - the 550 page book is filled with such scenes, with our heroes finding themselves up against all kinds of monsters and eveil creatures almost from the first chapter. One of my nagging worries before opening this book was whether the author would be able to keep these scenes from getting stale and 'by-the-number'; after all, surely there are only so many ways a hero can defeat a monster? I had little to fear - the vast treasury of legends from Ancient Greece (and now Ancient Rome as well) means that there is no shortage of seemingly unbeatable monsters to throw in the paths of our young heroes.
Did I say Ancient Rome just then? Yes I did, and it wasn't an error - in The Lost Hero Rick Riordan has started to introduce elements of the mythology from that civilization as well. In order to make the story different from that of the original PJ series this makes perfect sense. After all, many of the Greek Gods were adopted by the Romans, just with different names. Zeus became Jupiter; Hera became Juno; Hephaestus became Vulcan; and so on. However, not only did the Romans change the names of these gods, they also changed their personalities to reflect their own empire building nature and we start to see elements of this in the new book. Rick Riordan manages to bring the myths of these two cultures together almost seamlessly, sometimes even using plot elements from the PJ series to explain certain things. Without giving too much away I think we will see much more of these 'new' gods in future books in the series.
To say much more about the story would be to create spoilers, and I am being so careful not to do this. I can't tell you any more about Jason's amnesia as the plot pretty much revolves around this. And as for the absence of Percy Jackson from this story? Please don't ask, for he could be the lost hero of the title and to say any more would ruin things for you. What did amaze me though, was that although Percy is missing, and some familiar characters (including Chiron and Annabeth) are very concerned about this, Percy's disappearance very quickly fades into the back of our minds as we become so much more interested in the trials and tribulations of our new team of demigods. Percy's disappearance could very easily have become the focus of this story, but it isn't and the book is even better for this. Rick Riordan has promised an appearance from PJ at some point in the series, so die hard fans have a great deal to look forward to. It could even be in the next book in the series - this is to be entitled Son of Neptune, and anyone with a knowledge of both Greek and Roman mythology will know why I am excited by this title.
Despite bringing the first adventure for our new demigods to a satisfying conclusion, the end of the book ends on a pretty massive cliffhanger, as well as leaving the reader with a number of "but...?" and "what if...?" questions, more of which started to pop into my head as I wrote this review. I am certainly very much looking forward to the next instalment in this new series, although I will have to wait until autumn 2011 for this.