36 Books In 2018 #24: The Trials Of Apollo: The Burning Maze By Rick Riordan

A funny thing happens when I read a Rick Riordan book. I fall under a kind of spell. From the moment I first started The Lightening Theif nearly eight years ago to yesterday when I finished The Burning Maze, I find myself lost Riordan’s world of monsters, magic and gods.

Sure I have books I prefer to others. (The Last Olympian is good, The Lost Hero, ehhh) But I’m always happy to hang out at Camp Halfblood.

The Trials Of Apollo has proved to be my favorite series so far. I like be Apollo as a narrator and twenty or so books in everything is so rich and full of backstory, just the tantalizing sentence of Apollo and Grover enter the labyrinth to fight Caligula and Medea (with assists from Piper and Jason) is enough to burst my little fangirl heart.

The Burning Maze has great action, moments of hilarity and devastating losses and mired as it all is in history is kind of wonderful. I have my complaints.

My girl Rachel Dare was nowhere to be found which really? I get that Percy is currently helping on the Norse side of things, but his absence is always a negative, and too much of the narrative hinges on Jason who’s my least favorite of Riordan’s mains.

But it’s a worthy entry into this series that I’ve loved for so long!

Up next is China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. HOORAY! More Crazy Rich Asians!

I Didn’t Ask To Be A Half-Blood

LightningThiefPlay-300x300In case you’re new, you may not know that I have a few what I call “baseline” obsessions. They’re not the fundamentals of nerdiness, as deep in my bones as Star Wars, Harry Potter or Les Mis. But they’re things I come back to over and over, with love and joy and excitement, but I can detach myself enough to view them critically. Batman, The Collective Television Work of Aaron Sorkin, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, Game of Thrones. 

A big one, a big big one is the connected mythological work of Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson And The Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles, Magnus Chase And The Gods of Asgard, and The Trials of Apollo, are semi-annual joys to visit. (One book generally comes out in the spring, another in the fall…) They’re also, one of the earliest bits of nerd bonding that Aless and I came to. (The summer we became besties Sea Of Monsters, the movie, came out. We moaned over it’s disappointments together.) So, when we learned the there was going to be a musical of The Lighting Thief, we got tickets as soon as possible for the first Saturday night performance.  I also reread all of the Greek/Roman books.

The show itself is really great, capturing the sort of cheeky, totally epic fun of the books, and giving fans a lot to grab on to, especially given the various characters on display. At Camp Halfblood, necessary for the plot characters Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Luke are joined by Clarisse LaRue, Silena Beuaregard and Katie Gardner, with a brief mention of Charles Beckindorf. (Though it’s that he’s cheating on Silena, something he would NEVER DO. HE DIED LOVING HER SO MUCH THAT HE WAITED TO ENTER ELYSIUM FOR HER!) Grover sings a whole song about Thalia’s sacrifice, and there’s even a cameo in the Lotus Hotel and Casino of a girl who’s been there since May of 1939. (Yes, demigods, we see, though only for a moment, Bianca DiAngelo! She also mentions her brother. Aless and I spazzed accordingly)

As a musical it’s entertaining, with a few truly good songs, though the theater lover in me, did have to roll my eyes at a few elements. “We get it, you love Rent!” I mumbled at one point, while Chris McCarrell as Percy raged against his bad luck to a pounding drum beat while jumping around a set constructed mostly of scaffolding. But McCarrell really did well with a character I have a great deal of affection towards and said song, “Good Kid,” has been stuck in my head since leaving the theater. I was equally impressed with Kristen Stokes as Annabeth, particularly her big solo song, but my favorite cast member was James Hayden Rodriguez, who played Luke Castellan as well as Ares and a couple of other parts. (Most of the cast doubled or tripled roles.) Luke is definitely in my top 3 favorite Riordan characters (Number 1 is Leo Valdez and the 2 spot rotates between Luke and Rachel Elizabeth Dare, depending on my mood.) And this performance really got what I liked about Luke, the charm, the anger, the sheer heartbreaking grief when this guy you can’t help but like stabs you in the back.

