Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

***Warning: There are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!***

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
published by Hyperion in October 2011
Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem - when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery - although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely - enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes od Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy
Series: The Heroes of Olympus series, Book #2/Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book #7

The Story: The Titans' defeat has stirred up Mother Earth - Gaea - from her slumber and she is now slowly awakening. Meanwhile, her sons - the giants - are being reborn and are getting ready to challenge Mount Olympus. This is really bad news for the Olympus gods as it means another battle looms in the near future. Juno (Hera) believes that the only way Olympus will be able to defeat Gaea this time around is if the demigods from the Roman and Greek camps unite. In order for this alliance to happen, she's taken the leaders of each camp - Jason and Percy, stripped them of their memories and sent them on their way to the opposite camp.

After months of slumbering, Percy finally makes it to the Roman demigods camp. Because of previous incidents, other campers are wary of children of Neptune and as a result, Percy finds himself in the legion's weakest cohort, the Fifth Cohort, which is composed of the misfit demigods. Quickly, he becomes friends with Hazel, daughter of Pluto (Hades), and Frank who's still unclaimed. Both demigods are part of the Fifth Cohort, new to the camp and have secrets of their own.

Before Percy can get comfy at his new camp, he is sent on a quest with Frank and Hazel. Pluto (Hades)'s lieutenant Thanatos has been captured by the giants and chained which means the Doors of Death has been forced open and no one is policing them. Therefore demigods and monsters have stopped dying, Gaea's pawns and minions are being resurrected and eventually, even mortals will find it impossible to die. Frank, Hazel and Percy are tasked to go to Alaska to free Thanatos before June 24th, which is only a few days away... On their journey, Hazel will have to face her past, Frank will need to find out what is his family's secret and Percy hopes to regain his memories.

My Opinion: Wooohoooo, my friends, Percy Jackson is back! LOL. Okay, so I wasn't dying to get my hands on and The Son of Neptune earlier this month, because I've been disappointed with Mr. Riordan's last couple of releases. The first book in this new series, The Lost Hero, was only okay and I really had difficulty finishing The Throne of Fire earlier this year... All in all, I was a bit wary of The Son of Neptune, wondering if the magic was gone for me... Well let me tell you, it isn't!! :)

As soon as I started reading The Son of Neptune, I knew this book was going to be a winner :) A big part of it was due to seeing Percy again. Actually, it's not so much his familiarity, but his personality :) Percy is such fun character to follow because he is clever and witty. A real smart-ass LOL. He is very likable and also has a lot of charisma which makes people pay attention to him and want to follow him. In comparison, Jason from The Lost Hero was bland and boring. His personality did not shine through his amnesia, while Percy's did. I also think that Percy has come a long way from The Lightning Thief in term of maturity. I think it shines throughout the book: when he assessed Octavian during the senate, when he faced Phineas, when he coordinated the rescue at the end, etc. Also, everything he went through  has made him a good leader, someone caring, compassionate and easy to interact with :) Of course, Percy's not perfect and sometimes, he can still act like a kid such as when he discover Frank's family gift. LOL. However, I think it's normal and it adds to Percy's depth :P

While Percy is a big presence in the book, his companions aren't about to let him outshine them :P I think a lot more thoughts went into Hazel and Frank's background stories and personalities than Piper and Leo's from The Lost Hero. Hazel and Frank are definitively more interesting characters, but more importantly, more likable. Hazel and Frank both have big secrets and things to worry about, but it doesn't stop them from forging ahead and do what they believe needed to be done. Also, they don't constantly doubt everything and believe in themselves and Percy. I think that was a big difference with Piper whom I really didn't care about in The Lost Hero. In this book, Hazel and Frank really hold their own with Percy and prove they are worthy to be part of the big quest :) I have to admit that even now, Frank's ancestry still confuses me a bit LOL. However, it definitively makes him more intriguing... The potential he has!! Another thing that's interesting is that Mr. Riordan has not wrapped up their storylines yet - both of their curses - and I'm looking forward to see how all this will be resolved :)

Something else that made me wary of The Son of Neptune was the storyline. I knew coming in that Percy would have amnesia and he would find himself in the Roman camp, etc. and I was afraid that the storyline would be a repeat of what Jason went through in The Lost Hero. I should have had more faith in Mr. Riordan ^_^;  First, Mr. Riordan did not dwell on the fact that Percy had amnesia too much and the memories and glimpses from the past came back to him much faster than for Jason. Also, I think it was fun to discover the Roman demigods and their camp, how they did things. It's quite different from the Greeks, while still being familiar. Does that make sense? I appreciated it even more because I had just re-read the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher which is very heavy on Roman legions and stuff, so some elements were very familiar such as the way they fight, the gladius, etc. :) Happy coincidence LOL. Finally, I liked the quest Percy, Hazel and Frank went on. I liked how the quest was connected to Hazel's story as well as Frank. I also thought Mr. Riordan is relying less on the myths which is a good thing. Oh, there is still a lot of elements taken from mythology such as the Amazons, Hazel's horse Arion, the gorgons and so on... but what I mean is when facing foes, our heroes have to rely on themselves and their wits more instead of thinking back on how these monsters were killed in the myths and legends and then, tricking the monsters into situations mimicking those circumstances/situations to win. Yes, that way is clever... but this way is more exciting and unpredictable :)

All in all, I really enjoyed The Son of Neptune and I think this was a great installment to the series. I was really glad to see some familiar faces such as Nico and Tyson!! Two of my favorite characters!! Tyson is just cute because of the love and loyalty he has for Percy... and seriously, the possibility of him having a harpy as a girlfriend is just so cute! And Nico!! I can't wait to find out what happens to him and I really hope that we'll get his POV at some point. I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be in the next book... At the same time, I think Mr. Riordan did a great job at not overdoing it - not adding Grover, Annabeth, Jason, Leo or Piper. This story was really about Percy getting accepted by the Roman camp and I say it's a success :)

Finally, I don't have any major issues with The Son of Neptune. I read this book in one sitting and it was just so much fun :) If I'm going to be picky though and have to find fault, well it'll be the usual quick timeline the book has. Why do the kids always have only a few days to complete the quest?!?

My Grade: I'm splitting hair with this grade. I've been debating whether to give The Son of Neptune a B+ or A- and so, I went back to look at how I graded the previous books in the series. My favorite book remains The Last Olympian, although this one comes to a close second. I'd say, my feeling for The Son of Neptune is on par with The Lightning Thief and so, B++ it is :)

I really, really enjoyed The Son of Neptune :) It was great to meet up with Percy again and this book really re-ignited my love for this series and Mr. Riordan's books. My hands are already itching for The Mark of Athena  - a year is really looong! I'm looking forward for the demigods heading to Rome! (Is this the first time they get out of America?) I also hope that we'll get a bit of Nico's POV in the next book. Sigh, I can't help but hope we're in for a great adventure!