Review: Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

One cursed demigod, two new heroes.  A quest to unleash the God of Death…

“I’m the God of Rome. I protect the legions.  I don’t want war without end.  You will serve me.”
“Not likely,” Percy said.
“ I order a quest!” the god announced.  “You will go north and find Thanatos in the land beyond the gods.  You will free him and thwart the plans of the giants.”

WELCOME BACK, PERCY JACKSON!  You would not believe how excited I was to get back to reading the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan and to find that, once again, Percy is in the hotseat.  Now, I know I’m a little behind, because the latest in this series, The Mark of Athena, has been out in hardback for some time, but after a big break from the series, it was great to get back to it.

In case it’s not already clear from the Adventures With Words/Bookplate Books podcast about The Song of Achilles (see our archive or iTunes), I absolutely adore Greek myths and legends.  When I was very little, I remember watching Ulysses 31, a space-age French/Japanese cartoon version of the Odyssey.  That totally captured my imagination and I was soon watching Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, Tony Robinson’s brilliant retellings of Theseus, the Iliad and Odyssey for BBC and reading Usborne and then classic versions of the myths.  Roger Lancelyn Green’s collection is surely still the best for young readers.  These stories are absolutely iconic; they are behind so much of the best (and worst) of Western literature, fascinating and strange.  The Greek gods themselves are amazing – incredible powerful yet always defensive, proud yet scared of being overthrown, competitive, fickle…just like people, in fact.  So, when I found the first Percy Jackson book, I was hoping for good things.

So far, after six books in the original series, and two books of the follow-up, I’m still loving it.  I have to say, in Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero, I did miss Percy as a narrator.  After following him on so many quests and adventures, I felt like I knew the character really well.  I was thrilled that the lost hero had been ‘found’ at the beginning of The Son of Neptune.  Up until this point, we’ve always seen Percy from the Greek point of view, although we started to get to know some Roman heroes in the previous installment.  Now, we see Percy from that angle and he has to learn to be a Roman as well as a Greek.  The fact that he’s lost his memory actually helps as we’re reminded that the Romans saw the Greeks very much as enemies – ‘beware of Greeks bearing gifts’ – but although the residents of Camp Jupiter view him as unconventional, he manages to bring out the best in his new friends.

I really enjoyed meeting some new characters too, in the form of Hazel and Frank.  I always enjoy the way in which Riordan writes such interesting well-rounded characters and these two are no exception.  Hazel is a daughter of Pluto with a strange past, apparently way further back than we’d expect, and some dark secrets she’s struggling to cope with.  Frank is just a bit hopeless, or at least he seems that way at first.  Then, once he’s claimed by his God-parent, things start falling into place, although only after they get a whole lot more confusing first.  

These ideas really encapsulate part of the reason I enjoy Riordan’s Percy Jackson books so much; there is a big message of hope and possibility running right through every story.  No character in the series is perfect; they all have flaws or difficulties to try to cope with.  However, despite that, they all have a chance to do something good and make a positive difference. Some people might see that as simplistic in comparison to something like, say, The Hunger Games or the Noughts and Crosses series by Malorie Blackman, but the same basic tenet runs through those books too.  Nobody’s perfect but everyone has a chance, however slim.

I’m guessing you can already tell I really enjoyed The Son of Neptune and that I’d highly recommend it.  I’ve got The Mark of Athena on order at my local bookshop; I can’t wait to pick it up and devour it very soon.

Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune is published by Puffin

Kate Neilan

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