Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Lost Hero


Two nights ago, I couldn't fall asleep until after one, despite trying.

Last night, I didn't try. At midnight, I was loading and reloading Kindle updates hoping to get the download of the new Heroes of Olympus book "The Lost Hero", by Rick Riordan. It finally downloaded at about 12:15... and I read for over 2 hours before forcing myself to go to sleep. I finished it (576 pages) this evening.

After reading the Percy Jackson series (Greek Mythology) several times, and reading the first of Riordan's Kane Chronicles (Egyptian mythology), I was eager for something new. I also wondered what Riordan could possibly do in the same world as the Percy Jackson stories, when he seemed to have blown through every major and a lot of minor stories from ancient Greek Mythology. What was left to work with?

Well, his answer was to overlay Roman mythology on top of the world he built centered on the Greek. Along came a hero who seemed to be the son of Zeus, but slowly it is revealed that he's really more the son of Jupiter. But wait, you say, isn't Jupiter just the same guy as Zeus with a different name? Yes, and no. It is the same god, but he has different aspects, and different personality traits reveal themselves when he portrays himself as Jupiter as opposed to Zeus. As Jupiter, he is more stern, more rigid, more distant, and more authoritarian--the god of an empire. Zeus is a little more easy-going than his Roman aspect.

So when Zeus has an affair with a woman, their offspring naturally speaks ancient Greek, ends up at Camp Half Blood, and calls dad Zeus. But when Jupiter has an affair, that kid naturally speaks Latin, ends up at a Roman camp (the name is never divulged in the book) and calls dad Jupiter.

That means that there are two groups of demigods: the Greek and the Roman. From time to time in history, the two sides meet...and usually pretty much destroy each other. After a particularly brutal war in the 19th Century, the gods decided to keep the two sides completely apart, and should they meet, all memories of the contact would be wiped out of their minds. Thus, each is completely unaware of the existence of the other.

First, a little history: Several thousand years before, after the first Titan war, it was followed by an even worse war, as giants were brought forth with the sole purpose of destroying the Olympians and getting revenge for the Titans. That war ended in Olympus's favor. Now, after the second Titan war (the Percy Jackson books), history is again repeating itself, and the giants are again on the move. This second war has the potential to be far more devastating that Percy's.

Along comes Hera/Juno, who takes a desperate gamble. She believes that only by uniting the two demigod factions, can the war be won. So she makes an exchange: A Roman demigod leader for a Greek demigod leader. She sends the leaders of both camps to the other camp, in order to attempt to establish good ties between the two. Thus, Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, disappears to the Roman side, and Jason, son of Jupiter, appears on the Greek side. Thus also, the "lost hero" of the title, actually refers to both of these exchanged demigods, since they have each disappeared from their regular worlds, and though Percy can't be found, Jason is pretty lost in this new world of his.

Of course, it takes pretty much the entire book to figure all of this out, because the Roman demigod's memory of his past has been completely erased, and all of this is revealed to him slowly. Percy plays no part in this book, except as someone being sought by others.

Another interesting theme, is the redemption of Aphrodite and her kids. In the first series, they were portrayed fairly relentlessly as beautiful, shallow, vain, spoiled, and wimpy. In the end, also, the leader of the Aphrodite kids turned out to be a (very repentant) spy for the Titans. In this book, far from being a vain wimpy, the lead girl--daughter of Aphrodite--is strong and capable, and doesn't care a lot about her looks. Aphrodite appears in the book and reminds her daughter that she was the first Olympian (the last book of the PJ series was called the "Last Olympian"), the offspring of Ouranos himself (while Zeus is only his grandson), and that she is far more than a pretty face. In the previous book, Riordan defended the hearth and the home by promoting the goddess of the hearth, Hestia (the last Olympian). In this book, he promotes love and devotion by defending Aphrodite.

The book, I think, is quite as good as the Percy Jackson books. It was fun, and funny in places, and the story was certainly engaging. I can't imagine that anyone who liked the Percy books would dislike this one.

Now I'm looking forward to the next. Interestingly, the next book is titled "Son of Neptune". That could easily refer to Percy, if the second book centers around him finding his way in the Roman world, but it could also refer to an unknown, and as yet undisclosed, brother. Should be interesting.

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