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Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus #5) by Rick Riordan

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it "might" be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

Released: October 7th 2014    Pages: 516
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion    Source: Purchased

This series is an excellent example of how important it is to have awesome characters.  The plot for this series never grabbed my attention like it did in the original Percy Jackson books--when it comes to Heroes of Olympus, I'm just in it for the characters.  Okay, fine.  I'm mostly just in it for Leo Valdez and Nico di Angelo.  And maybe Percy and Annabeth.

Even though I didn't get the chance to read this until a few weeks after it came out, I had managed to keep myself spoiler-free.  I knew nothing, so I had no idea what was coming for me.  I just had one request--I wanted Leo Valdez to make it out alive.

If you haven't noticed by now: Leo Valdez is one of my favorite fictional characters, not just in this series, but in anything.  I love his sense of humor.  I love his emotional complexity.  His devotion to Calypso.  His passion for machinery.  The fact that he's the "seventh wheel," the only single one in the group of seven.  Rick Riordan gives him a lot of attention in The Blood of Olympus, since his personal story is one of the most pivotal.

SPOILER PARAGRAPH.  After a certain point, though, I started to get worried.  Riordan drops some hints about Leo's future early in the book, which meant that I was glued to the pages for the rest of it, desperately hoping that something was going to change and he'd make it out alive.  And then the ending happened...YOU GOT ME, RICK RIORDAN.  Happy?  I completely fell for his death.  It seems so certain.  I should have known better, but I was still caught up in it.  That hurt.  But then he comes back, and he can actually be happy.  And it's beautiful.  Still, don't think for one second that I'm forgiving Riordan for that particular piece of emotional trauma.

It's not just about Leo, though, because Nico di Angelo exists.  He's a tough kid, but he's been through a lot.  I spent most of this book thinking, "Someone save Nico di Angelo!"  Give him a break.  I'm happy with the direction Riordan took with him in The Blood of Olympus.  There is so much growth, so much development.  He becomes stronger, more sure of himself, and learns to deal with his past--all in a believable, realistic way.  At the end, he finally gets the chance for the happiness that he has deserved since the beginning.  That was all I needed from this ending.

There are other characters, as well.  Of course.  I gained much more respect for Reyna in this book than I did in the previous books.  I never did warm up to Jason and Piper.  Overall, though, Riordan's ensemble cast is likable, energetic, and believable.

Like I mentioned earlier, the plot of this series always felt off to me.  For some reason, the urgency of the previous series just isn't there.  It feels less focused.  Maybe the series suffers under its own size, since it's considerably longer than the Percy Jackson series.  Some of the side adventures may not have been critical to the plot, and they slow it down.  This is probably what detracts from the urgency.  Cutting down a bit would make this series so much tighter, and give it some of the suspense of the previous series.

There's also this little moment:

"Dibs on London!" yelled a ghoul at the next table.

"Montreal!" shouted another.

"Duluth!" yelled a third, which momentarily stopped the conversation as the other ghosts gave him confused looks.

Thank you, Rick Riordan, for 1. actually mentioning Duluth 2. recognizing that it is a lovely place.
Even with my problems with the plot, this is still a fantastic ending to the series.  It packs a lot of emotion, but also the trademark Percy Jackson humor.  It's a serious series, but it's not afraid to balance this out with things like talking tables, either.  In some places, it's just plain fun.  At the same time, it has some wonderful character development.  The ending is satisfying, even if it messed with my emotions.  Yeah, I won't be getting over that one for awhile.

Similar Books: It's funny along the lines of Artemis Fowl (though, admittedly, it's less funny, and AF leans more heavily on the sarcasm side, but the books still appeal to similar audiences). It has mythology all over the place like The Alchemyst, it's by the same author (it's a continuation series) and uses some of the same characters The Lightning Thief, and has snarky average-kid-turned-superhero characters like The Merchant of Death.

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