So I guess it’s time I give one of these a try. And of course, for the inaugural review, we’ll go off the typical path. Instead of reviewing a book, I’m reviewing a series (2 really).
I finished The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, the sequel series to Percy Jackson & the Olympians. I started the sequel series a couple of years ago (2 years after reading the first series), but there were still two books unpublished, so I had to wait to finish the series. I ended up forgetting about it for a little while, so I waited until the series was done and I was ready to start reading again.
This is not an ideal way to read a series, especially one with so many key characters.
So cliff notes version: Seven demigods are fated with trying to defeat Gaea and some giants. The twist is that the demigods come from Greek and Roman factions and are predisposed to dislike each other. Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase make a return, but no major characters from the first series show back up as major characters here, except one who becomes prominent in the last two books.
I don’t have a good apples to apples comparison for these books, but I lean toward low-grade Harry Potter or Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. All of these series acknowledge that magic exists and use the baseline of existing myths and legends to build a contemporary magical universe.
As I mentioned, seven demigods are key characters throughout the series, with a couple more getting bigger roles later. I had a two-year break. I forgot details about the characters when I came back to the series, so that was some work to remember who everyone was and how they were related. Luckily Riordan isn’t like George R. R. Martin who likes to make passing references to someone and then three books later tell you that passing reference was actually an integral component of the plot.
Now I said I was really reviewing two series. I can’t tell you about what I finished without comparing it to the original series.
They both follow the same basic format. It’s a universe where the gods are real and they have demigod children in adulterous relationships with mortals. A prophecy says demigods have to save the world from the apocalypse. And these books are meant for early teens (I’d comfortably let a 9-year-old read the original series, maybe even a little younger, honestly).
The books use the ancient Greek (and later Roman) myths as sort-of surrogates to help tell the story. If I taught English, history, or a mythology class, these would be actually decent reads for that (though creative license is taken in spots). They’re easy enough to digest and they provide a version of the myths that can be contrasted with more historical versions of these stories (and considering how much myths change over time, you can argue these books are just a part of a larger history of telling these myths; in fact, the books even discuss aspects of how the gods are shaped by the beliefs of people).
The plot of the first series was probably laid out cleaner, but I’d say the second series was written better. The second series had a more complicated structure by introducing the Roman demigods, which complicated how the story could be told, and it also used more narrators. There was only one in the first series, as opposed to like nine in the second. By only following Percy Jackson, the story is pretty straightforward and told over a longer time. The second series existed over a much shorter timeframe despite probably being more pages in total.
While the first series was easier to follow, the second series was better, to me, because it grew up with the characters. The books didn’t seem as kid-oriented, though they were always kid-friendly. Instead, it felt like Riordan wasn’t talking down to his audience quite as often (though he still did from time to time). Instead, there was a grittier quality to the series without going overboard.
As I mentioned, Riordan does have a habit of talking down to his reader. It’s understandable, especially for younger audiences, but I think he could have told a good story kids would enjoy without oversimplifying so much. Where the books work the best is when they let the situations be realistic (or as realistic as it gets with gods, titans, and giants running around). Often, he abandons any hint of realism or logic, and that’s where the stories lose a lot of value.
But all in all, they’re both good series (or I wouldn’t have read 10 books in total). They’re quick reads. The first series was read in a span of about two weeks, while I was working as a grad assistant and also working a 30-hour work week, so they weren’t exactly heavy reads.
In general, if you like fantasy elements and you won’t cringe too much at the cheesy moments, they’re good books. The first series would be good for anyone 9 and up, and the second series would probably be good for around 11 or 12 and up. They still deal with life, death, and love, but nothing that a kid wouldn’t see in a Disney movie.
And for adults, they’re just a nice, light read. I didn’t pick them up because I was looking to change my worldview. I just wanted to escape into another world for a few hundred pages. If you want heavier versions of this type of thing, American Gods and Gods Behaving Badly will have you covered. This? This was kid’s stuff, and that’s alright.
Feel free to share your thoughts if you’ve read them.