Saturday, January 5, 2013

SERIES REVIEW: THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS / Rick Riordan (2013)

First Published in Daily Times / 5 Jan 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Demigod fans who bade farewell to Percy – (son of Poseidon) & the Olympian franchise a few years ago must have wondered what the writer was up to as they came across a ‘final’ Prophesy conveniently left unresolved at the end of the saga.

The Last Olympian’ concluded the five part series wrapping up Percy Jackson & his merry band of demi-gods' extended arc with a high-octane finale and an emotional send-off. Though Rick Riordan had moved on to explore Egypt in ‘The Kane Chronicles’, he wasn’t done with Olympus, its ever shifting centre of power or its hoity-toity god population for that matter.

The cryptic warning heard in the final pages is used to establish the credentials of this spin-off. The gods return in the ‘Heroes of Olympus’ series - distant as ever and in Roman form heralding a brand new dawn with the promise of new crusades, a shiny new quest, fresh faces and an ancient threat. And Percy is back; even if he is no longer centre stage and more demigods step forward to fulfil the ‘Prophesy of Seven’.

The ‘Heroes’ Pentalogy revisits Rick Riordan’s universe of monsters, mayhem and mythical divinities graduating from Greek mythology to harvest elements from its Roman counterparts. This allows the series to explore other dimensions of this divine canvas reaping the splendour of ancient Rome while exploring its famed rivalry with its brethren from Greece. The confluence of snarky satyrs, ironic spirits and restless deities with grand designs provides a lovely contrast to the brewing clash of civilizations. Like before, all this unfolds in the backdrop of modern day America.

Readers head off to the famous boot camps for a happy reunion with their favorites and later on stop for a much needed ‘Roman Holiday’. The ‘Heroes of Olympus’ series abandons the first person narrative that worked so well with the original Percy Jackson series. The stories are told from the perspective of the new set of heroes; while the final one takes along all seven on an insane ride of a ‘demi-god life time’.

The writer resumes the fascinating history lesson to enliven the battle with requisite themes of loyalty, chivalry, honour and sacrifice in tow. The mythology section also gets an upgrade incorporating Chinese and Cherokee legends to the mix marking the debut of Roman gods with an international stamp of approval. This time around there is ethnic diversity to line familiar avenues and extra hands to ease the quest - laden burden.

Book I follows the trail of Jason, Piper and Leo – ‘chosen ones’ with baggage and one among them with a severe case of memory loss which is not pretty. The journey can be a tad frustrating because of the missing markers to Jason’s old life but the writer uses it as a plot devise to link the intricately laid out trail of breadcrumbs spread over two camps and five books. The initial haze of confusion surrounding the amnesic demi-god and the temporary blur resulting from the frenetic energy might leave some more shaken than stirred. The demi-god season however always has a few surprises up its sleeves. Rick’s signature humour keeps the franchise afloat; his delightful re-imagination of popular legends mines a forgotten era to deal out absurdities with a straight face and a cheerful wave.

Book II resurrects the ‘buy one get three hero’ deal - this time introducing two more faces from the Roman camp and sending a different trio on an action-packed quest. The resemblance to boy wizards from across the Atlantic is but fleeting; the scale is epic and the stakes – astronomical.

Because Percy is missing, the fate of the monster infested universe hangs in the balance and Olympus is (gasp) closed. The writer re-casts the world in Greek or in this case Roman aspects and never misses any opportunity to take delicious digs at beloved monuments. In these lofty realms, there is room for Amazon – the online shopping portal but with cunningly devised medieval trimmings that make readers exclaim – ‘but of course!’ As before, he provides obscure gods and goddesses a chance to join the elite legion of mythological power players that frequent the halls of Olympus.

The storytelling has a cinematic quality staging monster - demigod mash-ups with flair. Though a single quest casts lingering shadows over each book, this light hearted fantasy/adventure is a conventional gateway to a universe designed to appeal to the young and the ‘young at heart’.

The main quest has a five book arc, but each book ties up the secondary threads within the allotted time frame. Book III, however that trades the comfort of home for the grandeur of actual Rome, leaves readers hanging off an unexpected cliff-hanger and it will take ten months or so before they can be rescued in ‘The House of Hades’ (Oct 2013). Fans can reunite with Percy & co. in ‘The Lost Hero’, ‘The Son of Neptune’ and ‘The Mark of Athena’ - available in bookstores now. Two more books are due which will complete the ‘Heroes of Olympus’ series by October 2014.

Images Courtesy of: http://th06.deviantart.net/fs70/PRE/f/2011/282/8/b/heroes_of_olympus_android_by_rustdude1-d4cd30e.png

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3 comments:

  1. Even after all these years Rick still continues to amaze me. Waiting for a Riordan novel has always been the highlight of my year ever since I picked up The Lightning Thief so many years ago. Even with the bar raised high, this book still managed to blow my mind. The best thing about this book is Annabeth's POV. We come to realize just how smart, brave and kind she is. We also realize just how much Percy means to her and how loyal she is to her friends. Percy's POV is awesome as always. Riordan's character development is extremely noticeable here. You can see how much Percy has changed since he stumbled into Camp Half-blood all those years ago. Leo's POV is downright hilarious while also strikingly poignant. Piper too has changed a lot.
    But, hold on, we can't have a Riordan book without his trademark Rickhangers. I won't post any spoilers here but those who have read the book know what I am talking about and it's heartbreaking to say the least.
    Well what else can we do but wait till fall 2013 for the House of Hades. It's a long wait i know but atleast I have a lot more books to finish.

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    Replies
    1. ...just one more Rickhanger (as you put it) left. The demi-god season was good while it lasted.

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  2. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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