Saturday, January 28, 2017

Review - The Son of Neptune

Original Title: The Son of Neptune
Series: The Heroes of Olympus, #2
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: October the 4th, 2011

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Books

*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I loved this book! I seriously did; it is another proof of Rick Riordan’s amazing talent as a storyteller, and an awesome way to introduce young people to ancient mythology and history, in a world in which they are both alive, and fending off monsters, hearing prophecies and fighting with swords and bows are everyday things. Here, we found the second installment in The Heroes of Olympus saga, and it was as good as the previous one.

One of the best parts in this book was, definitely, having Percy back. He’s one of my favorite characters, and although in this one I missed both Annabeth and Thalia, I have the hope they will reappear, especially after that ending! But Percy… If he could make me love him even more, he did it here. Even when nothing in his life was certain, and he didn’t remember a thing about himself, he knew that somewhere out there was a girl named Annabeth, looking for him, and even when he didn’t fully recall her, he knew she was his anchor to the world, someone he needed and would give anything to be reunited with her. They are destined to each other, and I can’t wait to read more about them, now that they are officially together. In short, as far as Percy and Annabeth are there, it will be a must-read!

I liked Camp Jupiter, it is the Roman counterpart to Camp Half-Blood, where not only demigods find a refuge, but also their families, and their descendants. It has ancient Rome’s organization and urban plant, and the campers, instead of being divided according to their godly parent, are put in cohorts -a military unit-, and in Percy’s case, he ends up in the Fifth Cohort, the most mocked and maligned one, along with two other demigods, Hazel Levesque and Frank Zhang.

I liked Hazel, and I’m excited to read more about her, to see how her story plays out. She’s a brave, smart and strong heroine, daughter of Pluto (Hades), who goes for what she wants, and is always willing to sacrifice herself for those she loves; but she hides a secret. She’s not supposed to be alive, as she died decades ago, trying to stop Gaea and the giant Alcyoneus from rising, but she was brought back from the Underworld by Nico di Angelo, whom I loved to see back. I liked that, even when her curse costed so much (her mother’s disrepute and death, for instance), and she hated herself for it, she eventually learned how to use it on her behalf. Her story is sad, and tragic, but it shows how corruptive riches can be, and the way that, whatever comes from the Lord of Death, even in the shiny guise of gold, silver, platinum and gemstones, won’t bring anything less than death itself. The only thing that bothered me a little was the fact that she kept mentioning her curse, and all the problems it brought her, but she didn’t give any details, so there was a point in which I was thinking “Please, explain something to me, for once!”. The whole suspense is good, but it can be tiresome, as it takes forever to finally learn, for example, why people who touch the gems and metals that she makes come to the surface end up paying such terrible prices. But still, I loved her, and I’m eager to see the part she will play in the Prophecy of Seven.

As for Frank, I really liked him, and I even felt a bit identified with him. I understand -perhaps all too well- what it is wanting to be accepted, doing your best to fit in, and still, feeling laughed at, bullied, left aside. I felt like I could be friends with this guy. His powers are amazing, he’s a natural warrior, even with all his doubts and insecurities, and comes from an old family with Roman roots, and powers of their own. It wasn’t fair that his life depended on a piece of wood, but he’s a true hero, because even when he was aware of that, was willing to give his life in order to save the Camp and the world. However, there’s something about him that I need to mention. It bothers me when the characters in a book don’t seem to be able to connect the dots. Frank waited for months to be claimed by Apollo as his son, given that his most remarkable talent was archery. But it was pretty obvious that his father wasn’t Apollo. I knew from the start that he was Mars’ son, for the simple and plain fact that his mother was a soldier. I mean, think of all the other demigods’ parents we know, and ask yourself what they did that could attract a god’s attention. Gods are attracted to that very same thing that makes them alive and powerful (otherwise they would fade), Mars is the god of war, and Emily Zhang was a soldier. It wasn’t very difficult to guess. But still, Frank is a great character, and I want to keep reading about him. I loved his relationship with Hazel, seeing how trust grew between them, and changed the way they saw themselves and each other.

I wish I could do justice to all the great details in this book. Just like in the Percy Jackson saga, The Son of Neptune is full of Riordan’s clever adaptations and gags, like the Amazons being the owners of Amazon (by the way, I had to go to The Sea of Monsters to remember who Hylla was), Percy understanding Arion’s language, Iris in the organic food business, Thanatos owning an Ipad… Things only Riordan can do so well, making me laugh out loud. I’ll definitely keep reading the rest of the saga, even when I still love Camp Half-Blood better than Camp Jupiter. I’m excited about getting to know more about these characters, including those we already know from the previous saga. If it means I can join Percy, Annabeth and Thalia, in their quests to save the world, I’ll read anything!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review - The Lost Hero

Original Title: The Lost Hero
Series: The Heroes of Olympus, #1
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: October the 12th, 2010

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

I never thought I would read this book, after seeing it in hundreds of bookstores, and wondering what that cover with a big, mechanic dragon may be about. But Rick Riordan is easily becoming one of my favorite authors. His stories, besides being fast-paced, funny and engaging, have a strong, solid foundation, that links everything and widens the already big and multilayered world ancient Greek mythology built, and in this case, keeps building every day.