I was really happy with the show and even happier to see it with my best friend. (I came cosplayed as Annabeth, and Aless provided us some blue food.) We then proceeded to drink approximately all of the Tequila in The Village, but overall we had a great night, and now I’m just waiting on the cast album.

And the possibility of a sequel? Maybe? While the escalating weirdness and ballooning cast of Percy Jackson might make for a tough fit on stage, I’d still love to see this group give it a shot.

You Keep Strange Company Magnus Chase

The Sword of Summer

Guys! Last week we got the new Rick Riordan series. Magnus Chase And The Gods Of Asgard: The Sword Of Summer hit last week, and it’s pretty wonderful.

First of all, unlike The Kane Chronicles, there is a direct line betwee Magnus Chase and Camp Halfblood, and that line is through it’s hero and one of theirs. Magnus is Annabeth Chase’s cousin, and we learn that The Chase Family has deep ties to the Norse Gods, which, actually makes sense as to why Athena was attracted to Annabeth’s father.

But onto Magnus and Riordan once again outdoing himself. Unlike his cousin, Magnus doesn’t have a learning disability but he has been living on the streets for two years, and his allies include a daughter of Loki, who’s mother was an Iraqi Muslim Immigrant, a dwarf who prefers fashion to fighting and a deaf elf who wants to be a magician.

I’m saying that Riordan has gotten really good at diversity since The Lightening Thief and The Sword of Summer is all the better for it.  (I love Percy, Annabeth and Grover, but they’re all a little bit same-y.)

My favorite thing about any Riordan series is how recognizable the mythological sources are, even if you’re unfamiliar with the nuance. I know very little about Norse mythology that isn’t from Marvel movies and American Gods, but it was very cool to get to learn more about it and realize how much of it I’ve simply absorbed from being around things.

I like Magnus, not quite as much as Percy or Carter Kane (of The Kane Chronicles) but definitely more than Jason Grace. And I also like that the Norse Gods are a good deal more, well, human than the Greco-Romans, who were aloof and larger than life for the most part, and certainly more than the Egyptian, who were literal forces of nature. It’s an interesting take, given that the soap opera of Norse mythology is a lot more grounded in human feeling than those other two.

Overall I’m excited for where the series is going and seriously curious when the ultimate point of convergence is going to come. I’m thinking that Ragnarok, or preventing it, is what’s going to unite The Greek and Roman Halfbloods, The Egyptian Magicians and the Norse Warriors of Valhalla, or I’d at least like that. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a full series that brings all of these characters together after Magnus fights his battle either.

And in the end, there really is no end of ancient mythologies for Riordan to plunder, so I guess there’s no reason to guess that the big event is coming anytime soon.

But I’d like to see it sooner rather than later.

And, I still miss Percy…I may have to go back and read Olympians again.

Next year we get The Hammer of Thor, which should be fun.

Time To Say Goodbye

Blood of Olympus

The thing about Blood of Olympus, 

No, the thing about Percy Jackson,

NO wait, the thing about Jason Grace

That’s not right either, the thing about Annabeth Chase,

The thing about Leo Valdez, Hazel Leveseque, Piper McLean, Frank Zhang,

The thing about Nico DiAngelo…

Is that they’re all my favorite character.

I can pick a favorite Harry Potter character, easy. That’s McGonnigal. I can pick a favorite Superhero, Batman on the DC side, Captain America on the Marvel. I can pick a favorite Disney Princess, it’s Cinderella. A favorite Sailor Scout, it’s Mars. But I can’t pick a favorite demi god.

Because that would mean choosing between Percy and Jason as to who bears the burden of being a leader better, choosing whether Annabeth or Piper can execute a side mission best. Whether Nico or Leo handles their crushing sadness and loneliness better. And I can’t make that choice.

I took longer than I should to finish Blood of Olympus, partially because of Comic Con catch up and partially because I really didn’t want this series to end. I knew that there would be death, and I didn’t want to see any of my favorite characters die.

No one died.

Well, Leo died, but he got better.

Here are things that did happen.

