Title: The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2)
Author: Rick Riordan
Read Date: 10 October 2011
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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (I really liked it.)
Review in a nutshell: This one’s a procedural, as Riordan novels go, but Percy’s reappearance and the introduction of a new Camp gives it a boost.
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 told 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.
When a book opens with the hero being chased by Gorgons–one of whom, carries a tray of poisoned Crispy Cheese ‘N Wieners as a murder weapon–you know you’re going to have a lot of fun.
The Son of Neptune is a procedural as Riordan novels go, but yes, it does pack a lot of alter-mythology fun. We get the time-tested Three-Heroes-Go-On-A-Quest formula, but this time with amnesiac!Percy Jackson, and a new boy (Frank) and a new girl (Hazel) from The Other Camp for Demigods (a.k.a. Camp Jupiter).
Riordan does what he does best, giving us a world where modern mortals exist side-by-side with creatures and elements from Greek and Roman mythology. I love how he is so attuned to pop culture and what kids are into, and how he manages to incorporate mythology into those.
[Spoiler Warning for those who haven’t read the book] Honorable mentions for imaginative incorporations of mythology are: the Amazons running Amazon.com; Iris’ health and wellness shop, R.O.F.L. (and I was so surprised Riordan even knew ROFLcopter!); and Thanatos’ iPad App for Reaping Souls. I really like Thanatos, he’s…intriguing. I suspect he’s gonna have tea with Steve Jobs soon to discuss how to improve that app. 😛 [End Spoiler]
Riordan also dishes out his trademark action-packed side-quests and obstacles. But while they’re exciting, the Quest formula reduces the overall suspense of the book dramatically because, obviously, everyone’s going to make it out alive anyway. There’s a bigger Prophecy to fulfill, after all.
The first Percy Jackson and the Olympians series also suffered from the same problem, but Riordan does manage to drop surprises along the way as he develops his characters and their relationships. So while I may not worry much about whether they will live or die, at least I can worry about how they will escape their predicament and how it will affect them as characters. If the Olympians series is any indication, then the first 3 books of The Heroes of Olympus will be like the uphill climb on a roller coaster before the big drop.
Percy’s reappearance grounds this book as Jason Grace wasn’t able to do as effectively in The Lost Hero–readers already have a history with Percy, and are therefore more invested in his Quest. It’s easy to root for him despite his new allegiances and alliances.
This isn’t to say that I prefer Percy over Jason at this point. I know many people think Jason is but a shadow of Percy, but I don’t believe he was intended as a substitute–it’s just that he was placed in the position Percy has long occupied in the Riordan Hero Troika Template in the first book because he is the most important character then. I’d like to think Riordan has a more interesting plan for Jason than that.
This isn’t to say that Percy’s characterization in this book is perfect either. While he does ground the story because he’s a familiar character, I felt disconnected from him–like he was there, but what he thinks and does do not resonate much.
This problem may be a result of the multiple point-of-view format. The first series was written purely from Percy’s general perspective, but The Heroes of Olympus has chapters that focus on specific characters. It’s good for moving the plot forward and for providing back story, but I miss the more solid connection with the main character that the one-POV format provided. And since we already know so much about Percy, there wasn’t as much development on his part compared to Frank and Hazel, and even Jason, Piper, and Leo from The Lost Hero.
Also, when did Percy ever learn to talk Valley Girl? I don’t recall him using “like” and “dude” that much before. Is this what happens when Juno/Hera decides to give you Temporary Amnesia? 😛
Speaking of the new characters, I’m not very happy with Riordan pairing everybody up, to be honest. I liked it back when it happened with Annabeth and Percy, and it seemed like a necessary plot device with Jason and Piper. I’m a hopeless romantic, but does everyone have to pair up?! Even Tyson?!
I’m not happy with the love triangles that are sure to pop up in Book 3 either. If this is an attempt to get older readers into the series, then it’s a cheap shot.
In addition, while it was sweet, it was weird to read Percy contemplating his Future with Annabeth. I find it weird mostly because he’s only 16. I concede that it may be believable considering the context; however, I still think it wasn’t something that Riordan really needed to touch on right now. Percy had enough of a motivation to ally himself with Camp Jupiter without those thoughts of a future in New Rome.
One of the big pay-offs of the cliffhangers from the first book is finally seeing the Roman camp. Camp Jupiter is wonderfully imagined by Riordan, and presents enough of a contrast with Camp Half-Blood that I seriously thought about which Camp I would prefer to be in, given the chance. (For the record, I think I’ll remain a Daughter of Athena and stay in Camp Half-Blood. Unless Riordan thinks up cooler stuff in the coming books.)
Praetor Reyna and Octavian from Camp Jupiter are interesting additions to the roster of characters. Octavian seems like he could be the Luke Castellan parallel of the Roman side, though I can’t be sure he’ll follow a similar path–the Oracular Teddy Bear Stuffings aren’t very clear on that. 😛 And while Reyna may be caught up in one of my Love Triangles of Doom, she may actually be the character that romance won’t be wasted on here.
Frank and Hazel have more compelling back stories than Leo or Piper. They also seem a lot more powerful than Leo and Piper. If it ever comes down to a team rivalry, the cards will be stacked in Percy’s favor.
While he’s very likeable as a character, Frank’s little family secret–his secret power–seems too convenient, especially since he learns to use it only during a crucial point towards the end. And Frank had so many other interesting things happening to him for the rest of the book, I felt like he overshadowed Percy sometimes. Maybe the book should have been called The Son of Mars. 😛
Riordan sets the next book up well with the arrival of Jason’s team at Camp Jupiter aboard the Argo II. It’s time for the Great Camp/United Nations Mixer! 😛
I fear for my sanity in case Riordan decides to give the Seven Heroes of the Prophecy a POV chapter each.
A special thank you goes out to Sis Lianne, for lending me her copy of this book. I suspect her generosity was tinged with the desire to have more people to discuss the book with, and thus, the desire to make me cheat on the book I’m supposed to be “dating exclusively” providing the impetus for this little “flirtation”, as Sheila calls it. I have evil friends. 😛