First of all, I have to admit that I wouldn’t have liked this book so much if I hadn’t met Percy Jackson and Camp Half-Blood first. I really missed him on this one, especially as narrator, because The Lost Hero is told in the third person, following the quest of three demigods, Jason, Leo, and Piper, who arrive at Camp Half-Blood in strange circumstances, as Jason’s memories have been stolen, and he has no idea who he is, and what is is he doing in a school bus full of kids on their way to a field trip. I liked the fact that the author chose to switch the heroes’ POV, so that way we can get to know the three of them at the same time, with their own personalities, struggles, personal stories... And they are demigods, so that never gets boring.

Camp-Half Blood is one of those places that always welcomes you back, and with every book, it feels like coming home. I love to go there, every time to find something new, and meet new campers, and now it is even more interesting, because there’s new cabins and new demigods, so that means new powers, and a new set of characters. Personally, I find really interesting to get to know the children of minor gods, like Iris’, Hecate’s, and Hypno’s, and I really hope there’s more about them, because they were underrated for a long time, and I’m really curious about what they can do. Sadly, I had unintentionally spoiled myself some things before reading this book, like Jason’s last name and Piper’s godly parent, but I have to say that it didn’t kept me from passing one page after another, and easily spending four or five hours straight reading non-stop. Every chapter finishes with a mean cliffhanger that makes you need to keep reading. As for the characters we already know from the Percy Jackson series, I must say, before this book, I really disliked the Aphrodite cabin (except for Silena Beauregard), along with their mother, but Piper really makes me rethink it, especially after her dream with her mother, in which she exposes the true power love has, that it is more than just beauty, pink, and the designer clothes and perfums that seem to be the cabin’s trademark. 

Love is powerful, Piper. It can bring even the gods to their knees.
My point is that love is the most powerful motivator in the world. It spurs mortals to greatness. Their noblest, bravest acts are done for love.

I still can’t believe my favorite quotes from this book came from Aphrodite, but there’s truth in her words. More than once, the gods, in their imperfection, acted out of love and passion (sometimes with catastrophic consequences), proving that Aphrodite, even when she’s usually considered shallow and fickle, is more powerful than she’s given credit for.

I really liked Piper, she’s a strong, powerful demigod, destined for something great, and she really gives another meaning to what it is to be a child of Aphrodite. However, the love story with Jason seems a bit forced. He has no memory of her, and her memories of him are a product of the Mist, so I don’t really like the whole “he’s mine” thing Piper comes up with. I get it when she practically spits it to Drew’s face to get her out of the way, but still, she doesn’t even know the guy!

As for the other characters, well... The ones from the Percy Jackson’s saga are still my favorites, as Annabeth and Thalia (by the way, I also liked to read again about the Hunters of Artemis). I liked Jason, but I still love Percy better. He’s powerful, and I really want to know more about him, the camp he comes from, his family, the battle in Mount Othrys... There’s a whole lot of things to find out about him, and I guess that’s why I didn’t fully liked him; because I need to know more. As for Leo Valdez, I liked that through him we get to know a lot more about both the Hephaestus cabin, and his talents are amazing, as he did a few things not even his siblings could do, in addition to be able to create and manipulate fire, which makes him even a more powerful demigod. He’s a Latin character, moreover! You don’t get to know many of them, and almost always they are horrible stereotypes based in no research. That’s not the case, and I really hope he grows even more to be an awesome character; the only thing about him is that I needed to be reminded of his age, because sometimes he doesn’t seem to be sixteen, but rather twelve or thirteen, by the way he talks and thinks. But still, he’s a great character.

The Roman mythology part sounds interesting and I’m more than willing to keep reading, especially now that we know where Percy is. I want to know more about Lupa the she-wolf, and of course, about the other camp in which the kids born from the Roman version of their godly parent are. I’m really curious about it, and I can’t wait to keep reading! I have the feeling that this saga won’t be better than the Percy Jackson one, but still, it promises to be really good. I’m always open to new fantasy sagas, and after of a couple of trashy ones, I’m very happy that I found an author who can really work magic with his words! Definitely a keeper!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Review - The Last Olympian

Original Title: The Last Olympian
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: March the 9th, 2009

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Books

*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Oh, my. What an ending! You know, with this book, I did what I always do with the great stories I have the good luck to find. I leave them for days, but not because they are bad, but because I don’t want to finish them. With The Last Olympian, I read wanting to know what would happen, but at the same time, not wanting to reach the ending, or I’d have to say goodbye to Percy, Annabeth, Grover and the rest of Camp Half-Blood. Something amazing happened to me with this book (and also with the rest of the saga), and I can only attribute it to Rick Riordan’s great talent. He wrote the dialogues in such way, and I was so into the stories, that I could actually imagine the voices of the characters in my head, with their emotions and tones, like I was actually there. Titans, satyrs, demigods... All of them speaking with their own voices, and that can only be accomplished by a true writer. I don’t know how he did it, but it was a truly magical experience that sent shivers down my spine, especially when Poseidon and his army came to save the day. My applause!

