Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4) by Rick Riordan

The Battle of the Labyrinth
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most exciting YA fiction books I’ve ever read!

– It’s packed with high-quality action scenes
– The whole idea of the labyrinth is executed brilliantly
– There is so much in this book for an adult reader to appreciate
– This left me so excited for the fifth and final book that I finished this one and started the fifth one on the same night, reading until I fell asleep (book in hand!).

– Percy isn’t as great as he could be in this book, we see him repeating his mistakes a lot and it feels like it’s done just to jump the plot along at times.
– This isn’t really a con but I’m clutching at straws here – as Riordan uses increasingly obscure creatures and references to mythology, it gets harder to decipher them and appreciate the work he’s putting into it. I’d love it if there was some sort of glossary or mythology accompaniment in the books!

Before delving into this book, clear your schedule in advance. After you get to the mid-point, it’s so gripping it’s almost impossible to put down and it is one of the best build-ups I’ve seen to a series finale. Aside from the plot itself being wholly absorbing, the characters are great too. Whereas many of the recurring characters have been quite two-dimensional up until this point in the series, they are given far more depth in this book which makes their previous dullness completely forgivable in the grand scheme of things. On that note, we also have some wonderful moments in this book that will no doubt make you reminisce about your own teenage years.

The humour in this is noticeably better than the previous books too, although some jokes are clearly more for a younger audience, there’s a lot in this instalment that adults can whole-heartedly enjoy as well. This works hand-in-hand with making the whole novel feel far more well-rounded than its predecessors (and indeed, many other YA fiction series) as it’s as though Riordan is paying attention to what older readers want without compromising any of his appeal to younger readers.

All in all, this is a great fantasy adventure book that I’d recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining read full of suspense.

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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…

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

– 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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Review: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

YA just became fun again.

– Fun read
– Brings up serious issues in a way that makes them easier for children to talk about and understand
– Makes ancient history both exciting and relevant to modern day

– Annoyingly similar characters to the Harry Potter series
– The dialogue isn’t too great, it comes across as wooden and forced, particularly in trying to sound too much like a young person

I’ve been avoiding this series for a long time for a couple of reasons: firstly, it’s widely criticised as a cheap Harry Potter knock-off in many devoted communities of Harry Potter lovers I’m part of, and secondly, I mistakenly had the impression that it was very sea-orientated due to its fan art and the handful of reviews I’d read about it (for whatever reason, I’m no big lover of anything nautical).
On both counts, I’d placed too much focus on the opinions of others and that meant I missed a trick here. What changed my mind is the film playing on mute in the background while I was at my parents house – a cyclops, some sort of youth camp, all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures – I knew I had to find out more about the series!

The big impression I was left with after reading this is something that has been a missing, but incredibly important, element in most recent YA fiction – fun.

Whatever you have to say about this book, you can’t deny that it’s brilliantly fun to read without sacrificing any of its poignancy in highlighting some topical issues. For instance, it manages to give some insight into the challenges of ADHD and dyslexia in children while weaving it into the storyline which is a refreshing way to approach the subject. It does this a few times with the right balance of delicacy and childish innocence to really help start conversations about serious things that might trouble the book’s target age group. To do that while at the same time delivering heavy doses of Greek mythology and ancient history all the while having a great character voice and effortless humour makes this book is an all-round winner.

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