Percy and Annabeth made out on top of the Acropolis in Athens, but they also got cut so they woke up Gaea.

Jason decided to build shrines to every god at both Camp Half Blood and Camp Jupiter (this way he maintains his Roman roots and still be with Piper.)

Piper charm spoke Gaea back to sleep. Which is the coolest and most badass thing in the entire world.

Leo called Percy “Aquaman.”

Leo came back to life because Piper and Jason believed in him, and he flew Festus to rescue Calypso and they ran away together AND THAT WAS THE END OF THE WHOLE BOOK AND IT WAS PERFECT.

But the best was when Nico realized that he and Will Sollace are perfect for each other and then he came out to Percy and Annabeth and Percy was super confused and Annabeth gave him a high five. It was such a great way to do that moment.

Reflecting on this series is weird for me. I really love it, and it’s been such a huge part of my fandom vocab, that I’m not really sure where to go next. I mean, this world is clearly not going anywhere. Announced on the last page of The Blood Of Olympus is the new series, which is going to be about Norse Mythology.

Which is cool, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I mean, if you like adaptations of those stories…that take place in a modern setting.

For like a comic book.

Or a movie.

Or an epic amazing novel.

I mean, like, if you’re into Thor, or Loki, or American Gods, you might like a story about Annabeth’s cousin Magnus and his relationship to the gods of Asgard.

Maybe.

OMGOMGOMG ISTHISREALLLYHAPPENING? WHATSGOINGON?

Quick Note: You’ll notice no more comics write ups. I realized that it was putting me on too strict a reading schedule and keeping me on a sort of “comics only” path. I like reading comics. I like it a lot. But it can’t be the only thing I read. So I’m cutting back on a lot of monthly books and waiting for trades, I’m reading when I get to it and feel like, rather than every week as soon as I pick up. Rather than speeding through my comics this weekend, I finished Blood of Olympus, and finally finished Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and started (and got mostly through) Neverwhere. After all it’s October, no better time for reading Neil Gaiman. Also Jim Gaffigan has a new book coming out, there’s a new Veronica Mars book coming out and I watch too much TV. My reading time has to be split. It’s just the way it goes. When something really clicks, I’m still going to write about it. It’s just going to be a little bit more loose, giving myself more space.

 

Two In One: “The Staff of Serapis”

Staff

When I finished reading “The Staff of Serapis” I realized that with the possible exception of Harry Potter, The Percy Jackson/Kane Chronicles/Heroes of Olympus series, is probably the fandom I’ve been involved in for the longest and the most consistently. For a majority of my adult life, I’ve followed these characters on their various adventures, and I’ve never once lost interest in them. Oh sure, The Kane Chronicles never gripped me the way the others did, but I was still intrigued. And I’m even more intrigued to see how these two stories further link up in a sort of modern mythical Justice League/Avengers type situation.

Last summer, “The Son of Sobek” pitted Percy and Carter Kane against a giant crocodile, and they left with a tentative but not at all secure alliance. (Very Batman/Superman of them.) So when Sadie Kane and Annabeth Chase met up, it obviously had to be more of a Flash/Green Lantern type feel. And it very much was. Where as Carter and Percy were distrustful and working while butting heads, Annabeth and Sadie realized that they should be working together to defeat their monster almost from the get go.

The titular staff, is a monster made of three heads, a lion, a wolf and a dog, representing the past, present and future and is weilded by Serapis, a new god created by Ptolemy in Alexandria as a combination of Greek and Egyptian religions. He was raised by a powerful Egyptian magician, who we’ve met before and who is now trying to destroy both sets of gods by trying to bring them together. (My guess? He’s being manipulated by some elemental force. The bad guys in Riordan’s books are always being manipulated by an elemental force.)

It’s going to be a very good series when this all comes together. Annabeth and Sadie are immediately on point, and really make a great team. They learn how to combine the Greek and Egyptian fighting styles and take Serapis down.

