Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Series of Series Continues

You have to wonder if it's even possible today to write a YA novel, just one book that tells one story from beginning to end without prequels, sequels, a seven part series or an eight part movie franchise. For Rick Riordan, it doesn't seem so. Out recently is his novel The Mark of Athena, the third installment in the Heroes of Olympus series, which itself is a sequel series to his seven part series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. You following?

A quick recap of all the Greek demi-god action so far. In the original series, Percy Jackson is an ADHD kid with minor behavior problems who discovers he's the son of Poseidon when his mother is kidnapped by a minotaur. Percy is sent off to Camp Half-Blood, a secret camp where demi-gods secretly train for various quests that secretly affect the outcome of world events. He hooks up with a girl named Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and manages to save his mom from Hades. Later he and his demi-god (and satyr) friends save the whole world from the resurgent Titans, the evil parents of the Greek gods.

When the Heroes of Olympus series opens, Percy has vanished from Camp Half-Blood. Annabeth, certain of some foul play, is on the hunt to track him down. In the meantime another demi-god, Jason, who is afflicted with amnesia, is brought to Camp Half-Blood. Eventually it's discovered that there is a second demi-god camp, New Rome, where children of the god's Roman aspects live and train. The camps have been kept secret from each other because Roman and Greek demi-gods tend to war with one another on a massive scale. But Hera (or Juno to the Romans) has forced a camper-exchange between the two camps, Jason for Percy, because there is, yet again, a threat from one of the Titans. Gaia, the earth mother, is attempting to raise an army of giants. It will take cooperation of the Roman demi-gods, the Greek demi-gods and the gods themselves to defeat this enemy.

Up until this book, Percy and Annabeth have played relatively minor roles in the Heroes of Olympus trilogy. Most of the action has focused on some new demi-gods: Jason, son of the Roman god Jupiter; Hazel, a recently-raised-from-the-dead daughter of the Roman god Pluto; Frank, son of the Roman war god Mars; Leo, son of the Greek god Hephaestus; and Piper, daughter of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. With Percy and Annabeth their quest is to somehow unite the Greek and Roman demi-gods to stop Gaia's plan.

All of the elements that worked so well in the Percy Jackson series are on display here: the contemporary humor, the modernizing of Greek mythology, the contrast with our contemporary consumerist mythology, and a lot of great sword fighting and magic. On top of that, Riordan pulls in the conflict between the Greeks and the Romans and references mythologies from China and Native America as well. It's all clever and fun. You'll get the richest experience if you read the whole two-series set from the beginning, but you can easily jump in with The Lost Hero, the first in the Heroes of Olympus series.

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