The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
The fifth and final book in THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS pentalogy sees our seven demigods finally go up against the threat that’s been brewing for the last four books: Gaia, the primordial goddess who’s been deliberately pitting the Greeks and the Romans against one another. With the training camps of young half-blood youths preparing for war and many of the gods torn between their Greek and Roman personas, our young protagonists have only a prophecy to guide their quest for peace: one that suggests they’re not all going to make it out alive.
After the previous book in the series, The House of Hades, Rick Riordan thankfully scales things back a bit by only providing only five narrative points-of-view instead of the previous seven. It made for a cacophonous reading experience given all the switching back-and-forth between characters, whereas The Blood of Olympus (2014) sticks with Jason, Piper and Leo’s perspectives, as well as Reyna and Nico’s for the first time. This means Percy, Annabeth, Frank and Hazel feel more like supporting characters this time around, but they’ve had their chance to shine in previous books.
Given this story started with the trio of Jason, Piper and Leo, and that Reyna and Nico have probably had the most dramatic character development over the course of the series, it’s fitting that they get the spotlight here.
The Blood of Olympus’ plot is split between Nico and Reyna’s attempts to get the protective Athena Parthenos statue to the Greeks at Camp Half-Blood, and the heroic seven (Percy, Jason, Leo, Piper, Hazel and Frank) making their way to the Acropolis where Gaia is destined to rise from the earth — and gathering the ingredients for a healing potion on the way as insurance against the fatal prophecy.
Of course there are plenty of obstacles on the way (both internal and external) as they visit places like Pompeii, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and the Peloponnese — most of them updated versions of the Greek/Roman pantheon, like Apollo and Artemis as emo-teenagers, Orion as a psychotic frat-boy, and Asclepius as a doctor obsessed with health insurance. If you’ve already read your fair share of Greek mythology, it’s always a treat to see how Riordan will reimagine the familiar characters.
Riordan still writes at a fast-pace with plenty of humour and insight into the teenage mind, but as with the last book, some of the “side-quests” can get a little repetitive, with our characters forced to divert their attention away from the larger task at hand in order to deal with minor inconveniences that have little to do with the overall plot. Sometimes they can be worked into the bigger picture, but often they slow the story down and aren’t quite clever enough to justify their existence.
But I’ll always appreciate Riordan’s commitment to the diversity of his protagonists, comprised of both genders and a range of ethnicities, which fits in perfectly with The Blood of Olympus’ theme of working together in adversity. One even comes to terms with his sexuality and long-standing crush on another male character, something I never thought we’d see in a book like this! Riordan makes sure each character gets the chance to contribute his or her unique talents to the quest, and though most of the teens get paired up, there’s just as much emphasis on the importance of friendship and self-respect as there is on romantic love.
So although I didn’t enjoy THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS quite as much as the original PERCY JACKSON books, which had a tighter storyline and a wittier first-person narrative, the follow-up series was a lot of fun, with plenty of room left over for more adventures.
I enjoyed the first book in this series but I lost interest after that, and frankly, my sympathies will almost always be with an earth goddess before a bunch of cliquish warmongering boys’ club upstart gods, so there’s that.