Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero picks up shortly after his Percy Jackson & The Olympians series ended and continues onward in the same universe with both new and familiar characters. Actually, I should say “mostly” the same universe, as Riordan has broadened his Greek mythology premise to include the Roman gods as well (or as is often the case, the familiar Greek gods in their less-familiar Roman aspects).
Percy literally isn’t around for this one (don’t worry — he appears to play a major role in the next); he’s gone missing and nobody knows what happened to him. Instead, The Lost Hero begins with Jason, a young boy who finds himself on a school bus with his two “friends” Leo and Piper, save that he has no memory of who they are, how he got there, or who he is. Just as he’s piecing together that they belong to the Wilderness School — an institution for “bad kids” — the group is attacked by wind spirits, which Jason mysteriously seems to recognize. In the melee, Jason learns he can fly, has a nifty magical sword, and has pretty good fencing skills. Eventually he and his two friends are rescued by Annabeth (looking for Percy) and brought back to Camp Half-Blood, where they learn who they are: Jason is the son of Zeus, Piper is the daughter of Aphrodite, and Leo is the son of Hephaestus.
Jason, it appears, has had his memories stolen by one of the gods, though what remains is strange in that he seems to be more associated with Rome than Greece. He isn’t the only one with issues, though. Piper has been asked to betray Camp Half-Blood to save her father. And Leo has a hidden ability somehow connected to his mother’s death. Before the friends can fully settle in, they become wrapped up in a quest and a Great Prophecy that will see them travel the country battling monsters, demons, and gods in order to avert disaster.
All of which should sound familiar to readers of the first series. Good or bad, there is a lot that is familiar here. As in the earlier series, Riordan’s relies on small details to bring the gods to life. This is not a richly detailed world as one finds in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings; Riordan’s books have always been much more about pace and action. But when he does slow a bit to bring the world more fully before us, we get some great moments, such as Argos of the many eyes crying or when we’re brought into the home of Boreas, the god of the North Wind.
The action is fast and nearly omni-present, though there are pacing issues. The book, well over 500 pages, could easily have lost a 100 or so I’d say. Some action scenes are drawn out (either because they move a bit predictably or because they become repetitive) and there are several odd moments where characters recapitulate the action in their heads, action we’ve already seen. As a reader I was wondering why I was being told this again.
Riordan’s trademark humor is here, as is his facile ability to present a realistic adolescent point of view. A few times the humor might feel a bit forced or the attempt to emphasize that the characters are teens is obvious, but these moments are rare. Mostly The Lost Hero feels like a book about teens by someone who actually knows teens, rather than by an author who has an “idea” of adolescence in his or her mind (or worse, memory).
Jason’s lost memories are played in too contrived a fashion, welling to the surface at convenient moments. Too many characters have that annoying “I know what is going on, but for your own good can’t tell you” kind of knowledge. Finally, the Roman mythology is a truly interesting and relatively original concept, but it feels a bit too shadowy for much of the book (far less so in the last quarter). Riordan conveniently leaves out pieces of information so we can get to a big reveal or set scene at the end.
These problems notwithstanding, The Lost Hero speeds along, much as the Percy Jackson novels did, and it’s hard to imagine young readers not jumping aboard and crying out for “more, more” at the end of this just as they did at the end of The Lightning Thief. Despite the issues mentioned, these books feel comparatively solid, composed by a more confident and assured author. Even better, Riordan aims a bit darker here than in earlier books, dealing with parental issues of all sorts and personal demons of guilt and despair. This gives the new series the potential to be “moved” by emotion rather than simply “moved along” by plot. And the early Percy books had much the same issues, but improved as the series progressed.
Riordan may not have the crossover youth-adult appeal that some young adult authors manage, his books lacking that richness or depth or subtlety. But one can’t argue with his success in the youth market. I’m sure that The Lost Hero will be no exception. As such, highly recommended for that group, with hopes he tightens things up for the next.
~Bill Capossere (2010)
It seemed only a matter of time before Rick Riordan returned to the world he created in the PERCY JACKSON series, one in which the Greek gods dwell in contemporary America, and their demigod offspring are sent to Camp Half Blood to train as heroes and fulfil their destinies. It was a winning concept that allowed for updated versions of Greek myths to be integrated into the present day, as well as one that introduced a range of young heroes struggling with their own powers and propensity to land in trouble.
Combining many of the familiar components of Greek mythology — monsters, prophecies, mysterious parents, quests — the Percy Jackson books proved popular enough for a sequel series, in which a brand new trio of heroes reach Camp Half Blood and accept the mission set before them.
Jason wakes up on a school bus heading for the Grand Canyon with no memory of who he is or what he’s doing there. Two other passengers — a girl called Piper with the gift of persuasion, and a boy called Leo whose clever hands are always itching for a new project — are convinced he’s been with them for weeks, though Jason is sure he’s never seen them before. As he tries to get his bearings, a fleet of wind spirits attack them, and the three of them are whisked away to Camp Half Blood on a flying chariot. And that’s just within the first three chapters!
Riordan’s plots are always twisty and surprisingly intricate, what with all the secret identities and mysterious portents floating around, but by the end he manages to pull together his multitude of threads to form a coherent whole. There is a particularly intriguing element included here involving the Roman gods that hints at some tantalizing possibilities. Without wanting to give too much away, Jason is heavily drawn toward the Roman aspect of the gods rather than the Greek, suggesting that this world is much larger and complex than originally supposed. It all ends with a great sequel hook regarding Jason’s missing memories, his preference for the Roman pantheon, and the whereabouts of Percy Jackson (who spends this entire book AWOL, much to the concern of his girlfriend Annabeth and other supporting characters from the previous books).
Whereas the PERCY JACKSON books were told entirely from the point-of-view of their single protagonist, chapters throughout The Lost Hero alternate between Jason, Piper and Leo, giving the reader the chance to delve into each one’s troubled past, their unique parentage, and the ways in which they utilize their gifts to aid each other on the adventure that follows. Riordan is also committed to portraying a diverse cast in both gender and ethnicity (Piper is Native American; Leo is Latino) and as was established in the original series, most demigod children have dyslexia or attention deficient disorders.
For those with no knowledge whatsoever of the Greek pantheon of gods, this is a great primer on the subject — but the book is even more rewarding if you’re familiar with the mythology and can play the “what famous character is this?” guessing game each time Riordan introduces a new character. You can tell he’s had a great time in updating the various gods and goddesses into more modern surroundings; keeping their old personalities intact but giving them up-to-date ways of fulfilling their godly duties.
It’s hard to imagine any fans of the original series not enjoying what Riordan has to offer in this new adventure, which again spans the length of five books (next up is The Son of Neptune). As ever, his prose is more serviceable than inspired (more than once he points out the blatantly obvious when it comes to what his characters are thinking/feeling) but the rollicking pace and wry humour of his protagonists more than carry the reader through the book’s hefty page-count — one which is considerably longer than any of the original PERCY JACKSON stories. It would seem Riordan’s work is growing along with his readership.
~Rebecca Fisher (2015)
The Heroes of Olympus — (2010-2014) Ages 9-12. Sequel to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Publisher: After saving Olympus from the evil Titan lord, Kronos, Percy and friends have rebuilt their beloved Camp Half-Blood, where the next generation of demigods must now prepare for a chilling prophecy of their own: Seven half-bloods shall answer the call, To storm or fire the world must fall. An oath to keep with a final breath, And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death. Now, in a brand-new series from blockbuster best-selling author Rick Riordan, fans return to the world of Camp Half-Blood. Here, a new group of heroes will inherit a quest. But to survive the journey, they’ll need the help of some familiar demigods.