Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian
© 2009 Rick Riordian
394 pages

During the late winter or early spring (depending on when you call which which), I began reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on the recommendation of a friend. The recommendation stemmed from (I assume) my interest in Greek mythology, as the setting for this series is an Earth in which the Greek gods exist -- and true to the old Greek myths, they spend much of their time feuding with one another and romancing mortals. The conclusion of the first book hinted that a battle between the Olympians and the Titans -- the Olympians' predecessors, who have been stuffed into volcanoes and such for many thousands of years and who are quite grumpy about it - is brewing. An ancient prophecy hints that Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, will play a key role in the final battle: the fate of the universe hangs on his decision.

This is quite a load for a lad of fifteen, and when The Last Olympian begins, he is with his mortal semi-girlfriend, resting up after five books' worth of fighting monsters and going on quests that feed into Kronos' steady rise, while dreading his sixteenth birthday. According to the prophecy, he will make this choice upon reaching sixteen. This respite ends when a Pegasus lands on his stepfather's car and informs him that the Titan army is on the move: the final battle is at hand.

There are no quests to go on, no magic relics to fetch, no magic landscapes to invade: this book is about the Battle for Olympus. As the titan Typhon makes his way from his former home (Mount St. Helens) to New York, destroying everything he can in his wake (an unnecessary expenditure of energy, I would think) while nearly all of the Olympians struggle to stop him, Poseidon is fighting a losing battle with the titan Oceanus and Mount Olympus itself is guarded only by Hestia. Percy is informed that it is up to him and his fellow demigods to protect Olympus (which is, by the way, at the of the Empire State Building: Manhattan is thus Percy's battleground). To make matters worse, the children of Ares are refusing to fight (their honor having been besmirched by the children of Apollo) and Hades and his army are refusing to cooperate. Hades has never been popular among the rest of the Olympians, and he has decided to return spite for spite.

Percy, Annabeth, Nico, Thalia, and the other demigods have their work cut out for them. More interesting than the battles themselves (at least to me) is the interpersonal drama and the prophecy-driven plot. What kind of choice will Percy be forced to make? What will happen? Who will die? The series and book end well, I think. In his afterword, Riordian referred to the series as the "first" Camp Half-Blood series, hinting that perhaps he will return to them. I hope so. Although this was a series written for kids, I enjoyed it and I think Riordian distinguishes himself in at least one particular way: unlike other authors, he doesn't have his main character(s) do all of the work. Based on the interstory quests they've gone on and the work they do in the novels, it seems at least two of the supporting characters could have their own book series.

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