Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review - Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades

Original Title: Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4.5
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: February 2009

Publisher: Puffin Books

Short, fun novella in which we join Percy, Thalia and Nico (the children of the Big Three) sent by Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, in a quest to retrieve Hades’ sword for the war to come. It doesn’t add much to the story, but I will read anything if that means I can join Percy and the other demigods in their quests and keep knowing more about the world they live in, in which myths are forever alive and he keeps moving forward, discovering new abilities and powers, and living up to the ‘hero’ title he rightfully earns with every adventure. I only missed Annabeth in this one, but as she’s Athena’s daughter, Persephone didn’t summon her, she only called the most powerful demigods.

The book is only four chapters long, I read it in little more than an hour, and just as I feel with every Percy Jackson story, I didn’t want it to end. Awesome read!

Review - The Battle of the Labyrinth

Original Title: The Battle of the Labyrinth
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: March the 6th, 2008

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Seriously, I can’t stop reading this series! With every book, it gets better and better, and I’m getting that feeling in which I want to know how it ends, and at the same time, I don’t, because I feel like I’ll never be ready to say goodbye to Percy, Annabeth, Grover, Tyson, and the whole Camp Half-Blood.

I can’t explain how much I loved this book. Here, Rick Riordan does it again, taking us to an epic adventure, through the many twist and turns of Daedalus’s Labyrinth, in their pursuit to avoid the inminent uprising of Kronos, and the destruction of the Olympians. I said it in my other reviews, and I’ll say it again: it is amazing how Rick Riordan manages to adapt ancient Greek mythology to the 21st century. I don’t get tired of seeing how he has an answer to every question I ask myself as I read, and every new character he introduces is both lovable and interesting. In this book, particularly, I grew quite fond of Annabeth; I already liked her, but here, I got to like her even more. She’s smart and brave, and she unhesitatingly takes the chance to prove herself leading the quest through the Labyrinth, even with the weight of the prophecy on her shoulders, but she’s also kind and loving, and doesn’t always let people know how she really feels, terrified to expose her weaknesses, even to her best friend Percy. That’s why, when she suddenly kisses him, I stood stunned, pretty much like Percy himself, but I had an instant smile on my face. The only thing that bothered me a little that they didn’t mention it again, but I hope they get more moments together in the next book.

Oh, and the battle! Grab your sword, and get ready for an epic fight! I read it holding my breath, and I felt like I was truly there, in the middle of the noise, the screaming and the roaring of monsters, with the heroes, satyrs and nymphs, fighting back to protect the Camp, and the world. This book (and the rest of the saga) truly makes me feel like I’m there, with them, going every step of the way at their side, and I have no words to say how much I loved it, and how badly I didn’t want this book to end. I have lots of questions I hope to answer soon, like, who was Nico’s mother, that attracted a god like Hades himself? What happened exactly to Luke, and is he still there, now that Kronos is gaining strenght? I can’t wait to know!

Just like the Labyrinth in itself, this book is full of twist and turns, and you have to keep reading to discover its secrets and know where you will end up, but also, you can get lost; the only difference is that there’s no hurry to find the way out. I was gladly surprised when, as I read, discovered that the whole book doesn’t take place inside the Labyrinth, which is a good thing (otherwise it would be repetitive and tiresome). Through our heroes’ quest, the old myths get interwined and mixed with each other, as Percy and his friends become a part of them, in this cycle that never ends (like when he cleans the Augean stables, where the flesh-eating Mares of Diomedes live -those are two of Hercules’ labors in one). I love how Percy discovers, in each book, new talents and powers, and his voice as narrator has me laughing out loud, it’s impossible not to love him!

If you like fantasy, you can’t miss this saga! It is the best I read in a long time (and trust me, this year I didn’t had much luck with the genre -it seemed to be one trashy book after another, or a very good first book, and then the rest of the saga simply sucked or got ruined by unnecessary things). It is clever, funny, epic... Everything a fantasy serie should be. Do not take the movies as reference and give it a chance! You will be captivated by this amazing world, and won’t want to leave it!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Review - The Titan's Curse

Original Title: The Titan's Curse
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: May the 7th, 2007

Publisher: Puffin Books

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Once again, Rick Riordan delivers a captivating story that I just had to keep reading. I’m so glad I decided to grab this story, it is so great! In this new installment, we find our heroes in a whole new quest, and this time, someone else has come to be a part of the group: Thalia, Zeus’ daughter, and one of the most powerful demigods ever born. 

