Review: The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5) by Rick Riordan

The Last Olympian
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fittingly brilliant finale to an incredible series.

Pros:
– There was so much action in this book that it felt almost never-ending yet despite this, it didn’t lose its suspense or become repetitive (and this is coming from a gal who isn’t typically a fan of action!)
– It kept well away from the clichés I thought were going to happen
– Riordan manages to bring back characters we haven’t seen for a while with such delicacy that it fits into the storyline seamlessly, not an easy feat in a series finale
– This book (okay, the rest of the series too) made me want to jump headfirst into the library’s section on Greek mythology.

Cons:
– We had to say goodbye to such a magnificent series, it felt bittersweet to reach the end.*

I’m one of those readers who is perpetually disappointed with the final instalment of almost every series I’ve ever read, and watched, come to think of it. There is just something about endings that aggravates me – everything is tied up too neatly or there are gaping problems of things that aren’t tied in the end at all.

This wasn’t the case with The Last Olympian. The whole book was just so satisfying to read that I wanted to smile, cry and clap my hands together like a delirious madwoman all at the same time with how well it managed to do take care of everything.

Let’s start with the pace, it is so absorbing that you barely even notice the pages flick by. The suspense throughout, as built up from the previous novel, keeps you wholly addicted to finding out what’s going to happen in the chapter. The funny chapter headings certainly help with this as the whole reading experience becomes a classic dilemma of, ‘oh, just one more chapter…’.

The character development that has been slowly trudging along in the background of the other novels simply shines in this brilliant finale that manages to showcase what we love and hate about each character and how they’ve been changed by their individual journeys through the series. Though this could easily result in everything being too neat and unrealistic, it certainly doesn’t feel that way thanks to Riordan’s writing that weaves detail, action and humanity altogether in such a way that the reader is sucked into the story’s believability.

And the ending, oh my, the ending. Let’s just say that few fictional characters have battled against such odds that I was willing them to give up and let something/someone else take on all the responsibility. In fact, it brought me winging back to the nostalgia and emotional trauma that was the Last Battle of Hogwarts (but in a good way). Riordan’s writing made the characters so believably human (okay, even the ones that aren’t strictly human) that their decisions and actions made for reading so inspiring that it made me, after the novel was finished of course, sit back and think about the brave and not-so-brave choices I’d made in my own life.

A book that can prompt such self-reflection, particularly a YA fiction book full of non-humans, action and mythology such as this one, is one that I’m wholeheartedly a fan of.

Read this series, there’s a very good chance you will love it.

*I’m aware this isn’t a con but I genuinely felt so sad when I got past the halfway point and realised how little was left of Percy Jackson’s adventures that it seems worth mentioning!

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Review: The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3) by Rick Riordan

The Titan's Curse
The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let’s just pretend #2 (The Sea of Monsters) didn’t happen…

Pros:
– An adventure as exciting as The Lightning Thief
– Great characters (both old and new)

Cons:
– Took some time to get going but the build-up was worthwhile so this is just a minor point
– The badass female character in leather (avoiding spoilers here!) was a let-down and took away from the story

After being sorely disappointed with The Sea of Monsters, I was bracing myself for further disappointment with book #3. Joyfully, I was wrong!

Percy was back this time with a better yet far darker adventure. The monsters are scarier and the heroes are mightier making this a far more worthy follow up to The Lightning Thief than the second installment in the series, The Sea of Monsters.

This book marks the transition to what all great YA fiction series do: a light introduction into a fantasy world with gradually darkening plots, villains and consequences as the series progresses. It does so perfectly with the balance of humour seen in the first book that makes it such a charming series.

Another notable change in this book is the characters – they’re now far more realistic and complex. This is a huge leap away from the Harry Potter-esque similarities that weighed The Sea of Monsters down so heavily and made the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series much more interesting. Whereas previously, I barely cared for the characters due to the ‘tell don’t show’ style of writing and their quite narrow descriptions, in this book we were able to dig a little deeper into their motivations, quirks and fears. This was particularly well done with the Gods and their relationships with their kids as they’re kept mysterious while at the same time allowing us glimpses of much deeper things to come in the two books remaining in the series.

In the previous two books I’ve felt the endings to be the weakest part of the entire book and a giant anti-climax due to their predictability and general cosiness. Once again, this book went above and beyond to improve itself. The ending was full of suspense and vivid imagery that left me so agape at the whole thing that, despite it being 2am, I immediately started The Labyrinth (book #4).

Something that rarely happens to me now when reading is being hooked for the entirety of a book and unable to stop my thoughts wandering back to it once I’ve put it down. Perhaps its a part in parcel of growing older or a sorry side-effect of reading more non-fiction books but it’s a feeling I’ve dearly missed. For the first time in a while, the Percy Jackson series gave me that back and it felt brilliant.
I’ve met many children who have said coolly that they find reading boring and most of the YA fiction books I know that’d be suitable for the younger end of the spectrum and are a light, introductory read, are now films that most kids have seen five times already. The Percy Jackson series is the perfect remedy for that.*

*I’m aware The Lightning Thief is already a film but this book was so great!
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Review: The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2) by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For me, this second instalment of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series was a disappointing flop.

Perhaps the first book left me with too much expectation but The Sea of Monsters didn’t grip me at all. It left me racing through the pages out of boredom to reach the end and just get it over and done with. I’m trying to read these books while being mindful they’re written for young teenagers and also trying to ignore the gross similarities to the early instalments of the Harry Potter series (though, without their depth and finesse…as a huge Potter fan since childhood I may be biased here!).

Even so, this book was frustrating. It had the potential to be so much more but any interesting storyline or character development was sacrificed for action scene after action scene in which the characters handled every challenge in a similar way each time. The character who was meant to be the main villain was poor and barely seemed worth mentioning, it was the second villain (to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say the creature villain!) that added some interest to the story and that was limited at best. I feel like the book could have been ten times better if only Riordan concentrated on the plot and the characters rather than churning out ridiculous life-death situations all the time. This worked in the first book when we were finding out new things about the characters and the Olympians in the process but in this book, it felt sloppy, pointless and just a way of getting cheap movie-like thrills without having to include anything of substance.

Percy’s cheesy jokes, much in the style of Harry Dresden in the Dresden Files, make the ridiculousness of the action scenes far more bearable and have their occasional moments of brilliance but not to the point where they outweigh how repetitive all that action, action, action is.

A few reviewers have defended the excess of action scenes by saying that they’re true to Greek mythology which is fair enough but they shouldn’t come at the cost of everything else that made the first book so great. Far too many characters in this book were dismissed too quickly and given too little page-time. The ones that we were left with had weak portrayals, cliché predictable reactions/phrases and the ‘show don’t tell’ rule just fell out the window.

I mean, we get it – Annabeth is smart. Percy is brave and loyal. That was all established in the first book, no need to have it featured on almost every page in this book. Barely anything else was added to these characters despite them dominating the plot.

It was interesting how the author’s incorporated the Greek mythology into these books, so far that is definitely their greatest asset and seems to be carrying the weaker parts of the story. The contemporary take on classical stories is both entertaining and for the most part, seamlessly done, but the series just can’t survive on that alone. I’ll read the next book in hope that there’s a bit more substance to the whole thing before I give up on the series completely.

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