I don’t feel like I need to go on ad nauseum again about how much I really love this world that Rick Riordan has created, because I’ve said it so many times before, but I really do love it. I had a feeling that the merging would have something to do with Alexandria, being that it was the main seat of Greek power in Egypt during Alexander’s reign, but that Cleopatra was Greek and in The Kane Chronicles, is mentioned as the last woman to channel Isis before Sadie, I feel is probably also a salient detail. (Cleopatra’s ties to Rome could bring The Camp Jupiter kids into play.)

I always enjoy checking in with this world, and seeing the girls interact was a lot of fun. Especially in the end when they simply swap cell phone numbers. (Carter and Percy decided to rely on a magical tattoo, for reasons inexplicable to the women in their lives.) Obviously, like all of Riordan’s stuff, the story was funny in a way that I can’t even begin to describe. Half the point of Sadie is that she has a wicked sense of humor, although without Percy to tease, Annabeth is kind of the heavy. There are veiled references to Hurricane Sandy, which I appreciated, because as the story revolves so much around New York, and the storm really did change a lot of the city, and certainly the outer boros (A majority of the action took place on Rockaway Beach).

Riordan’s always written incredible girl characters, from Annabeth to Clarisse to Sadie to Piper on down. It’s something that I’ve appreciated for a very long time.

Anyway, The Blood of Olympus comes out on October 7th, but I always the summer release to hold me over until the new big book comes in the fall. I look forward to the vague prophecy that will become clear over five books regarding the next story and how these three groups of kids are going to connect with each other. And the ending of Heroes of Olympus, because, I mean, come on guys, gay Nico, and Leo/Calypso and the ultimate fight with Gaea. It’s going to be really good.

The House of Hades hits me right in my feels

The House of Hades

I was so excited for The House of Hades by Rick Riordan to come out this week. After Sea of Monsters and The Son of Sobek I was even more so. I’m always pulled so fully into Riordan’s world of brave magical teens, gods and monsters. He’s created such a rich tapestry of characters and placed that falling into it for 24 hours ever year or so is always a treat.

The House of Hades is the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series, the ninth “Greek” story, and the twelfth set in this universe (The Kane Chronicles is the Egyptian half and The Son of Sobek is a short story that sets up a clear crossover as the next step.) and is by far the most romantic. Not just because of Riordan delves deeper into the complex emotional relationships of his characters than ever before, but because it’s intense emotions and beautiful imagery feel like something out of the romantic era. Which, incidentally is my favorite literary era. Hades is also probably my favorite book in the series now, after The Last Olympian held on to the spot for a very long time.

Because it’s the most romantic, though, let’s talk about some of the kick ass relationships that got explored. Mainstay couples Jason and Piper and Hazel and Frank basically got a pass from angst this time around, which was nice to see. It also made their personal internal journeys a little less interesting than their friends this time around. Especially Piper, who grows into her powers, and defeats an old enemy but does very little else.

Anyway, let’s start with Percy and Annabeth. When we last saw them, they were falling into Tartarus and their inevitable doom, but for a couple that has overcome kidnapping, oracles, Annabeth’s past, the goddess Calypso and amnesia, a little hopeless doom is nothing. In a lesser series they’d probably be separated again, but Riordan makes it absolutely clear, Annabeth and Percy are past that. They’re together now, and will stay together. The journey they take, while desperate and horrific, they take together and in the end, vow never to be separated again. One terrifying scene has Percy living through the agony of every curse ever uttered against him. The heartbreaking moment comes when Annabeth walks away from him, essentially abandoning him to his torment. This curse came courtesy of Calypso, who Percy has a brief but lovely relationship with in The Titan’s Curse. This is the worst for Percy because losing Annabeth shatters him and he’s reminded of Calypso, who he did care very much for, and it stings that she’d curse him at all.

Speaking of Calypso, she was probably my favorite part of this whole endeavor.