The battle of Manhattan was... I don’t have enough words for it, because “epic” isn’t enough. I was there, the whole time, fighting with Percy, holding back monsters, riding pegasi, sword fighting... It was just amazing. I don’t mean to go into detail, because you need to read the book to know how wonderful it is, but I do want, however, mention a few things. First of all, the blending of ancient Greek mythology with the 21st century is flawlessly written, just like in the other books; in this case, the most remarkable reference is the one to the Trojan War. Silena and Clarisse are much like Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad. Just look: Patroclus/Silena wears Achilles’/Clarisse’s armor to take the Myrmidons/the Ares cabin into battle. Then, Hector/the drakon kills Patroclus/Silena in the battlefield, dying later at the angry hands of Achilles/Clarisse, and their bodies are dragged behind their chariots in front of the enemy lines. It is really well done! 

I have to admit that the truth about Silena really took me by surprise, but then I thought that I should have seen it coming. The poor girl... She never got over Charles’ death, but at least they both gave their lives as true heros; I was sorry to see them gone, even when I don’t really symphatize with the Aphrodite cabin. They are the only demigods I don’t quite like (but I don’t like their mother, either, so I guess that’s where it comes from). Oh, and I laughed so much! Like with the mother-daughter moments between Demeter and Persephone, but mostly, when the Apollo cabin cursed the Ares kids, forcing them to talk in poetry. I just cracked up, when the Ares kid couldn’t but rhyme all the insults towards Michael Yew! Moreover, I remember it now, and I can’t help laughing again! 

But, well, back to Percy. I already loved him, but in this book, I love him even more. He really outdid himself in this book. He rejected immortality to give some importance to the minor gods, and finally give other demigods a chance to know who they were, and forced them to fullfil their duty to their children; they may not have intented to have them, but they did, so now, they had to claim them and give them an identity; after all, it isn’t the poor demigod’s fault if his/her godly parent couldn’t resist the charms of a mere human. But still, Percy is my hero, and if I could love him even more, I do now, thanks to his completely selfless request, making the gods swear on the River Styx. And through that, it is possible to see, clearer than ever, that the Olympian gods are powerful (very), but they are not perfect. They exist through human nature, and represent the best and the worst in it; although they consider themselves superior, they are not different from us. They are not free from mistakes. They symbolize what man can do, create, build, imagine and think. They can be artists, philosophers, warriors, and sovereigns. But they need humans, because for them, they exist. Otherwise, they would fade. There’s a reason why they are not the guardians of hope, because only humans can fully understand it. Just like Dyonisus and Chiron say, they need the heroes, because they carry the hope of humanity into the realm of the eternal. And here a “mere mortal” (as they call them) had to teach them about responsability, no less!

A hero’s death is never in vain. Or at least, it shouldn’t. Among the things this book teaches is that you can be a hero if you choose to be, and your decisions are actually what define you, not your blood. Fear can make you do terrible things, but also love, as it takes your fear away and takes you down paths that, perhaps, you never thought you would ever take. The prophecy loomed over our heros as an evil omen, and although it mentioned the actions of a hero, it actually referred to three of them. The decisions of three demigods, in one, critical moment, sealed the fate of humanity, as none of them could fulfill their destiny without each other. But mostly, those heroes prove that your greatest strenght can lie where you least expect it; your greatest weakness can save you, and become your anchor to the world. In the end, Luke surprised me, but he earned my respect, becoming the hero he always could be, in despite of his terrible backstory. By the way, I loved the fact that we could get to know a lot more about his past (along with Annabeth's and Thalia's), and most of all, about Nico and Bianca di Angelo. One of the things I wanted to know the most was about what woman could possibly enchant the Lord of Death like that, and although there’s not a lot of details about it, we get to know what we need to and no more. Also, I grew to like Rachel Elizabeth Dare (yes, you say her full name), and even when I guessed her gift, I didn’t think she could end up like that. But I was glad she could find her destiny, along with the demigods.

So, in short, this saga is amazing, and I’m already planning to read more by Rick Riordan. It has to be great for me to give 5 stars. I’m so glad I could catch the movie that lazy Sunday afternoon, because, otherwise, I would never have decided to read this amazing saga that I’ll never forget. Every fantasy lover should read it, and now, I’ll count it among my favorites!