In case you hadn’t already noticed, we at Tosche Station are big fans of young adult literature even if we’re hardly the target age demographic. Everyone should be able to enjoy those books. Sticking an age label on a book shouldn’t stop older readers from enjoying them too. Today, I’d like to extend that argument and say that the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan are absolutely not just for kids because wow can anyone enjoy that story.
The basic premise of the series is simple: what if one of your parents was actually a Greek God? Our hero, Percy Jackson, is the son of Poseidon and wow did that cause some problems for him in the first series. Of course, you can’t have ancient gods and mythology without some prophecy so you can absolutely bet that our heroes are always going to have to try and save the world because of one. (Spoiler Alert: Percy Jackson never gets a break from this sort of thing.)
Tuesday saw the release of the third book in the second series about Percy Jackson and company: Mark of Athena. The previous two books in the Heroes of Olympus series saw our group of heroes divided between Camp Half Blood (the Greek demigods) and Camp Jupiter (the Roman demigods) and both camps happily existing without acknowledging the other. But now, because of a prophecy and meddling of Hera, young heroes from both camps have to team up to save not only one of their friends but also the world. And they have to do it fast.
Mark of Athena not only reunites our heroes but tells an awesome story. I was originally worried that the book would struggle with having such a comparatively large cast (the previous books had three main heroes, this one had seven) but my fears were unfounded. Riordan manages the larger cast well, sending different pairs or trios off to face each new obstacle or task. This allows not only for the two groups of heroes to get to know each other but also for Riordan to explore the different dynamics between the heroes.
The story itself is entertaining. As per usual, Riordan draws upon different mythological stories and gives several of them a modern twist. My favorite from this book involves a trip to a certain aquarium that Dragon*Con attendees will know very well. Furthermore, each of our young heroes is tested and subsequently grows as a character by overcoming the challenges they have faced. Riordan manages to not only tell one long story but to have each small sub-story within add to the overall plot which results in what’s basically an awesome book.
Another thing that the entire Heroes of Olympus series does well in that is offers a racially diverse cast. Piper is Native American, Leo is Hispanic, Hazel is African-American, and Frank is Chinese Canadian. The best part is that none of them feel like token characters but are all well developed and fantastic in their own right. The same applies to gender as all of these characters are well developed and each is seen as being capable of doing their part for the team. While I think that people of any age can enjoy them, these are absolutely books that I would feel comfortable handing to my little cousins in hopes that they will find characters they can look up to.
My only issue with the book had to do with its narrators. This book gave us Percy, Annabeth, Piper, and Leo as our narrators. As someone who absolutely fell in love with both Frank and Hazel in the previous book, I would have loved to have gotten some chapters from their points of view. A joint mission between both Greek and Roman demigods is something completely new and I thought the book could have used some Roman demigod points of view instead of just Greek.
It’s hard to talk about how awesome this book is without spoiling the plot but the bottom line is this: fans of the books should absolutely read this book as it is the best of the new series so far. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of the Percy Jackson books yet then I highly recommend you either pick up a copy of The Lightning Thief (the first book of the original series if you’d like to get all of the back story) or The Lost Hero (the first book of the current series which can probably stand alone).
I give The Mark of Athena 4.5/5