If you recall, when I read The Mark of Athena was really hoping that Leo Valdez was going to get the girl. The girl in question at that point was Hazel Levesque. Riordan did better. Much better. After being shot into the sky by the snow goddess Khione (who later got her ass handed to her by Piper), Leo crash landed on Calypso’s island. But this isn’t the sweet, sad Calypso of The Titan’s Curse, she’s grown pretty bitter an angry over the past few years. (Which would explain her cursing of Percy.) She hates Leo on sight, and he pretty much feels the same. They avoid and ignore each other for his first few days, but eventually respect each other, like each other and fall in love. It’s really quite touching. Because of Calypso’s curse, that no man she loves can stay with her, Leo has to leave, but unlike her previous lovers (Odysseus and Percy, among others), Leo doesn’t have anyone waiting for him at home, and vows to return.

Guys, it was amazing.

But it was nothing compared to the most touching and unexpected twist Riordan’s ever given us.

I’m telling you, this one made Rachel being The Oracle look downright contrived. It made Luke being in love with Annabeth all along seem predictable. It made Leo being the great grandson of Hazel’s boyfriend look well, snooze worthy.

I also might have thought this because it was about my favorite character.

See, I’ve always loved Nico Di Angelo, the Son of Hades. Of the Big Three kids we met in the first series, Percy, Thalia and Nico’s sister Bianca, he was always the most interesting. His motivations were never clear, he always seemed to be on his own side, and that tended to line up with Percy’s so yeah, there they were.

But while Nico and Jason confronted Cupid this time around, again, in an incredibly spooky scene, we learned the reasoning behind a lot of Nico’s decisions.

Fans have theorized for a while that Nico had a thing for Annabeth. It’s understandable for a few reasons, his clear avoidance of Percy, and extrapolated almost entirely from a moment when Nico agrees to do a favor for Camp Half Blood because Annabeth asked him.

What Jason, and we, uncover during their visit with cupid is Nico isn’t in love with Annabeth at all. Nico is (or was, the current status of his feelings is unclear) in love with Percy. I’m not doing the moment justice because it was incredibly touching and deeply rendered. And it cements Nico’s character in a way. Yes, all of the Half Bloods are outcasts, in the mortal world. But in the Greek and Roman worlds? Our main characters aren’t outcasts at all. Percy and Jason are like high school quarterbacks. They win a lot, they have pretty, smart, talented girlfriends. Nico isn’t like them.

Nico is The Son of Hades, he isn’t from this era, and he’s isolated himself, no matter how many times he’s been reached out to. When Jason considers this, he tries again to tell Nico his friends won’t reject him, but Nico makes him promise not to tell.

One of the things that I really admire about Riordan is how he doesn’t condescend to his child readers and he also doesn’t dispense with the nastier bits of mythology. They’re watered down, but not thrown out. Of course, he also isn’t ignoring some of the more unconventional aspects of Ancient Greek life, including that homosexuality was both widely practiced and widely accepted. But Nico is still a product of our world, and even more so a product of being a child of a time when being gay wasn’t accepted at all, he would have trouble reconciling it.

Also, how much you want to bet that in the next week or so the internet explodes with Nico/Jason fanfiction? You know it’s coming world, there’s no getting around it.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Great Prophecies and Retconning

Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters

To say that I “like” the modern mythical world that Rick Riordan created for Percy Jackson and The Olympians series and then continued in The Heroes of Olympus and expanded in The Kane Chronicles would be kind of an understatement. A more accurate one would be that I am wholeheartedly obsessed and love every bit of these series. I’ve written about them before, here if you want my primer on the subject, and here, talking about The Mark of Athenathe most recent installment. I was hugely disappointed in The Lightning Thief, the film adaptation of the first book.

It wasn’t that the movie wasn’t good. It was. It was funny and cute, and the action was great. The problem was that these stories are meant to be in a series and The Lightning Thief is really only supposed to be part 1. So it’s hard to make it stand on it’s own as a narrative, and to do so, you have to take away a lot of stuff and make characters that are deep and complicated into 2 dimensional cut outs.

I’m referring of course, to the villain of Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Luke Castellan. Luke is an incredibly well drawn character in the books, filled with rage, confusion, split loyalties and of course some evil.

In The Lightning Thief the movie, he’s just kind of a whiny douche bag.

