Percy Jackson’s third adventure brings us back to Camp Half Blood less than a year after the second. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Titan’s Curse takes place during the winter break, although snow is not a huge factor. Must be nice. Anyway, here we first meet the Hunters of Artemis, a band of young women sworn to the goddess of the hunt. They’ve also sworn off all romance and in return are granted immortality. Also Percy’s mom has started dating.
The Titan’s Curse is the midpoint of this set of books. In case you hadn’t realized, yes, this is building up to an actual war and with the General seen on the field in this volume, that’s made abundantly clear. Of course, not everything is ready yet. In many ways, this book is another way to kill time before the next big part of the plot. More setup, more education, etc.
There are some very good reasons why these middle books never come to mind when I contemplate rereading the series. Oh sure, I do remember the major plot points, but these aren’t truly satisfying reads. The Lightning Thief has the advantage of being the introductory book for the entire series. The Last Olympian is the climax, though of course I’m not there yet. And everything in between those two is…not as interesting. In fact, they evoke much of the same feeling as Through Fiery Trials did, that the books are there to keep time and let the reader know the most important events between the two books we actually care about.
Frankly, I could have skipped these middle books and been fine, but they’re short enough that it’s not a huge imposition to actually read them. I mean, yes, I could use that same time to get books out of my Pile, but Percy Jackson is what I’m most interested in reading right now, so I might as well get him out of my system before I go back to contemplating what I should read for the first time.
Book four is Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth and now we’re gettng into the opening skirmishes of the war. The main focus though is the Labyrinth. You know the one. Daedalus built it for King Minos to conceal the Minotaur in. But this Labyrinth is far more than that. The maze is ever-growing, ever-changing, and stretches all over the world. It can get you from one place to another…if you’re able to survive and navigate your way through. It’s entrances are everywhere, and that includes Camp Half-Blood.
That’s why Luke intends to use the Labyrinth to attack the camp directly, circumventing its protections and patrols.
Here we also see the climax of Grover’s storyline with the search for Pan, god of the Wild. And Nico di Angelo is back as an actual character you don’t want to punch every few seconds.
The Battle of the Labyrinth is the prelude to the big war that’s been built up and discussed over the course of the series. It’s the old conflict between the gods and the Titans, but it’s also far more than that. Anyone and everyone who’s been less than pleased over the past four thousand years suddenly has an opportunity to make their voice heard by swearing their sword to one side or the other. There’s a lot of immortals out there, as well as minor gods, who feel slighted in some way. Of course there’s also those who will be loyal to the current order. And because it’s been so long, many of the would-be fighters are not what they once were.
If The Sea of Monsters and The Titan’s Curse were middle volumes that continue the story but don’t really add a great deal, The Battle of the Labyrinth is the signal that things are about to get very, very serious and intense. I mean, there will still be comedy to be found here and there, but the stakes are high and Rick Riordan does not always pull his punches. Sure there are ways for people to come back from the dead, and there are ways to interact with people who stay dead. But death in these books is very real and is treated with all the gravity it deserves. One of the traditions of Camp Half-Blood is that, while questers are away, their cabin mates (or volunteers if they have none) create burial shrouds from them. Then the returning questers burn their shrouds.
The Battle of the Labyrinth is the first time our protagonist Percy Jackson sees those shrouds used for actual bodies. It’s a somber moment, and also reminds the reader that this series is building up to a full-fledged war. These people are only the first casualties. There will be more. After all, the next book is the war itself.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Last Olympian is the final book in the quintet. It’s the epic, climactic war between the Titans and the gods and, of course, our heroes are right in the thick of things. Rick Riordan does his damnedest to tear our hearts out with some of the deaths (yes, there’s quite a number although far more are nameless extras than key characters), but that’s par for the course. After all, stakes are meaningless if there are no consequences.
The Last Olympian is a culmination, with many disaparate storylines, plots, and elements coming together in a cohesive whole that wraps everything up. Oh sure, there’s room for more (and dear gods is there more to come), but even if Riordan hadn’t continued writing in this world it still would have been fine. I think that’s an art form that is lacking in a lot of media today, especially movies. Too many times people let their greed sucker them into making unnecessary sequels and expanding stories that just aren’t that detailed into more movies than are actually needed. It’s a disservice to the stories they’re trying to tell. And yes, there’s authors like Michelle West who wrote a duology, set out to write a second duology and ended up with a sextet, then set out to write a second sextet and is now finishing it up as an octet. Or Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy ending up as a quartet. I suppose I could also bring up Douglas Adams’ trilogy…but I can’t properly judge that one since I haven’t read it. I will always be entertained by the five-book series still being called a trilogy.
My point is that I appreciate Riordan laying out his story to be a certain number of books and sticking to it. Everything meshes and ties well together. Foreshadowing starts in the first book and extends beyond the length of this specific series. There’s no abrupt inserts to confuse a reader, no deus ex machina out of left field. I can’t tell you how annoying I find such things when it’s clear the author decided to integrate a completely new concept into a series, despite the fact that no foundation existed previously. (Looking at you, Anne Rice.) And talking about what a good conclusion The Last Olympian is seems all I can do without offering spoilers for it or any of its predecessors. I know a lot of people have read these books, but there’s always the chance of encountering someone who hasn’t for one reason or another, and they deserve the chance to be surprised like I was when I first devoured the story.
