Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Review: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

While it's not like I don't have enough things to keep me busy this time of year, I just finished reading The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  But I had requested it from the library, and after how ever many weeks? months? of waiting, it arrived and I only had a week to read it.  So if I never get around to doing Christmas cards, I'm blaming it on Rick Riordan.

However, I have to say that I'm glad I got to read it.  The truth is, we're not big Percy Jackson fans here.  My son read The Lightning Thief, and he liked it OK, but never read any of the other books in the series, nor did my husband.  I read all five books, and while I really liked the premise and love the way the books hook children into Greek mythology, I never was in love with the series like I have been with some other young adult series.

So, while I don't know that this would be true for middle school readers, I think I actually like The Lost Hero better than the previous series.  My main reason is that, to me, this book is more like a real mystery book, where you can figure out from the clues what may be coming up.  One of my biggest problems with the Percy Jackson series is that while you quickly learned that every chapter or so, the protagonists would be facing some horrible monster or vengeful god from Greek mythology, it always seemed arbitrary to me as to who was showing up when.  It felt to me like when Riordan was writing, he would say to himself "Whoops, it's been three chapters now since Percy Jackson was on the brink of being killed.  Let's see, who haven't I used yet to try to destroy him?" and then just throw in some new Greek horror.  But from my perspective, this one seems more cohesive, and Greek figures who either help or oppose the demigod heroes make more sense to me, based on their traditional stories and what is going on in the book.  This time around, I could take the clues and figure out somethings about the heroes and about the forces of evil that they must overcome (I don't want to be more specific and give things away, but come on--that's what Riordan's mythology series are always about).  I felt like I used my brain a bit more in this book, and that's something I appreciate in a book.

Another thing that I really like about this series is that it is blending the Greek and the Roman mythologies.  It is only touched on in this book, but the groundwork is laid for the fact that while the Romans borrowed their gods from the Greeks, their versions were slightly different in some significant ways.  I don't know where Riordan is going with this, but this is a fascinating new element to weave into his updated mythological tales.

This series maintains the same madcap pace...can't any of these "end of life as we know" scenarios give the protagonists at least a week of warning?...but has less of the comic/bravado/sarcastic patter that Percy Jackson tends to keep up during his battles.  Again, that is probably undesirable from the point of view of young adolescents, but a parent (or, at least, I) doesn't miss it.  Also, the story is told in third person among the three demigods who are the main characters in the book, which I like because I like spreading the wealth and getting to know more characters, rather that being so focused on just Percy Jackson.  The gods are also a bit nicer to their kids (so far, at least), and as a parent, I approve of that as well.

So I enjoyed the book, and recommend it to others.  It's not really something that I think of as being a Newbery contender.  But it is fun, fast-paced, and builds on a successful series that did build an interesting world that brings ancient mythology into the 21st century.  I think Riordan's idea of looking at both the Greek and Roman faces of these stories has a lot of potential, and I hope he takes advantage of that in the books to come.

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