Friday, January 6, 2012

The Son of Neptune

The Heroes of Olympus, Volume II: The Son of Neptune
© 2011 Rick Riordan
521 pages

In The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan introduced another epic battle between the gods, forcing three young demigods to free Hera from imprisonment and forestall the awakening of Gaea and her Giants -- but without their leader, Percy Jackson. The 'lost hero' returns to the story in The Son of Neptune, robbed of most of his memory and under constant attack by monsters until he finds refuge in a camp of demigods...named Camp Jupiter.

This is no small camp of half-bloods; Camp Jupiter is a bonafide city styled on Rome, where its illustrious history and mythology live on. These campers are born of the gods' Roman personalities and they regard their rumored Greek relations with contempt. Beset on every side by monsters and without their own leader, they regard the unexpected arrival of Percy with suspicion. But Hera -- Juno -- has a plan, and Percy must play a part in it together with two new characters, both with mysterious pasts they would prefer to hide.  The trio are given a quest -- to travel beyond the reach of the gods, to a place where no demigod has returned from alive before....Alaska. There they must free Death from the clutches of one of Gaea's giants, because no one is staying in the Underworld like they should and it's causing quite a bit of confusion.

I welcomed the return of Percy and couldn't wait to read this book, eager to see how Riordan developed the Roman camp. They're far different beyond referring to the gods by different names; the Romans are populous enough to live in a large city defended by legions of demigods and their descendants, governed by a senate. They are organized, energetic, and militant. I delighted seeing little nods to both history and mythology. For instance,  Percy is forced to join a disgraced legion which lost its eagle in the artic hinterlands years ago, under the leadership of a man named...Varus.  One of Riordan's new heroes (Frank Zhang) gives him the opportunity to create a character with a fascinating backstory out of a possible Romano-Chinese connection in history, a 'lost legion'. The Son of Neptune is the "end of the beginning" for Riordan's new series: now Juno's plan to unite the camps is laid out in full, for only together -- and with the gods -- can they triumph over the ancient and wrathful earth-goddess by marching on the Doors of Death. I took for granted that the heroes would triumph in this little adventure -- surely they must live on to fulfill the Prophecy of Seven introduced in the original series. It wasn't quite as novel as The Lost Hero given that the reader has already learned most of the mystery by this point, but I still enjoyed the Roman aspects and dramatic tension which is building in the series. The next book, the Mark of Athena, will unite the seven properly, and I'm excited to see where they're going...for the next battle will be fought not in America, but in the home of the gods....Greece.

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