I was in college when Percy Jackson & The Olympians hit theaters. And I opted to see it then because it didn’t look like a total waste of money. I can be a sucker for mediocre fantasy action movies, just like with books. And…I didn’t think it was that bad. A perfectly good popcorn flick. I’ve seen far worse. But it was definitely good enough to make me curious about the books. I knew they existed, but there are so many reasons why I don’t just pick up every kids or young adult book that looks like a fantasy – I can get burned so easily that way. I had a friend who loved them though, and she’d been horribly disappointed by the adaptation. I borrowed her books to read them, though I could only get the first four at the time.
Need I say that I was hooked? Oh sure, I could see where they went wrong with the movie the instant I read The Lightning Thief. But, since I saw the movie before I read the book, I’ll never completely hate it. And, like I said, I knew even before I read the book that the movie wasn’t great, so it’s not like that much changed. I just gained a much better appreciation for the source material.
It’s crazy to think how long ago that was now. Nine years is a long time, and a lot can change. I didn’t buy the books until almost a year later, when I had a seasonal job at Borders during what ended up being their very last holiday season. I was able to save some money by buying the box set for the first three, but the last two were new enough that the publisher hadn’t created a complete box set yet and I had to buy them separately. It was still some time before I started my habit of reading the newest entry from the library only after the last one could be purchased in paperback. Still before I bought the Kane Chronicles – used, unlike Percy Jackson’s encounters.
It’s weird to think that even though I never touched Rick Riordan’s work until my senior year of college, it’s now been a part of my life for nearly a decade. And not as some series that I read new and have maybe touched once since then, but one I’ve continually revisited, and not just because new entries keep being published. As of this writing, I own seventeen novels set in this universe and six supplemental volumes. There’s a seventh in my Pile and an eighth that I sort of own. That is to say, Demigods & Magicians collects the three stories where Percy and Annabeth meet Carter and Sadie Kane, but I have those shorts tucked away in the backs of three of my novels, so I see no point in purchasing an additional copy of each. Oh sure, there might be other bonus content in the book, but I don’t actually care about puzzles, games, or even cardboard cutouts. It’s the story I’m after. (Also, yes, I have already checked out Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead and The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze from the library before. They’ll be available in paperback later this year and will be added to my collection then.) But that’s a lot of books, more than some of the other authors I’ve been collecting for twice as long, if not longer. Sure, Riordan’s never going to compare to Andre Norton, Tanya Huff, or Mercedes Lackey when it comes to taking up shelf space. But the man’s not done yet and it’ll be interesting to see where this world goes.
Anyway, moving on to my next read for the day, “The Son of Sobek”, the first Demigods & Magicians story. My copy happens to be lurking at the back of The Kane Chronicles: The Serpent’s Shadow, the climax of that three volume series. Which is kind of disappointing. I mean, with kids books you do generally expect the main character to survive, but there’s a difference between this presumption and an advertisement for Carter Kane teaming up with Percy Jackson following the events of the book. It just takes some of the magic out of it.
The story itself goes pretty much how you expect a teamup to go. The two meet, fight each other, then decide the crocodile is more important, defeat it, and realize they don’t make a half bad team. There’s not a lot of information exchanged, but it’s better than ntohing. I mean, they’re boys, and media tells us that boys will be boys. Which means they tend to think with their fists or their dicks or both before their brains. Still, it’s not a bad start to the Egyptian/Greek adventure set.
Today’s last book starts a new chapter. The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero is where Rick Riordan says “yes, I am fully aware that the Greek gods are also the Roman gods under other names. Did you think I’d forgotten that when building my universe?” The writing style also changes from Percy’s first person narrative to a third persion split view. The main characters are Leo Valdez, son of Hephaestus, Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite, and Jason Grace, son of Jupiter. Each chapter is prefaced with the viewpoint character’s name, and that’s also what’s seen at the top of each page with the number, instead of the book title or author’s name. A simple but effective way to keep track easily. And yes, I am quite serious when I say that Jason is not a son of Zeus.
The Lost Hero opens with Jason waking up in the back of a bus, holding hands with Piper. Not that he has any idea who she is, he barely even remembers his own name. And yet, he knows quite a bit. He can identify monsters and gods as well as any demigod, although he defaults to the Roman terminology instead of Greek. There were some references to Rome in Percy Jackson & The Olympians, but not many. When Chiron infiltrated Percy’s school at in The Lightning Thief, he did so as a Latin teacher. Although part of that is because you’re not going to find many grade schools that actually teach Ancient Greek. Still, the Roman aspects of things were generally glossed over in Percy’s hearing.
Besides, our heroes have more important things to worry about. Some would be worried about Percy’s disappearance more than Jason’s abrupt appearance. But the thing is, after the last time the gods and the Titans warred, that was only the start. And now the giants are rising again and their patron is, well, nobody you want to mess with. Not if you have any kind of choice.
Many of the characters from past books are present here, or at least have mentions or cameos, but the focus is, as I said, Jason, Leo, and Piper. It seems they’re three of the seven halfbloods from the new Great Prophecy, and since the last Great Prophecy is the one that directly tied in to the climax of the war…you can imagine the stakes probably won’t be any lower here.
But that’s a story for another book.