The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
First Published: 2010
Pages: 554 including God-List (Paperback)
Series: Heroes of Olympus #1
OLD ENEMIES AWAKEN AS CAMP HALF-BLOOD’S NEW ARRIVALS PREPARE FOR WAR
When Jason, Piper and Leo crash land at Camp Half-Blood, they have no idea what to expect. Apparently this is the only safe place for children of the Greek Gods – despite the monsters roaming the woods and demigods practising archery with flaming arrows and explosives. But rumours of a terrible curse – and a missing hero – are flying around camp. It seems Jason, Piper and Leo are the chosen ones to embark on a terrifying new quest, which they must complete by the winter solstice. In just four days time. Can the trio succeed on this deadly mission – and what must they sacrifice in order to survive?
From Amazon description (actual blurb is useless)
Percy Jackson was always going to be a hard act to follow, let alone top. To Riordan’s credit he manages the first goal but falls very very short of the second. Heroes of Olympus, a new series set in the Percy Jackson world follows fast on the heels of the last series. At first it seemed almost too fast – only a few measly months have gone between the final showdown between Gods and Titans and already the next big threat is rising up, some deities just can’t catch a break! Riordan’s knowledge of Greek (and Roman!) mythology placated me somewhat there though, it’s as fast paced and action packed as ever. Where it doesn’t fare so well is the new characters and the shift from first person to third-person limited narration. No Percy Jackson in this book, no charmingly hilarious oddball narration. Instead we get three new characters; Jason, Piper, and Leo who shift between third person point of view chapters – allowing us to witness just how vapid and boring two of their personalities are.
Jason and Piper are both practically cut out from the Big Book of Mary Sue Heroes and Love Interests. He’s an amnesiac with a magical weapon and great destiny! She has eyes that change colour and is so beautiful she tries to hide it by cutting her hair with safety scissors! Together they will ignore their ‘best friend’, take little heed to their own lives, and spend paragraphs boring on to themselves about how awesome the other is! It says a lot about how good the rest of the book is that I can award 4 stars to a novel where I’m indifferent at best to two out of three of the primary characters. Leo, however, is pretty awesome. Not as awesome as Percy of course, but he’s got something about him and actually puts work into when he does stuff rather than simply being conveniently brilliant (he’s brilliant as well of course, he’s one of a prophesied group of heroes, but there’s a sense of effort and actually trying that’s rather lacking from the other two).
It’s a problem exacerbated by the rotating third-person limited narration. If I had never had to listen to her thoughts Piper may have been quite interesting, the potential was certainly there; she appears a clever, rebellious, tomboyish sort of girl, with a decent knowledge of Greek mythology, as a Native American she’s also the first character to call out the term ‘half-blood’ and point out its use as a very real and hurtful racial slur. So far, so good. Step into her PoV, however, read her thoughts and you can see just how shallow her characterisation actually is. Her tomboyishness manifests as a snobby disdain of ‘popular’ and ‘fashionable’ girls (because no girls become popular from actually being nice you know! Maybe it’s cause I never went to a US highschool but I have never, never, understood the ‘mean girl’ trope) and of course the story responds by making all the popular fashionable girls she encounters into complete bitches who use their sexuality for power like the evil hobags they are while she feels self conscious every time she’s put in a dress or make up. Her rebelliousness becomes her acting out to get her father’s attention (no problems there), but instead of actually shoplifting she just used her powers (which she didn’t know of) to ask for things, which people then gave her before calling the police once they regained their senses. See! She’s not a real theif, she asked, and she didn’t know she had magical powers she’s super-perfect and awesome and would never do something bad like steal! Fuck off. She’d have been a bit more interesting and less Sueish if she actually had stolen that car. And the Greek mythology knowledge – she can call up the long and hard to pronounce names of pretty obscure giants all from reading it up with her actor dad for a part. I call bull. Without being subjected to her vapid ‘it’s so bad that I almost died but the worst thing was that Jason doesn’t recognise me’ inner monologues I could have found her interesting I may even have been singing her praises! As it stands I’m kind of hoping she tries to charmspeak Clarisse and gets a proper beat down. This book needed more Clarisse.
Jason’s the same. Bland heroic heroes are never my favourites and I’m still conflicted over what I feel about his ‘mysterious’ Roman past. On one hand the existence of Roman gods has been established since the Janus made an appearance in the third Percy Jackson book. There was yet more foreshadowing in the fifth where a statue-come-to-life resents being mistaken for a Greek Goddess. But at the same time I feel something as big as a whole Roman mythology-themed demigod camp running parallel with Camp Half-Blood with each unaware of the other’s existence is just a bit much to shoehorn into the story now. The characters can tell me that Jason was off doing awesome things to help against the Titan’s while Percy was doing his thing until they’re blue in the face – I still can’t make myself believe it. Wonderful feats of Titan-killing that happen completely off-page do not make for a particularly compelling backstory. It’s like ‘hey, look at the new awesome hero. I know he hasn’t done anything yet but he’s totally awesome and just as good as Percy, maybe better!’. No. I am the reader and I will be the judge of that and he’s not. He lacks both the charisma and the ingenuity.
I really hope that the next book, which features Percy and two new heroes, will win me round to the Roman idea more though. Because I like it, it’s got potential, lots of it. I just don’t like Jason and don’t think the introduction was necessarily handled in the best way (though I totally get the dramatic and narrative reasons for it).
But I’ve been really negative! It’s only because I love it so much! If I didn’t love I wouldn’t critique! And much as I couldn’t care less about Jason or Piper, this was a wonderful children’s book. I wondered, a little, what threat Riordan was going to have to bring in to justify a second major prophecy getting started so soon after the last, but actually what he went with made total sense. The overarching villain is definitely an interesting one and the ‘smalltime’ enemies in this book include some of my all time favourite figures from greek mythology. Allowing legendary humans, as well as monsters, to make appearances is probably going to be my favourite part of this series. Monsters are all well and good but Greek mythology is full of wonderful human vilainesses and husband-murderers as well (fingers crossed for Clytamnestra!). The story, at 552 pages is a lot longer than previous entries in the Percy Jackson series, swollen by narration for three separate characters rather than one, but actually it zips along at the same old pace and really is a very quick and easy read.
And Leo, poor forgotten Leo. Even in my own rant I haven’t mentioned him much. He’s no Percy, it’s true, but he’s definitely worth reading for and a great addition to the cast of characters at Camp Half-Blood. Which, almost perversely considering how much I disliked Jason and Piper, that was actually something this book managed way better than the Percy Jackson series ever did – the one thing I kept on ragging on Percy Jackson for not doing; it made Camp Half-Blood feel like it was peopled by real teenagers, not just background characters who came and went as the story required. So yay for the third-person narration in that respect! Now if only Riordan could tighten it up a bit and make Jason and Piper a little less unreasonably obsessed with each other in the next book I may yet be a happy camper. It’ll be odd reading Percy from a third person perspective though…might take a bit of getting used to.