Rick Riordan continues doing what he does best, blending old Greek mythology with the 21st century, in a way that had me laughing, and gasping, and wanting to know more, passing one page after another, not wanting the book to end. In this book, we get to go on a quest with our heroes, who leave Camp Half-Blood with an ominous prophecy looming over them. Here we get to know a new set of characters, as Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, and her Huntresses, who are the counterpart to Camp Half-Blood, because even when Artemis has an honorary cabin in the camp, it will be forever empty, as Artemis vowed to stay a maiden forever. Her second in command, Zoe Nightshade, was one of the best characters; her story was both sad and beautiful, but she proved to be a Huntress worthy of the title, and when Artemis turned her into a constelation, I almost cried. It was such a beautiful scene to read, and to imagine, especially after both Zoe and Bianca di Angelo, a powerful half-blood whose parentage is unknown, gave up everything out of love and duty, and proved themselves worthy of the word “heroine”. 

I also liked both Bianca and Nico di Angelo; from the start, with everything they say, you can tell how powerful they are, and they kept me guessing and wondering which god could be their mother or father. And when I finally learned it, I admit, I suspected it, but I wasn’t sure. Hades doesn’t sound like the kind of god who goes out there having children with mortals, but I really hope we get to know more about that story, especially now that Nico is the new possibility to fulfill the prophecy (I felt really sorry about that, I like Nico and I want him to be happy!). I wonder what kind of mortal woman could possibly atract the God of Death himself, she must have been very special indeed.

This book has so many amazing and funny moments that I cannot do justice to all of them. It shows how friendship, love and loyalty can, if not overcome everything, make you do and face anything, awakening your courage and taking you to the most unlikely places. They set off in their quest knowing its price, and for that I like Percy even more, because nothing is enough to stop him from going after Annabeth. Not once he forgets about her, and is even willing to find her on his own if he has too. I love him for that. He may be a hero because he is a demigod, but he rightfully earns the title.

I love Greek mythology. It’s a fascinating universe in which you can get lost, and here, it appears wonderfully adapted to our modern world. You can’t help loving every single character, but, as I said, I can’t do justice to every detail in this book, as much as I would like to. You need to read it know what I mean! If you love fantasy, then this saga is for you!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review - The Sea of Monsters

Original Title: The Sea of Monsters
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: April the 1st, 2006

Publisher: Hyperion Books

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

I loved this book! It’s even better than the previous one, and I really hope this saga only gets better and better. It had me laughing, and gasping, and passing the pages not wanting to stop. In fact, when I wasn’t reading, I was thinking that I wanted to go back to it! I love when a book does that.

Once more, Rick Riordan proved himself brilliant, blending the old Greek myths with the 21s century’s reality. This time, he takes us to the Sea of Monsters, where Percy, Annabeth and their new friend Tyson face an Odyssey of their own, going through all those dangers the heroes of old went through on their sea voyages: Circe, the sirens, Scylla and Charybdis… everything within the Bermuda Triangle, in an amazing way to explain some of its mysteries, that mortals simply can’t see or understand by themselves. I loved the way Riordan depicted the Sea of Monsters and the perils they encountered along the way to retrieve the Golden Fleece from Polyphemus, who’s holding Grover captive, and had me laughing out loud! Poor Grover, he wasn’t having any fun, but still, his scenes trying to dodge Polyphemus were so much fun! And it was great how Riordan managed -very cleverly- to adapt a part of Penelope’s tale -Odysseus’s wife- to Grover’s. Well done!

However, there’s something I couldn’t help noticing, and I simply have to mention it. In order to save Camp Half-Blood, Percy, Annabeth and Tyson go on a quest to find the Golden Fleece. At some point, Annabeth tells the Fleece’s story, and perhaps there’s another version of it, but I noticed it is the wrong one. She says Cadmus and Europa were saved by the ram with the Golden Fleece, but that’s not how the story is, and I’ve read it enough times to know it very well. The real story involves the twins Helle and Phrixo, children of Athamas, king of Boeotia, and Nephele, a cloud nymph. Athamas, after divorcing Nephele, marries Ino, a woman who grows to hate her stepchildren, and plots to get rid of them. She burns the crops and bribes some men to lie about an oracle that dictates that, in order to avoid famine, Helle and Phrixo must be sacrificed. But before they can be killed, their mother sends the ram (which is said to have been sired by Poseidon and Theopane, a nymph) to rescue them, and it takes them flying away. They are warned not to look down to the Earth as they fly, but Helle, however, does it anyway, and in her fear, she falls from the ram, and drowns in the sea that later takes her name, Hellespont (Sea of Helle). Phrixus, however, survives and reaches Colchis, where finally King Aeetes gives him his daughter Chalciope in marriage, and in return, Phrixo gives him the Golden Fleece, which the king hangs in a tree in his kingdom, bringing prosperity.

