Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blood of Olympus

Yesterday they released the last of the "Heroes of Olympus" books, the "Blood of Olympus".

Not bad, but not really good either.

On the good side, Riordan mostly stopped doing the thing that has been driving me crazy through much of this second Greek-Roman book series: he's dealing with teens, so he constantly has them thinking that any time they use their demigod powers, everyone else must hate them for it. For example: Frank can turn into an elephant: oh no! Hazel will hate me now! Leo can shoot flames at people: that's just too weird, I'll never fit in now and everyone will hate me! Hazel can bring cursed gems out of the earth: no one will ever love me, wah!!

That got old five books ago. Riordan put a little of that in this book with Nico, but pretty much limited it to him and kept it to a minimum (and Nico has some freaky powers. [I loved it when he was told to get over himself, and that the only reason he's isolated is because he's isolated himself. Yep.])

The two major battles were a bit of a disappointment. The battle against the giants was over pretty quickly. Yes, it ended with a deus ex machina, but that was entirely appropriate--yes, the hand of Zeus came down and cleaned things up...and Athena's...and Poseidon's...etc. It would have been nice if that went on for more than half a chapter though. I would have liked to see more of how each demigod fought beside their parent. Annabeth and Athena, certainly, deserved more time, and Riordan could have been very creative about the ways they would play off each other's strengths. I always want more Percy and Poseidon, who barely rated a paragraph.

The actual defeat of Gaia was also over pretty quickly and was incredibly easy. Defeating a primordial goddess should be really, really hard!

My biggest gripe--and it is a pretty big one--is that Riordan has been foreshadowing since, I think, "Titan's Curse", seven books ago, that Percy would have to deal with his fatal flaw--excessive loyalty to his friends. This should have been a traumatic event, difficult and painful to overcome. Riordan even foreshadowed that the decision would be a life-or-death one, as in: leave one friend to die in order to take care of a problem elsewhere. It was supposed to be a pivotal decision which would decide the fate of the world. Despite all of that hinting over the course of several books, in the end it was a squib. If it is in the book at all, it is in half a paragraph, and his decision is a simple one. He had to choose between letting three of his friends focus on fighting Gaia without him--which he knew they were capable of doing, or go help Annabeth who was about to be overwhelmed. The way it was laid out, this was pretty much a no-brainer for him. No trauma, no angst: go help Annabeth and trust the others to take care of other matters.

I can't tell if Riordan just forgot to put it in, forgot that it should have been a bigger deal than he made it, or if the structure of the book made it hard for him to cover. In this second Olympus series, Riordan has been writing each chapter from a particular character's point-of-view. But, in this book, all of the chapters are written from the point of view of Jason and his friends (Jason, Piper, Leo, and Reyna) or from Nico's. Neither Percy nor Annabeth have a chapter of their own, nor do Hazel or Frank. It's hard to make a big deal of Percy's dilemma, when he is never the focus of a chapter. I had been waiting for this for years, and went away very disappointed.

And no death! In two major battles--the biggest battles since the age of Heracles--not one of the major characters gets killed off. This is what separates "Harry Potter" from Riordan. Rowling had battles with real repercussions: Cedric dies, Fred dies, Lupin dies, Dobby dies, Dumbledore dies. Everyone has to deal with those losses, the guilt of surviving, the drive to finish the job, and move on. Riordan seemed to know that in the first series: Selena, for example, dies. So does Ethan Nakamura. Luke's death is part of the whole point of the series--and certainly the Great Prophesy. He redeeems himself and sacrifices himself to save the world. Their deaths meant something for the plot. They were sacrificing for the greater good, and accepting that sometimes that is necessary. Their deaths drive others to greatness. Without Selena's death, you don't have Clarisse slaying the drakon. Without Ethan's and Luke's, does Percy give up immortality to keep his promise?

But, in this series, Riordan balks. I'm sure he's setting up another series (and left lots and lots of loose ends to tie up later,) and didn't want to write anyone off, but massive battles and victories like this should come with a real cost--which was even mentioned and was a minor theme in this book. He chickened out, when he should have been ruthless.

Overall, I didn't enjoy this second Olympus series as much as the first. Riordan seemed to get lazy and was writing by the numbers. Step 1: pick a god or monster. Step 2: the demigods meet the god or monster. Step 3: either the demigods have to fight the god/monster or work with them. Step 4: pick another god or monster. Step 5: repeat... A little more creativity would have helped. Also, as I said before, the teen angst was boring and always hitting the same note over and over again. Teens are more interesting than that, and demigod teens even more so; he made them boring.

The books were enjoyable, but I prefer the original Percy Jackson books by a pretty wide margin.

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