Thoughts: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

12127810House of Hades by Rick Riordan
Final Verdict: 3.7 out of 4.0

3 – Plot/Story is interesting and believable

The House of Hades is Book 4 in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.  This series follows the five-book Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, but it incorporates the Roman mythology alongside the Greek.  In this adventure, Percy, hero of the Greeks, and his team must join forces with Jason, hero of the Romans, and his own team in order to stop Gaea and Tartarus from rising and destroying the world.  The awakening of these ancient gods is causing an identity crisis, of sorts, among the “new” gods (like Zeus).  It is essentially blurring the lines between Greek and Roman mytho-worlds, so that at any given moment a god might switch personalities.  Needless to say, these split-personalities leave the gods relatively helpless, so the demi-gods, their half-human/half-god offspring, must take charge. In this fourth installment, Gaea and Tartarus have opened the Doors of Death, which means hundreds upon hundreds of monsters are slipping out of the underworld.  Percy and Annabel are in the underworld, while Jason and the rest of the gang are fighting their way to the Doors of Death, as the team must work together to close the Doors from both sides, or else certain doom awaits the planet and all life as we know it.

3.75 – Characters very well-developed.

One of the criticisms I have for the Riordan series’ (including Percy Jackson, The Kane Chronicles, and this one) is that the character depth is always a bit lacking – although the books typically cover about a year (though sometimes quite a bit less, as has been the case with this particular series), still there is little growth & development for any of the major or minor characters.  This is a “Middle Grade” series, so perhaps character depth isn’t too be expected, but in any series that spans a certain amount of time – a few years or more- I would hope to see some.  Riordan has taken steps in this one, though, and as many have noted, even makes quite a bold decision (one I have been waiting for, for years!) to reveal personal information about one of the cross-over characters from the Percy Jackson series.  In addition, many of the other characters, such as Jason, Leo, and Frank, all face crucial turning points in this book, moments of decision which will help to define them possibly for the rest of their lives.  This attention to characterization and willingness to allow these characters to grow beyond their cookie-cutter “action/adventure hero” roles thrilled me quite a bit and truly makes me feel that this is possibly the best book of all three mythology series’ thus far.

4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

Rick Riordan’s books are so easy to read, partly because they are fun and entertaining, but also because he knows how to construct a fast-paced, logical, episodic storyline.  In The House of Hades, Riordan’s heroes are constantly meeting new friends and foes, mythological deities, monsters, and creatures of all sorts, from the Roman and Greek worlds.  All of this could be confusing and overwhelming, if not for Riordan’s adeptness at giving his readers just enough new information at manageable intervals, while advancing the story and also allowing his primary characters, those who have been with us since Book One, enough page time of their own.  Many have said this book left them breathless because of its pace, and I agree that it is certainly one of the more action-packed installments of his always action-packed series’.  It is hard to stop reading, hard to quit even after finishing a character section (the books are broken up by character perspective, each character getting about 4 chapters from their point of view, before moving on to another main character).  Ultimately, though, despite the whirlwind ride this book can sometimes be, it manages to remain consistent – going just far enough and just fast enough, without falling apart.  There are natural breaks, places where a reader can logically pause and step away, but the problem is – you won’t want to!

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

What I always love about the Riordan books is how slyly educational they are.  Readers will learn so much about ancient Greek and Roman mythology (or Egyptian, if you’re reading The Kane Chronicles), without noticing they’re learning anything at all.  This is because the mythology, the original stories and the original characters, are re-imagined so brilliantly, revisited so expertly, in this modern setting.  Gods using cell phones?  Demigods eating fast food?   Sure, that’s all current – but the events that take place, the rivalries that exist, the personalities of the heroes, the gods, they remain wonderfully true to the original epic stories of Homer, Ovid, and others.  Believe it or not, I can credit Riordan’s books, this particular one as well as others, with helping me to enjoy James Joyce’s Ulysses.  This is because, though I have read Homer’s Odyssey, revisiting the old tales through this contemporary lens has helped me to keep in mind the original epic and the string of events, the gods helpful to or antagonistic of Odysseus, which are paralleled in Joyce’s Irish epic. In addition, in House of Hades especially, Riordan takes some steps which have been made in young adult and contemporary literature, but which have been left relatively unexplored at the MG level.  J.K. Rowling allowed certain things to happen but which were revealed only through unspoken allusion; here, Riordan allows one of his characters, Nico di Angelo, to develop fully and completely, and exposes the raw nerves that come with it – it is a breath of fresh air for the popular fantasy genre and for this reading level.