I just had to mention it; mythologically speaking, it is wrong. The story Annabeth tells mentions Cadmus and Europa, that actually are brother and sister, but they have nothing to do with the Golden Fleece’s myth. Actually, she’s another of Zeus’ lovers (and the one from which Europe took its name), and he is a famous monster slayer, each of them with their own myths. But still, it is a minor detail and the story can be understood the same, it doesn’t take away the fact that the book is awesome.

My problem is that, being still a Greek mythology freak (although less enthusiastic as I used to be at thirteen, or fourteen), I knew some things the characters didn’t and when they came out were less surprising as they were intended to be, like Chiron being Kronos’ son. But I simply have to stand up and give a loud applause to Rick Riordan, because of the awesome fact that he was able to make me laugh with a character as terrible as Tantalus. Lets face it, his myth is probably one of the cruelest, but even so, his bad mood and his attempts to catch food had me laughing out loud, and even more through Percy’s eyes: “That was so completely unfair that I told Tantalus to go chase a donut.”. And also “Tantalus made a wild grab, but the marshmallow committed suicide, diving into the flames.”. Really well done, Mr. Riordan!

The book is amazing, and I’ll never get tired of saying so. The ending is a perfectly mean cliffhanger that will make me grab the third book as fast as I can. This series only gets better and better, and it reminds me why I love fantasy so much! You are never too old for stories like this, and I recommend it all of those people who haven’t read it yet! Go for it, you won’t regret it!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Review - The Lightning Thief

Original Title: The Lightning Thief
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: June the 28th, 2005

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books

I said it before and I say it again: “never judge a book by its movie”. I grabbed it after a peaceful Sunday afternoon watching the movie on tv, after mere curiosity, and that very same day I got the book and started reading it.

My first thought was that I wish I had read this book back when it was published. I was thirteen years-old back then, and I already used to lock myself up with a collection of encyclopedias to read about gods, goddesses and heroes. I was a Greek mythology freak pre-teen. But also, I’d wish I had met Percy back in a time in which he and I had so much in common. Upon reading about him, I could relate to many of those things he faces, as I faced them as a kid back in school, and that sadly are a reality many adults choose to ignore, especially when it comes to bullying (yeah, I know that firsthand, but back when I was a kid, it didn’t had that name -it was only something all kids do, so I was never defended; in fact, my bullies were defended when I reacted).

It was a great read; as I passed the pages I was able to remember lots of things I had read about mythology, and let’s face it, Rick Riordan did a great work adapting the gods and deities to the modern world, and definitely, his image of the Fire is quite accurate. Humanity, basically, hasn’t changed, and those same vices the Greek pictured in paradisiac islands, brought by spells casted by nymphs and goddesses, tempting travelers and heroes alike, are perfectly clear in the most powerful nation in the world. The way he told how those myths we can read are a reality in this story, is brilliant, especially after I, as I read myth after myth, discovered that much of what happens in them isn’t always suited for under-aged readers.

There’s however, a few things I have to mention. For starters, Percy’s mom. She knew the whole time she had a son with the Sea God, and she takes it normally, but I want -need- details! How they met, how she knew who he really was, how she believed him and… I mean, how do you take in the fact you ended up pregnant by an old Greek deity? Even when she’s a really good character, Sally Jackson never really gives any explanation of how things happened, except for a few lines that aren’t enough! And on the other hand, we have Poseidon as Percy’s dad. It bothered me a little that nobody seemed to connect the dots. I mean, come on! Percy finally accepts the fact that his father is a god, but he doesn’t know which of them. Although, yes, he has uncontrollable reactions related to water every time he’s bullied or mistreated, like when he made the bathroom pipes explode, or healed his own wounds. It was right there! There’s not much to think if you have twelve cabins for the kids of those twelve main gods to live in Camp Half-Blood, and only one of them belongs to a god related to water. Of course, there’s other Greek sea gods, but they are minor and wouldn’t have a cabin in the camp (like Proteus -a son of Poseidon-, or Nereus), so I think it was quite clear the whole time, even before Poseidon himself claimed him as his son.

A thing that also bothered me a little is that everything is very American. Very. And before anyone say anything, I’m not from the U.S.A., but from Argentina. I bring it up only because lately I’ve been thinking, it’s unbelievable how we naturalized all those things we hear about in movies, series and books, about the Northern country; it’s geography, celebrations, summer camps… Even the seasons! This book takes place in the U.S.A, and it has lots and lots of reference to things only those born there will fully understand. But it’s not, however, something I fully criticize. It’s ok.

As for those comparing Percy Jackson with Harry Potter, yes, I saw lots of things in common, but this story is great in its own way, no comparison needed. Give it a try; after all, each reader has a different, unique point of view, and Percy and his friends are heroes worth reading, so definitely, I’m going to read the rest of the saga!