Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero

Rick Riordan has not ceased to amaze me. Ever since I picked up a copy of THE LIGHTNING THIEF in 2008 and read the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS straight through, I have loved everything Riordan has put out. From his Egyptian offshoot, THE KANE CHRONICLES, to even his entry in THE 39 CLUES, THE MAZE OF BONES, I am always shocked and in awe of his story-telling. And the first outing in the new HEROES OF OLYMPUS series, THE LOST HERO, is no exception.

I debated for quite a while as I read THE LOST HERO whether a new-comer to Riordan could pick up this book and just start in, and I came to the conclusion that if someone hasn't read anything by him, it would be best to go back to THE LIGHTNING THIEF and start there. Otherwise, THE LOST HERO would contain too many references to events and characters which wouldn't make sense to someone who hasn't read the books yet. So if you haven't finished Riordan's first series, PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS, I would say stop reading this review now and go back to THE LIGHTNING THIEF.

The story begins with a boy named Jason, who suddenly appears in a school bus in the middle of the desert sitting beside Piper and Leo, two classmates that he's supposedly been friends with for the past few months at Wilderness School. But Jason can't remember any of that. In fact, he can't even remember his own name or how he got there. I really don't want to say much more than that, because diving too deeply into the storyline will only ruin the experience.

Per usual, the story is action-packed, and coming in at a hefty 576 pages, THE LOST HERO, starts and doesn't slow down until the very last page. As I read, I couldn't help myself from gasping out loud. There was a new plot twist to almost every page I turned. At first, I kept wondering what on earth can Riordan do with the whole concept of Greek gods and mythology that he didn't accomplish in the first five books - and I will admit part of me was a bit afraid that THE LOST HERO was going to fizzle out and not live up to my favorite, THE LAST OLYMPIAN. But Riordan pulls out some unexpected ideas that meld seamlessly with the mythology he's crafted throughout the first series.

The book is told in third-person, which is a bit of a switch from either THE KANE CHRONICLES or PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS, which were both written first-person. THE LOST HERO switches off between Jason, Piper, and Leo, each getting two chapters and then switching to the next. This aids in the character development, which is stronger here than in other novels from Riordan. The things that Piper and especially Leo grow through in the book felt real and done in a way that made sense with the story. The author searched out a lot of the issues that face students today, including abandonment in its various forms. In a way, I think THE LOST HERO is one of his more serious books, and while there was definitely humor to lighten things up here and there, this one definitely came across as a much weightier story, for the characters and the plot.

While the story does center around Jason, Piper, and Leo, there are plenty of familiar faces around to tie things back to the first series. Cameos from people such as Chiron, Clarisse, Annabeth and others definitely were fun and added an interesting dimension to the storyline. Riordan also mines some lesser known myths in the Greek works and gives us some exciting battles with old foes that are just as deadly as anything Percy, Grover, and Annabeth faced - and sometimes, much, much worse.

THE LOST HERO ends up rising above and beyond anything I expected from Riordan, and will definitely get readers excited to revisit Camp Half-Blood and its demigods. And now, we only have to wait until Fall of 2011 for the next volume, THE SON OF NEPTUNE.

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