Suggested Reading For:
Age Level: MG+
Interest: Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult, Action/Adventure.

Notable Quotes:

“Magic is neither good nor evil. It is a tool, like a knife. Is a knife evil? Only if the wielder is evil.”

“I figure the world is basically a machine. I don’t know who made it, if it was the Fates, or the gods, or the capital-G god or whatever. But it chugs along the way it’s supposed to most of the time. Sure, little pieces break off and stuff goes haywire once in a while, but mostly… things happen for a reason.”

“Love is no game! It is no flowery softness! It is hard work- It demands everything from you- especially the truth. Only then does it yield results.”

“I’m not choosing one of your paths. I’m making my own.”

“It’s natural to feel fear.  All great warriors are afraid. Only the stupid and the delusional are not.”

“It is a costly thing, looking on the true face of Love.”

“The dead see what they believe they will see. So do the living. That is the secret.”

Review: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0

YTD: 51


3 – Plot/Story is interesting and believable.

Percy Jackson and the gang are back again.  Well, Percy is back again – but the gang is a new one.  In this second book of the Heroes of Olympus series, which is a sequel to Riordan’s hit Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, Percy finds himself battling demons that won’t die and suffering from near-total amnesia.  He does not remember who he is, where he is from, or why these crazy un-killable baddies keep attacking him.  Some instinct pulls him strongly toward a camp, where the goddess Juno awaits – but something isn’t quite right.  Percy is a Greek demigod, and this camp is for Romans!  Percy must join forces with the Romans, while rediscovering who he is and, afterwards, bringing the two people, Greek and Roman, together to prepare for battle against the mother of all goddesses, Gaea, who is raising a force of evil to crush the world.  Can the Greeks and the Romans set aside their bitter, centuries-old rivalries to work together?  Will the gods stand by their demigod children or let them face Gaea’s minions alone?  Will Percy every gain all of his memory back?  The Son of Neptune is about new friendships, burgeoning strengths, overcoming self-doubt and setting aside prejudices to fight for the larger good.  It is a fast-paced, exciting, and surprisingly moving modern mythological fantasy – probably Riordan’s best yet.


4 – Characters extraordinarily well-developed.

As a big fan of The Percy Jackson series, I find myself a bit ashamed to admit that I actually enjoyed the new characters and Percy’s semi-reconstruction (due to his memory loss) a bit more appealing than the originals.  The Roman gods, though less is seen of them, seem less severe than the Greeks, which is historically accurate but also makes for a more believable story.  What added to the improved effect here, I think, is that not only did Percy have an interesting journey to embark on, rediscovering himself, his past, and his strengths, but so did the two supporting characters, Frank and Hazel.  These two each come from very interesting backgrounds and have potentially scary, sad futures ahead of them.  The triple-threat, as it were, of the main story (battling Gaea’s army and saving the world) combined with these sub-stories made for a dynamic new friendship and allowed for real growth from all three characters, but particularly Frank – who might have the most to lose, and to gain.  Visits from favorite past characters, like Nico di Angelo and Tyson, are also welcomed and well-incorporated.


4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, conducive the Story.

One of my biggest complaints in this area has been that whoever is responsible for editing and proofreading Riordan’s books consistently makes glaring oversights.  The last few Riordan books in particular, including the Kane Chronicles and The Lost Hero were rife with omitted and/or extra words or other grammar errors.  Now, this is not necessarily the author’s fault, so I tried to be lenient, but it was definitely becoming bothersome.  I did see two such instances in The Son of Neptune, but they were minor oversights and, comparatively, nothing to scoff at.  With that improvement, coupled with how well-paced this book was and how suiting the language is to both the story and the audience, I was pleased overall.  Percy’s wit and sarcasm are back, which is possibly one of my favorite things about these books (“typical teenager” – but a funny one!).  The dialogue is done well, as are the descriptions.  I still sometimes hope for more progressive growth, year-to-year, but Riordan is sticking to his IR/MG readership, and that is in a way admirable, if not exactly what I would like to see as an adult reader (but, hey, the books aren’t marketed towards adults so I get it!).

