Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?
Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.
Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god.
4.75 Stars (Rounded to 5)
As you can see, I’ve been on a bit of a Rick Riordan reading binge recently. As soon as I finished the ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ series (series wrap-up here) I moved straight on to the spin-off series, ‘Heroes of Olympus’. This is the first book of said spin-off series, and of course I had rather high expectations of it, as I have come to love everything Rick Riordan-related. Saying this, I did have my concerns. This series does continue all of the threads started in ‘Percy Jackson’, however it primarily follows a new set of characters, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t care about this trio as much as I did Percy and Annabeth. No, I didn’t care about them quite as much, but it really didn’t matter, as this book was just as superb as Riordan’s previous ones, and any doubts I had were quashed almost immediately.
The first thing I noted is that this series does feel a bit older than the ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ books did – it feels like a step up from middle grade to lighter young adult. Bearing in mind that this is the age jump that would have occurred for the fans who read Riordan’s books upon publication, this progression felt very natural – anyone who read ‘The Lightning Thief’ as an eight-year-old on its release would have been thirteen when this was published, and it feels like the series has grown to suit its readers.
‘The Lost Hero’ does have the same charm in the narrative as the ‘Percy Jackson’ books, but there is a major change: whilst the ‘Percy Jackson’ series was written in first person, the ‘Heroes of Olympus’ books are third-person with alternating viewpoints. I massively support this switch; I am more of a fan of third-person narratives as it feels like information can be withheld from the reader, and there can be a disparity between what the characters know and what the readers know, whereas with a first-person central-character narrator, this wasn’t really possible. Riordan does take advantage of the pros a third-person narrative can present, and I think that it feels more satisfactory to read than ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’, as it feels less like Percy relaying information to us and more like we have to piece ideas together. The addition of alternating points of view was welcome, as I feel like I gained a good understanding of all three primary characters – Jason, Piper and Leo – via seeing events focused on all of them, whereas in the ‘Percy Jackson’ series, I had an immediate understanding of Percy, but it took a long while to establish as deep a connection to any other character due to the lack of view of their actions and ideas. Also, this alternation was done with regularity – two chapters of Jason, two of Piper, two of Leo, then back to Jason again – and I liked the sense of predictability this created; you knew how long you had with each character and who you’d be seeing from next. It never breaks from that order, but then again it never needs to, as the story feels like it fits well into that order, and never once feels like it has been forced or manipulated to get the right character’s chapter next. I reckon Riordan writes just as well in both of the narrative styles he presents in his novels, but this style suited my preferences more.
All of the places and people I loved about ‘Percy Jackson’ were retained. We see Camp Half-Blood, we see Gods and satyrs and all of our favourite characters, we even see some of the developments that Percy requested at the end of ‘The Last Olympian’, such as more cabins at camp. But the good thing was that while it linked back to everything brilliant about the last series, this is the start of something new. There are fresh places, fresh characters and fresh ideas in abundance, and while ‘The Lost Hero’ does pay homage to its roots, it does not dwell too much on the previous series, and feels like the start of a new series rather than an extension of an old one. As much as I loved ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’, this was welcome, as nothing bugs me more than when a series is complete, and then a few more books get stuck on the end and everything is extended unnecessarily. ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ didn’t need extending, and it wasn’t, so I appreciate that a lot.
With three new protagonists thrown into the mix, I was concerned that I wouldn’t like them at all, and that it would ruin the brilliance of the idea for me. While I didn’t love any of them like I did Percy and Annabeth, there was no cause for concern, as it turns out I liked all three well enough. Jason was certainly intriguing. There were moments when I rather liked him, and I definitely want to know more about him, but I’m not sold on him being a brilliant protagonist. He admittedly fell straight into Percy’s shadow for me – he was a little bit bland and lacked individuality. Saying that, he wasn’t irritating, stupid or in any way a bad character, so I have no real issues with him, other than the fact that he just felt a little…average. The other two were a lot better though. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Piper at first, but by the end I was certain that I had a lot of appreciation for her. She was not stereotypical of her godly parent, she had strengths and weaknesses in equal measure and I could identify with some of her struggles: all-in-all, she felt like a believable teenage girl. She was my favourite point of view to read from – yes, probably because I am female – and it has to be said that Rick Riordan can write just as good a female kid character as a male one, which surprised me a little, as I find that some authors can get a bit stereotypical or misled when it comes to characters of the opposite gender to themselves. I just think that Riordan did very well to create a female character that is so spot-on and relatable to females of a similar age. Leo was simply hilarious. He was the kind of character you would love to be your best friend (in fact, he reminded me a lot of mine), and I never got fed up of following him. I liked that he clearly had more layers to him than he was letting on, and there is actually a lot of secrecy underneath the humour, snarkiness and smiles. He wasn’t mysterious in the same obvious way as Jason, yet you still wanted to know more about him. Together, the three characters made a great combination. The interactions between them felt real, and their friendship was genuine (and definitely not flawless, which was good to see). There was also potential between the main three and the existing characters. Piper and Annabeth had hints of a good sisterly relationship, Jason and Thalia was another interaction I was very fond of, and Leo works with just about every character we’ve seen, so while individually the three characters are not as strong as Percy and Annabeth were, they do fit seamlessly into the fabric of the pre-existing world, and I can definitely follow them throughout the course of ‘Heroes of Olympus’ without complaint.
I’m giving nothing away where the story is concerned, as I don’t want to spoil anyone! Focusing on the story, we once again get even more new mythological ideas thrown in, and there is no repetitiveness or the feeling of ideas running out. We get a bit more scope with references to Roman/Greek parallels, but even without this, Riordan is still utilising fresh mythological stories rather than relying on a small scope. The mystery element of the book was, as with its ‘predecessors’, written in such a way that it doesn’t matter that the plot twists can be a bit predictable – some are, some aren’t – but the main enjoyment is in the way in which the mystery is told, rather than whether it can be guessed or not. I guessed a few major plot points, but the way the points are told is so interesting and captivating that it did not matter if you knew already, there was just as much enjoyment to be gained from the actual reading of the twists than of the twists themselves.
I have very few criticisms: maybe it irked me at times that Jason was not quite as good a character as Percy, maybe I was waiting on a particular element of the ‘Percy Jackson’ series to appear, but taking everything into account, I much preferred this as a series-starter to ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’, so I have very high hopes for the rest of this series, and I have a lot of faith in Rick Riordan that the next books will continue being fab.