Sea of Monsters does a slightly better job with Luke and with the epic narative of the story in general. It also manages to capture the fun kid friendly tone of the books, without the pandering silliness that sometimes gets confused. It’s visually beautiful and Logan Lerman continues to lead a perfectly cast group.

I love the way Lerman plays Percy, as slightly cocky and always in just a little bit over his head. The script does a wonderful job of showing Percy’s angst and loneliness as the only child of Poseidon. Rather than relying on voice over, which is only used as book ends. Most of it is shown by Percy sitting on the beach and talking in vain to the Long Island Sound, trying to reach out to his father with no response.

Hooray for good casting!

Hooray for good casting!

He gets a response, just not quite the one he was looking for. Poseidon sends Percy a half brother, in the form of Tyson, a young cyclops. Tyson’s origins are played with a little bit. In the books he’s a homeless kid who attends school with Percy. Here he’s been living on his own in the woods of upstate New York. But in intent, he’s the same. Tyson is an innocent, is absurdly strong and it takes Percy a while to come around to the idea that they’re brothers. Tyson is played by Douglas Smith, who I’ve never seen before, but who I liked a lot.

Back were Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson as Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood. One of my big problems with the movies is that they don’t really do Annabeth justice. Annabeth is fierce, intelligent and driven. In the movies, she’s just kind of Percy’s girlfriend. This time they did a little bit of a better job, dealing with her guilt over her friend Talia Grace’s death and her rage at Luke for turning against them. I was disappointed that they skipped over Percy and Annabeth discussing their fatal flaws. Annabeth thinks she can fix everything and Percy would burn the world down to save the people he loves. But Daddario does a really good job with her and infuses her with feelings and nuance that the script doesn’t really give her.

Brandon T. Jackson plays Grover very differently from how I interpret the character when I read, but I still like it. I think of Grover as a kind of nerd, until he comes into his own in book 4. But Jackson plays him more like that guy in middle school who was really cool, but wasn’t like the other guys so he was kind of a misfit, and then when everyone grows up a little they realize how cool that guy was. It’s an interesting take and I really enjoy it.

Also back, Jake Abel as Luke. Luke’s motivation to serve the Titan Kronos and that he’s being manipulated are brought in here, so he becomes a more complex villain, which was all I really wanted from him. Yay!

New to the game is Leven Rambin as Clarisse LaRue, a daughter of Ares. Rambin does a great job with Clarisse’s stubbornness and arrogance, and I like the way that her and Percy’s rivalry is portrayed, but annoyed that again it loses a layer. Here it’s playful and fun, in the books it’s a blood feud caused by Percy’s insult to her father. Also Rambin is too pretty, but that’s another fight entirely.

We also get a quick cameo by Nathan Fillion as Hermes. I was so excited for this scene, it was really the main reason I went out of my way to see the movie today. Hermes is running OPS (Olympic Parcel Service). Generally I loved the way that they brought the larger Greek world into this story. We see the special ATM cards the demi gods carry that allow them to get drachmas. We met the Fates, and we saw OPS. Fillion is funny and witty, has no time for Annabeth and tell Percy not to give up on his family. Also he makes a Firefly joke that I laughed way too hard at.

Hermes: This is a collectible from Hercules Bashes Heads.
Tyson: Hercules Bashes Heads?
Hermes: Best show ever! But of course they cancelled it after one season.

Remember last week when I had a totally inappropriate weepy reaction to The Wolverine? I laughed wayyyy too hard at that joke. It’s not even a great joke.

Anyway, Anthony Head took over for Pierce Brosnan as Chiron, the centaur that trains the heroes of Camp Half Blood and it was a welcome change. I do love Brosnan, but seeing Head teaching teenagers about magic and fighting again was a great joy. He and Lerman was particularly great together as the discussed The Great Prophecy and Percy’s destiny.

As for the Great Prophecy itself, in the book it reads:

A half blood of the eldest gods

Shall reach 16 against all odds

And see the world in endless sleep

The hero’s soul, a cursed soul shall reap

A single choice shall end his days

Olympus to preserve or raze.

The prophecy is gently changed, since in the movies, Percy is already past 16. Basically, it says it will come true when he turns 20.