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.

4 – Additional elements improve and enhance the story.

In addition to the main purpose of the book, which I will get to in a minute, this book also has much to say about individual responsibility – responsibility to the self and to others (friends and family, in particular).  Each of the characters has something they must overcome in order to be the hero they were meant to be and, although the book is fantasy, this aspect of the story is highly transferable to the traditional coming-of-age story.  But, once again, the biggest selling-point for the book is what it teaches us.  The Roman mythology is interesting and totally accessible, thanks to the modern setting, the relevant comparisons, and the engaging characters that learn and/or explain the histories as the reader journeys along with them.  The Son of Neptune is particularly fascinating in that it exposes more of the specific differences between Greek and Roman mythology, and why there is such animosity between the two groups.  If you are looking for educational and entertaining books about Greek and Roman mythology, which are accessible to novices, younger readers, and adults already familiar with the original epics – Riordan is your man.

Suggested Reading for:

Age Level: IR/MG

Interest: Roman Mythology, Greek Mythology, Ancient Greek-Roman History, Action/Adventure, Modern Day Retellings, Fantasy.

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Review: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
Final Verdict: 3.25 out of 4.0
YTD: 26

3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

Rick Riordan’s The Throne of Fire is an incredibly fantastic follow-up to Book 1 of his Egyptian mythology series, The Kane Chronicles.  Once again, Sadie and Carter Kane narrate us to the end of the world and back again – poor kids!  Just when the Kane family feel like their greatest threat – Set – has been muted, a new danger arises.  The Lord of Chaos, Apophis, is beginning to awaken, and without the Lord of Ma’at around (Ra, the Sun God, lost in a deep sleep deep in the Duat), Chaos may manage to take over and destroy the world.  The Kanes find themselves not only in a race against time to find and awaken King Ra, but also to save their friend Zia from a magician-induced coma and find a cure for their ailing apprentice Walt.  With so much going on – with so many foes, and so few allies – most of whom are unprepared, there seems to be little hope that Sadie and Carter can triumph again – but help is found in unexpected places, new gods rise to the challenges and grave sacrifices are made to aid the Kanes in their quest.

3 – Characters well developed.

Sadie and Carter, the main characters, are just as well developed as in the first book – which is good and bad.  They are written well in general, which of course is a good thing, but a bit more growth and development would have been welcome, as I like to watch characters grow (not just in age, but in maturity and roundedness) in a series.  The auxiliary characters, however, are much more developed and just down-right fun to read than in the book’s predecessor.  Some of the new gods, such as Bes, are given near-equal page time as the magicians, which adds another layer of intrigue and interest to the story.  Old gods and magicians, like Bast, Anubis, and Desjardins are back and better than ever – truly more developed and connected with the story.  The newest evil, Vladimir Menshikov, the third most powerful wizard in the world, adds an element of mystery and empathy to the overall story – another added layer to the overall story, which makes it more than just a YA fantasy, but a psychological examination as well.

3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.

As with The Lost Hero, I found the prose and style concurrent with the mood and reading level of the book, as well as the subject matter; however, once again, like with The Lost Hero, there were numerous proof reading errors.  I am highly frustrated by this, as Riordan is a major author and these mythology series’ are hits – his publisher (Disney/Hyperion) needs to be more responsible with their final editing reviews before publication – I wonder if the same people are responsible because, if so, I would strongly encourage Mr. Riordan to choose new proofreaders.  Five or six major errors (like missing or incorrect words) in a publication marketed and anticipated at this magnitude is unacceptableThat being said, six (or so) errors in a book of this length is not exactly distracting, even if it is irritating to someone as ridiculously meticulous as this particular reader.  The pace is great, the dual narration works well again, though it is not always easy to distinguish which character is speaking when, even though each chapter has an identified narrator (sometimes I realized I mixed up narrators – thinking Carter was speaking, until little comments about the hotness of Anubis or Walt were dropped in).  In total, though, the language level is appropriate, the structure is appealing, and the prose is fluid and progresses at a great pace.

