Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review of The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

This review is an overview and does not contain spoilers.

I mentioned before in a previous post how much I adore the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.

I find Riordan's take on Greek mythology to be fun and light-hearted, but with a deep knowledge and respect for the source material. The first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, was completed in five volumes and it seemed that the ending wrapped everything up neatly. The World As We Knew It Was Saved and we could all go back to living our lives.

Heh, heh, heh.

Rick realized that there was a built in sequel utilizing little known stories from Greek Mythology and inserted a prophecy at the end of The Last Olympian to use as a starting point for his new series The Heroes of Olympus.

This new series expands his universe to include Roman mythology. I was of the opinion that Roman mythology was pretty much the same as Greek mythology with different names for most of the gods and goddesses with a few additional minor Roman deities.

Riordan shows that the two sets of mythologies are not equivalent and that the Roman gods have different personalities and aspects from their Greek counterparts. I find this to be way cool.

Son of Neptune is the second book in this planned five book series and it is released today.

Without including spoilers, I want to encourage those who love Medievalism and mythology who have not read the books to start reading them and to begin at the beginning with The Lightning Thief.

Riordan's style encourages a desire to learn more about both Greek and Roman mythology as well as ancient history.

In the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series, the Greek demigods were kept in a camp protected by magical boundaries against monsters. This was Camp Half-Blood off Long Island Sound. Click to see an interactive map of Camp Half-Blood.

And now, in The Son of Neptune, we are introduced to the camp for the Roman demigods. Here is a link to interactive map of Camp Jupiter near the Berkeley and Oakland Hills in California. It is different because the Roman cities were different from Greek ones. There are baths, a forum, a colliseum and even a circus maximus. How cool is that?

There was even a line in this book mentioning the division in the old Roman Empire between the Western and the Eastern empires with the Greeks maintaining control of the eastern half. This was then to be replicated in subsequent generations when the center of Western Civilization might migrate and explaining why Camp Half-Blood for Greek demigods was on the east coast and Camp Jupiter for Roman demigods was on the west coast.

I enjoyed that touch, and know that Riordan probably did not plan this detail when he first set up the Percy Jackson universe but recognized it later and decided this synchronicity needed to be mentioned in passing in the text.

So to me, this is learning history on the fly for my son while entertaining him and engaging his mind.

In The Son of Neptune, Riordan expands his universe with more characters that are heroic and some seem downright creepy. Octavian is a Roman demigod with a talent for reading auguries. Rather than opening live animals and examining their entrails, he uses stuffed animals and looks at the stuffing. For kids who snuggle every night with teddy bears, that might be a more disturbing image than reading about a live animal being vivisected.

Either way, the character of Octavian is one who bears watching to see if he will betray everyone for his own personal gain.

A new hero in this book is Frank Zhang who has Chinese heritage *and* an echoing tenuous connection to life as did Meleager of the Calydonian Boar Hunt fame. I had forgotten the details of Meleager's story from Greek mythology, but it was found easily with a Google search. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Riordan's ability to weave in such details in his narrative demonstrating his love for the source material.

Overall impressions:

The story is fast paced with a great dollop of humor and inclusion of myth and history. One scene had Percy and his friends hiding under the furry blue butt of a Hyperborean giant. This brought about the mental image of Rudolph and Hermie being between the Bumble's legs.

And later, Riordan had Death using an iPad. I laughed out loud at both of these absurdities that he included to amuse his readers.

I recommend this book highly as well as all the preceding novels and I look forward to reading The Mark of Athena next year. Especially since my favorite goddess is named in the title.


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