The ending gets a tweak, to again allow the movie to be a stand alone sequel but I hope it isn’t. Mostly because after seeing Paloma Kwiatkowski as Talia Grace, even just for a moment, I really very badly want to see her become a Hunter of Artemis, and I really, really want to see Nico and Bianca DiAngelo.

Trailers:

Missed most of them, due to a long snack line. But saw Frozen teaser again.

Also, the Rio 2 trailer is super cute. Rio is an underrated little gem of a movie, and I’m interested in what the sequel will do.

Movie Season Rankings:

1. Pacific Rim

2. The Great Gatsby

3. Man of Steel

4. The Wolverine

5. Iron Man 3

6. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

7. Star Trek Into Darkness

8. Monsters University

9. After Earth

Sons of The Elder Gods

It’s HERE!

At some point Tuesday Night/Wednesday Morning I tweeted the following:

The Mark of Athena is turning out to be a giant pissing contest between Percy Jackson and Jason Grace. This is how I wanted it!

I’m not going to lie, not in the slightest. That’s exactly how I wanted it. Since The Lost Hero was released two years ago, I couldn’t wait to see what happened when Percy finally met another hero who matched him in power. Thalia Grace was a close match and Nico DiAngelo probably would have been able to hold his own (if he ever felt like it) but in terms of temperament, drive and sheer fighty-ness, there wasn’t anyone until Jason wandered in to the story with his amnesia, lighting powers and ability to fly that could take on The Son of Poseidon.

He doesn’t look like much, but he is in fact a badass!

Yes, I was looking forward to other things about The Mark of Athena. I couldn’t wait to see Annabeth Chase’s point of view. (She’s always been my favorite character). I wanted to see Leo Valdez get a girlfriend, (still hasn’t happened, but he totally has a crush on Hazel, The Daughter of Pluto) I wanted to see how Percy and Annabeth’s now official relationship affected their questing, (tragically, as they ended up falling in to Tartarus to save each other) and to see what mythic figures popped up, (Narcissus, Hercules and Arachne among others.)

But really, I just wanted to see Jason and Percy throw down. About a week ago, I determined a hard and fast distinction between a fanboy and a fangirl. I’ve always had trouble articulating this very clear difference, and what I came up with was straightforward:

If you put two characters in a room together, a fanboy will ask, “What would happen if these two fought?” Faced with the same situation, a fangirl will ask, “What would happen if these two had sex?”

I usually err more towards the fangirl side, but in this case, I am pure fanboy. I have next to no interest, even in a terrible fanfic kind of way, to see Percy and Jason hook up. I did however want to see (or read about I guess) them fight.

And Rick Riordan (bless his heart) did not disappoint me. While in Kansas, Jason and Percy found themselves possessed by evil spirits, controlled by The Earth Goddess Gaea (The Heroes of Olympus’s Big Bad) to force the boys to fight to the death. Jason flew, Percy summoned water. Percy rode his black Pegasus Blackjack, Jason the storm spirit he tamed in Colorado.

Of course it got broken up by Piper McLean, Jason’s girlfriend and The Daughter of Aphrodite, but still, for about four glorious pages, I got to indulge.

Half-Bloods and Whole Truths

I fell head-long in to the universe created by author Rick Riordan in the spring of 2010. I was working at Borders, and all of these kids were buying these books, Percy Jackson and The Olympians. I had also seen billboards for a movie version. I did some googling and I was immediately intrigued by the premise.

The idea behind the books is that the ancient Greek gods and goddesses are real. Throughout history, they have moved around to wherever the “seat of Western Civilization” is. The gods currently reside in New York City. They also still behave as you would expect Greek gods to behave…pretty badly. They’re promiscuous and petty, and absurdly powerful. They also continue to father and mother half mortal children. These kids, demi-gods, are powerful in their own ways, and extremely dangerous. They are chased by monsters, go on epic adventures, and attend a summer camp in Long Island called Camp Half-Blood. Our hero, Percy Jackson, is one such kid, a son of Poseidon with an epic destiny. (I have a very special relationship with Poseidon, but that’s a story for another day…)

Seriously, it’s a long story.

