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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Heroes of Olympus



After zipping through Percy Jackson and the Olympians series four years ago, I knew that if Percy and Annabeth return for another quest, I must find out how it went.

So, when Blood of Olympus was finally released, I was ready to get my hands on all five books at once and read them back to back. And, circumstances so arranged themselves that I was ill one Friday and was curled up in bed. But, I was patting myself and smiling smugly as I had just picked up the first four books from the library. The fifth one, being a recent release, was in high demand and my place was 97th of 130 holds on 8 copies or something impossible like that.

Anyway, that's how I managed to finish all four books by that weekend, just recovering in bed, and escaping into the demigod world.

The books have all the right elements to make them a rollicking fun read. Non-stop action, one thing after another, impossible odds that our favorite demigods mange to beat... all with light-hearted exchanges and quick-thinking under duress. Hints are tucked in here and there, and the picture unfolds bit by bit... I could easily see my 9 year old willingly entering Percy and Annabeth's world and staying there, much like she wanted to with Harry Potter and Hermione.

As I've already mentioned my main discomfort and objection to the demigod adventures in the Percy Jackson post, I am copying and pasting the same here, as it applies in triple-fold to this series.

Being a jaded adult, I naturally shake my head and roll my eyes when the movie hero artfully dodges the bullets from multiple machine guns fired by the demented assailants and somehow manages to target every single one of these machine-gun-toting assailants with a mere pistol and triumph in the end.
Something about stacking up the odds against the hero completely disproportionately, only to make his victory seem all the more meritorious irks my senses.
However, that does not stop me from getting entangled in a well-spun yarn.

Giants abound, huge and menacing, and yet our tiny demigods manage to thwart them somehow. Especially the fourth book, House of Hades, set in Tartarus, with Tartarus rising towards the end, and the giant Bob along with a tiny cat aids Percy strategically, seemed completely unbelievable. I felt almost as if I was reading a screenplay written explicitly for action-oriented colossal CGI effects. 

At every tough spot, it seems like our favorite demigods summon the last of their strength, exhausted beyond recovery, to avoid certain death, only to find that a few minutes later they again summon the last of their strength to avert another major disaster that could end the whole world... It is nice to have a tight deadline to keep things moving, but right in the first book, The Lost Hero, the three demigods Jason, Leo, and Piper, manage to go all over the country and get bashed up and lost and betrayed and chased and hunted and blackmailed and defeat the giant and save Piper's father, all in 3 days' time.

One other thing that irked me was this deliberate twisting of mythological characters just for the shock effect. Like, Heracles/Hercules is a pompous, deluded jerk in this story. We already read about Dionysus in the original series and we learnt to accept him as the character had some novelty then.

Having said that I am a jaded adult, I must also admit that I look for enough internal consistency for the story to resonate with my young-adult heart. As an academic pursuit, I cannot but wonder at the author's immense energy and talent to write five 500+ page stories that make the kids want to read. Over and over sometimes. 

I like how the narration switches between the main demigods and we learn about them as we follow along their adventures. I like the peppering of Greek and Roman elements in this series. I like the irreverence and the heart-warming aspects inter-playing to a perfect balance. 

I like that it was not all about Percy and Annabeth, and in fact, Percy is overshadowed by Jason and Frank and Hazel and Piper and Leo, five of the most wonderful characters kids can relate to; plus Reyna and Hylla come across as strong and courageous. I did not want to put the book down till I knew everybody was safe, for now, until things started going haywire at the next turn...

And the best part for me? Having my 9 year old pick it up voluntarily and read it feverishly and discuss it with me, completely defending the book and dismissing any objections or inconsistencies I bring up. Of course, Mist will take care of stuff like that. Of course, you are not a demigod so you can't know how well they can do what they do... Of course, you are thinking like a human mommy...

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