Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian


 Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan The Last Olympian is the fifth and final book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. I have to say, I seriously dragged my feet when it came to completing this series. I read the first book, The Lightning Thief, four years ago when I worked at a middle school and was going through a middle grade phase. I enjoyed it but wasn’t really blown away. From then on I proceeded to read the books from time to time usually when I would remember about how I never finished the series or someone would mention how much they liked these books. But with one book left to read and spurred on by the Completed Series Challenge I hunkered down and finally finished the series.

What initially attracted me to this series was its use of Greek Mythology. I’ve always really loved mythology and the Greeks way of explaining the world around them, and like most religion using stories to demonstrate the failings of humanity and to scare people into being righteous (because I’m a pessimist). This series takes that idea to a new and interesting level. In much of the series it is not humans being punished for their pride and vanity but the gods. But then again these are not the Greek gods from Antiquities. What Rick Riordan does really well is take these familiar characters and bring them into the 21st Century. Poseiden likes to don a Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstocks while his brother Zeus prefers a blue pinstriped suit. Apollo doesn’t drive a chariot instead the sun takes the form of a Maserati or a school bus, Hermes runs his own overnight delivery service, and Hephaestus has his forge in a junkyard with automatons protecting it. And while the gods have been modernized their personalities and interactions with humans have not changed much. They are still having children with mortals, they’re still jealous and scheming, and they’re still bickering amongst themselves. If you’re a fan of the mythology you pick up on the numerous subtle references to the stories and will be entertained by the interesting modern updates that have been made. And while knowledge and appreciation for mythology are not essential to enjoy this series, for me it was that love of mythology that kept me reading.

What also kept me reading is the characters. This book was full of so many interesting and complex characters. First and foremost we have Percy who is easy to relate to and is the kind of hero that you immediately want to succeed. At times he is reluctant, often using his sarcastic sense of him to point out how unbelievable his experiences are and not knowing what to do, but he is also brave and willing to do whatever it takes. Throughout the series he has an incredible development and by The Last Olympian he is a strong leader and truly becomes a hero. But there are many more amazing characters like his friends Annabeth who is a daughter of Athena who is intelligent and witty but judgmental and cocky, Grover a loyal, friendly and emotional satyr with a voracious appetite, and Luke a clever and vindictive son of Hermes who is an excellent fighter and wants the gods to acknowledge their children. Many of the characters are complicated and interesting and while they are referred to as being heroes none of them are perfect archetypes and all have strengths and a fatal flaw that causes them to make frequent mistakes. None of the characters are solidly one thing, which makes the theme of how choices make a big difference all the more logical in the story. This is particularly true in The Last Olympian. Percy is able to see both sides of the issue and it makes the choice he makes all the more compelling and the story all the more interesting.

I think what was keeping me from marathoning the series is the general slowness of the plot and the series. It is middle grade so the plot details are geared towards an audience more than half my age and so it wasn't as complicated or thrilling as a lot of the other books I tend to read. Each book built on the last as it lead towards a thrilling conclusion in The Last Olympian but until I got to that book I was not engaged enough to want to keep reading. And while I did like that each book could stand alone as its own story having a definitive ending it kept me from moving through the series with any sort of consistent pace. I guess the expression be careful what you wish for really is true. I’m always complaining about cliffhangers but without them my interest isn’t necessarily captured. It’s a double-edged sword (much like Luke’s sword Backbiter). But the usual slowness of the plot wasn’t the case in The Last Olympian at all. There was never a dull moment in this final book in the series and I devoured it with the rapt attention I didn’t give the entire series. I had expected the fight scenes and finally learning all the information that they delayed in telling us including the prophecy they've been squawking about since book 1 and the certain characters histories many of which were relatively predictable and obvious. What I didn’t expect is the emotional feels that the ending left me with. With my relative indifference to the series I didn’t expect the tears to come in the way that they did. This was by far the most enjoyable book in the series and made me really wish that I had read the series more quickly.

I give Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian and 8 out of 10



I recommend Percy Jackson and the Olympians if you are a fan of mythology, you're looking for a middle grade book with interesting action scenes, or you want a series that isn't all about cliffhangers. This is definitely a series I would recommend to teens and preteens. If you've read the Percy Jackson series let me know your thoughts. Also if you've read the Heroes of Olympus series let me know if it gets better, I've heard there are cliffhangers so maybe it'll keep my interest a little more. Let me know your thoughts and of course HAPPY READING!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this review. I have been thinking about this series, because I know a lot of people who like it, but based on your review, I think I may be a bit too old for this series. Maybe when I have kids, I will read them with my kids.

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    1. Glad I could help. Reading to kids is a good idea, tt's definitely a book for teenagers.

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