Monday, February 15, 2016

The Lost Hero - Rick Riordan

   2010; 553 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Book #1 (out of 5) in The Heroes of Olympus series.  Genre : Fantasy; YA; Mythology.  Laurels : Barnes &Noble’s “Best Book of 2010” Award.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    All in all, it could’ve been worse.  You wake up in a camp bus next to a girl, who’s kinda cute, holding your hand.  And the kid in front of you looks kinda geeky, but claims he's your best friend at camp.

    It’s too bad you have no idea who you are, how you got here in the bus, or anything about your life so far.  The girl – her name’s Piper – and your best buddy – his name’s Leo -  do their best to answer your questions, but they know little about you before you came to the camp.  They say your name is Jason, though.

    So what’s it going to take to get your memory back?  Hmm.  Well maybe getting zapped by a lightning bolt will do the trick.  Jason doesn’t know it, but there’s one in his very near future.

What’s To Like...
    The Lost Hero is the first book in Rick Riordan’s second YA fantasy series, The Heroes of Olympus.   It follows closely – both in real time and in the fantasy setting timeline - his phenomenally successful pentalogy, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.  There are a slew of characters to meet and greet, but really only three that you need to follow closely – Jason, Piper, and Leo - and the chapter titles let you know which one to focus on.

    This is a YA novel, so the action starts early and fast.  The storyline in complex.  Hera has been imprisoned, but who knows by whom?  Mt. Olympus has gone silent on orders for Zeus, but who knows why?  Percy Jackson is missing in action, but who knows where?  And each of our three heroes harbors secrets that they’d rather not divulge.

    There’s a heavy emphasis on Greek and Roman mythology (which is also true of the Percy Jackson series) and that's always a plus for me.  If mythology isn’t your forte, there’s a handy list of the gods and goddesses in the appendix at the back of the book.  I liked the Arizona “Hualapai” setting, and the Cherokees get worked into the story as well.  And you’ll love Festus, the mechanical dragon with a taste for tabasco sauce.

    One of the stops in the journey is Quebec, and Rick Riordan works some French into the dialogue.  But I did cringe a bit at Je suis Piper”, which really ought to be “Je m’appelle Piper.”  Everything builds to a tension-filled showdown, where some, but not all, of the plot threads get tied up.  The story ends at a logical point, and gives the reader some hints as to where this series is headed.

    This is a YA story, so there’s no cussing, sex, booze, or drugs.  There may be a kiss or two, but other than that the steamy scenes are confined to hugging and holding hands.

    “Leo, you’ve just been claimed –“
    “By a god,” Jason interrupted.  “That’s the symbol of Vulcan, isn’t it?”
    All eyes turned to him.
    “Jason,” Annabeth said carefully, “How did you know that?”
    “I’m not sure.”
    “Vulcan?” Leo demanded.  “I don’t even LIKE Star Trek.  What are you talking about?”  (pg. 38)

    “Well, there are the Hunters of Artemis,” Annabeth amended.  “They visit sometimes.  They’re not children of Artemis, but they’re her handmaidens – this band of immortal teenage girls who adventure together and hunt monsters and stuff.”
    Piper perked up.  “That sounds cool.  They get to be immortal?”
    “Unless they die in combat, or break their vows.  Did I mention they have to swear off boys?  No dating – ever.  For eternity.”
    “Oh,” Piper said.  “Never mind.”  (pg. 57)

 “I hate to tell you this, (…) but I think your leopard just ate a goddess.”  (pg. 94)
    Being a YA novel, I thought I’d breeze right through The Lost Hero, but it took me a couple weeks to plod my way to its end.  This surprised and puzzled me.  The writing is superb, the wit is plentiful, and Leo provides a bunch of comic relief.  So what’s the problem?

    Well, frankly, it’s the storytelling.  Our heroes flit from place to place, slowly uncovering what their quest is, yet everybody they meet seems to already know.  Piper can charm any mortal; Leo has a magic backpack, and Jason has a dad that makes him someone you don't want to mess with.  They may be young, but they’re not exactly defenseless, even when going up against immortal powers.  I suspect it also would’ve helped if I had read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series first, even though I have a fair idea of what that was all about.

    Still, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, and I think any teenager will find The Lost Hero to be a fascinating read.  But juveniles may be turned off by its length, and adults may wish the storyline would do a bit less rambling and a bit more advancing.

    8 Stars.  Add 1 star if you are a Young Adult and are intrigued by, but have never gotten into Greek and Roman mythology before.

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