Tuesday, November 30, 2010

REVIEW: The Lost Hero Read it or the Greek gods may smote you!

Riordan, R.  (2010).  The Lost Hero.  New York:  Disney Hyperion Books.

553 pages.

Appetizer:  When Jason wakes up in a school bus, he has no idea how he got there or who he is.  His friend Leo and girlfriend (surprise!) Piper try to fill him in on the last several months before exploring the Grand Canyon as a part of their class trip.

But before the trio can see the sights, they're attacked by a monster of mythic proportions.  They manage to survive with the help of Annabeth (famous for being Percy Jackson's girlfriend), who had arrived just in time to save them in the hopes that she would find Percy; who is missing.

Even worse, all of the gods of Olympus appear to be missing.  Hera seems to be trapped somewhere.  It's almost the solstice, when the gods are at their weakest.  AND it looks like The Great Prophecy (shared at the end of the last Percy Jackson novel) might be unfolding.

I don't think it could get any worse.  How could all these problem be solved?  A quest, of course.

So, my initial description sounds a little convoluted.  That's because the plot of this book is kind of complex.  The story is split to be shared in Jason, Piper and Leo's perspectives after every two chapters.  All three characters have dark aspects to their pasts.  Jason can't remember most of his life, but he is particularly skilled at speaking Latin (while most of the other demigods know Greek).  Piper is being told in her dreams that she must betray everyone that she cares about.  And Leo has lost his mother.

It's very interesting having to explore this book from three different perspectives and having much of the protagonists' pasts be mysteries.  It's a real departure from the Percy Jackson series, in which I felt like I knew everything about Percy as a character.

Having said that though, at several moments, I had trouble feeling some of the emotional tensions of the story.  As a part of their quest, Piper and Leo want to get back their coach who had been captured.  Since he was captured at the start of the book, I couldn't emphasize with the emotions or see how the coach was such an important person in their lives.

I had a similar reaction to when Leo's supposed jealousy of Jason comes to a head.  Sure, Riordan had dropped a subtle hint or two that there might be an underlying tension, but I didn't feel it.  Later in the book the tension was definitely there, long after the supposed-dramatic face-off was already over.  Meh.

Also, having the narrative split among three characters did make it more difficult for me to get into the story.  I felt like it took at least 100-ish pages for the story to start to roll.

After those first 100 pages though, I thoroughly enjoyed The Lost Hero.  In this book there are tensions between the Greek and Roman understandings of the gods and some mortal villains from myth manage to make some re-appearances.  I couldn't wait to get to the explanation of what exactly was going on.  (And wait I had to!  I'd figured out who the bad guy was looooooooong before I had any understanding of Jason's background.)

As a Midwesterner, I was thoroughly excited that this quest featured the midwest.  YAY!   I also like that the book was more multiculturally inclusive:  a Latino, Leo, and a Native American (Cherokee), Piper, were two of the heroes.  One of my biggest complaints about the Percy Jackson series was that the central cast all appeared white.  (Of course, when they turned it into a movie, they did cast an African American actor as Grover, the satyr.  I'm sure the thought process was:  Yes, let's take the character that is marked and physically different and part-animal and make him black. *Rolls eyes*  sigh.  That, my friends, is racial inclusivity at its worst.

Excuse the blurriness of the photo to the left.  I couldn't find a photo of Grover to my liking online, so I actually had to rewatch the movie.  I kind of like that it's blurry.  It makes it seem like I took the photo in the wilds of Camp Half-Blood.  It's kind of like a blurry photo of Sasquatch or an alien space ship.  I could have a future in the conspiracy industry.

(Random note:  As I was looking for a photo of Grover, I happened upon this gem of a picture.  One of my favorite actors, and the most redeeming aspect of the The Lightning Thief movie, Kevin McKidd reading the first PJ novel!  Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaart it!  Thank you, Poseidon!)

Focus, brain!

So, yeah.  Yay, The Lost Hero.  Bring on the next book (called Son of Neptune)!  I'm so glad that it will be coming out in 2011, so it won't have to be a part of my dissertation.  Every time, Riordan publishes a new book I have to revamp two or three chapters of Dudley the Budding Dissertation.

Dinner Conversation:

"Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day.
He woke in the backseat of a school bus, not sure where he was, holding hands with a girl he didn't know. That wasn't necessarily the rotten part.  The girl was cute, but he couldn't figure out who she was or what he was doing there.  He sat up and rubbed his eyes, trying to think" (p. 3).

"She had a vision telling her to come here, to find a guy with one shoe.  That was supposed to be the answer to her problem."
"What problem?" Piper asked.
"She's been looking for one of our campers, who's been missing three days," Butch said.  "She's going out of her mind with worry.  She hoped he'd be here."
"Who?" Jason asked.
"Her boyfriend," Butch said.  "A guy named Percy Jackson" (p. 31).

"Starting about a month ago, Olympus fell silent.  The entrance closed, and no one could get in.  Nobody knows why.  IT's like the gods have sealed themselves off.  Even my mom won't answer my prayers, and our camp director, Dionysus, was recalled" (p. 63).

"Real Greek warships moored at the beach that sometimes had practice fights with flaming arrows and explosives?  Sweet!  Arts & crafts sessions where you could make sculptures with chain saws and blowtorches?  Leo was like, Sign me up!  The woods were stocked with dangerous monsters, and no one should ever go in there alone?  Nice!  And the camp was overflowing with fine-looking girls.  Leo didn't quite understand the whole related-to-the-gods business, but he hoped that didn't mean he was cousins with all these ladies.  That would suck.  At the very least, he wanted to check out those underwater girls in the lake again.  They were definitely worth drowning for" (p. 66).

"Olympus is closed.  Percy's disappeared.  Hera sends you a vision and you come back with three new demigods in one day.  I mean, something weird is going on.  The Great Prophecy has started, right?" (pp. 121-122).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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