In addition to the first series there’s a follow up series, The Heroes of Olympus, which expands the universe to include a take on Roman deities. Here we learn that the gods have 2 aspects, their Greek and Roman sides. Though similar they aren’t the same, and for over a century the Greek demigods and Roman demigods have been kept apart, “for their own safety.” They come together when Jason Grace, a son of Jupiter (Roman Zeus) and Percy are kidnapped by Hera and sent to the others camp with amnesia.

Also they ride a giant bronze dragon. Seriously this book series rocks!

Things get even more complicated though, because there’s a spin off series as well, called The Kane Chronicles, which is about Egyptian mythology, and does, in fact, take place in the same universe. The Kane Chronicles is a trilogy, and it was hinted at in the first two books, and then confirmed in the third, that yes, these two worlds exist together. Several of the “Egyptian” kids attend school with the “Greek” kids, in fact one of the daughters of Aphrodite has a big crush on Carter Kane, the hero of the series. Riordan seems to have made it clear that he’s no where near done exploring this universe, a fact for which I’m grateful. Even though The Kane Chronicles is over, the third book ended in a way that indicated there was some sort of fight on the horizon that will bring the two worlds together.

So, that’s the background. I got thinking about Percy Jackson and The Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus and The Kane Chronicles this week because, between books, Riordan releases what can best be described as “world building” materials. This time it was a small book entitled, The Demigod Diaries. It features 4 short stories and a few other tid bits, and was definitely a fun read, and got me excited for The Mark of Athena, the final book in The Heroes of Olympus, which comes out in October. (I’m mostly excited because it means Annabeth Chase, my favorite character, is probably heavily featured, as she is a daughter of Athena.) What was most fascinating though, was that this time, Riordan delved pretty deeply in to the dark side of his universe.

Most really good children’s literature has a dark side. Harry Potter would be pretty boring with Slytherin, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy and Lord Voldemort. Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which to me is the pinnacle of this level of book deals with difficult societal issues like euthenasia. Riordan’s universe is based in Greek story telling tradition, which means that tragedy is not skipped over. Olympians, while funny and fun, also featured a traditional tragic storyline for it’s antagonist Luke Castellan. Luke was a son of Hermes, who’s mother went insane after trying to host the Oracle of Delphi, this way although she was a mortal, she and Hermes could raise Luke together. Luke ran away from home, had adventures with Annabeth and Thalia Grace (daughter of Zeus, Jason’s older sister, it’s all pretty complicated…), and ended up at Camp Half Blood. He was always bitter towards the gods, and particularly his father, and he eventually joined forces with the Titan Kronos and challenged Olympus and his former friends in war.

Because this is Greek tragedy, Luke has a change of heart, but he has it too late, and he is then killed in battle. The Demigod Diaries features a story told from Luke’s point of view, about the day he and Thalia met Annabeth. Out of context it’s another sort of fun take on Greek myth, but in context it’s positively heart breaking, as Luke confessed to Annabeth that he loved her just before his death.

The other “dark” story in the collection wasn’t written by Rick Riordan at all, but by Haley Riordan, his son, for whom Rick created Percy and the half bloods (Haley is dyslexic and ADHD, and so are the halfbloods, their brains are wired for ancient Greek, not English and the ADHD gives them fast battle reflexes,) and is called “The Son of Magic.” It focuses on a young son of Hecate, the magic goddess, who sided with Kronos, and now has to suffer life as an outcast, as one of the only leaders who lived through the war he is not admitted to Camp Half Blood.

Lucky for me, these books are absurdly popular, because I really can’t get enough of this world. I badly want to see what happens when the Greeks and Romans join forces with, or against the Egyptians. The hardcore fangirl in me really wants to see the romantic complications that ensue. Well, mostly I just want Sadie Kane, the main female character in Kane Chronicles end up with Nico di Angelo, the son of Hades. She already sort of has a thing going on with Anubis, the Egyptian god of funerals. I think this would be an excellent love triangle, Nico being all “Prince of the Underworld” and everything.