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

Once again, what is so great about these Riordan mythology series’ is their ability to teach as well as entertain.  By the end of the book, you find you have learned so much about Egyptian (or Roman, or Greek, whatever the case may be) mythology and history without even knowing it, because you were having such a great time reading the story and engaging with the characters’ adventures!  I find Riordan to have an advantage over many writers in this regard – he does his research and incorporates the mythologies into modern culture seamlessly, with a style that is appealing to contemporary readers.  The larger issues and topics, too, such as the importance of loyalty to family and friends or the need to work with people we do not necessarily like in order to overcome larger problems are well presented and woven into the stories so as to guide and teach without preaching to or overburdening the reader with glaring didactic motives.

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: YA+
Interest: Fantasy, Mythology, Action/Adventure, Magic, History, Family/Friendship

Review: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Final Verdict: 3.25 out of 4.0

YTD: 56

3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

In The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan brings us back to the world of his best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  The time is now, and the place is the United States.  Most of the action either takes place in or is in reference to New York and San Francisco but, like the Percy Jackson books, The Lost Hero has its characters traveling on the road (or, more often, traveling through the air).  There is a sense of the journeyman-adventurer, an inspiration brought from the early Greek and Roman tales, where heroes had to go on quests and venture through dangerous lands to prove their worth to the gods. Of course, unlike those ancient stories where the dangerous places were exotic, distant, and funnily-named, Riordan makes more contemporary locations the hot-spots of terror – Jack London’s home, the San Francisco hills, and an automobile assembly plant in Detroit, to name a few.  We also have a new hero, whose memory is lost, and his two friends, whose memories have been altered by the goddess Hera (or is it Juno?).  For the first time, we see Roman presences and characters intermingled with the Greek gods and heroes of the first Olympians series – and the reader soon (or at least, by the end) realizes that this is a dangerous mixture, but one which will be necessary for the future of mankind.

3 – Characters well developed.

Fortunately for this series, The Lost Hero begins, in terms of characterization, where The Last Olympian left off.  That this book is much longer than the first book in the Percy Jackson series is a big plus, because it allows the reader more time with the characters, and Riordan uses that time to develop and explain the three main characters and their histories, personalities, etc.  Much of this is also helped by the presence of subordinate characters who the reader may have already met in the Percy Jackson series, such as Chiron, Annabeth, Rachel Dare, the Greek gods, and more.   Since we already know some of these minor characters, we are allowed more time with the major characters.  The hope is that the future books in the series (not being sure how long this series is going to be) will also have a good amount of focus on the characters and their development.  There are seven Roman and Greek heroes who must ultimately go on the quest – we know three from this book, and we can anticipate Percy and Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series will be going, which means we may be meeting two more heroes, possibly from the Roman side.  This will be the first book/series with seven “main” characters  – but I imagine Jason and Percy might get most of the page time.

3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.

I would have possibly given this category a 4 out of 4 but this first edition of the book was littered with grammatical/editing errors!  Rick Riordan is a popular author – people literally countdown the days ‘til his next book release, particularly those books which are set in the world of Percy Jackson.  So, for the publishers to release this text with so many grammatical errors – I am just dumbfounded.  The major problems were spelling mistakes and word omissions/replacements.  The pace, however, was great – fast-moving throughout, but with moments spent on reflection or in flashbacks, learning more about the characters as they learn about themselves.   The prose and style were appropriate for this level of reading, though I always hope for a bit more development from Riordan in this regard.   Still, he is staying true to his young adult readers, which is perfectly fine.

Additional Elements:
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

The additional elements subsection is always pretty applicable to the Riordan books, because he tends to teach me so much.  I learned (or was reminded) much about Greek mythology from the Percy Jackson series. In The Red Pyramid, the reader gets educated (in a fun way) about Egyptian mythology.  Here, we go back to the Greeks, but we also begin to learn about Roman mythology – where it came from, how it developed out of Greek mythology (and why).  How are Zeus and Neptune different?  How are Hera and Juno similar?  What do the Roman gods stand for, in contrast to the Greek?  And what would happen if the two mythological worlds were to collide (could it really have been the cause for the American Civil War)?  Part of the real appeal of these books for me, aside from the fast-paced and fun adventure plot, is learning more about ancient mythologies, in a wholly relatable way – because it is happening now, in the world I know.  Each time I finish a Riordan book, I get the itch to go back and read Homer, Ovid, Sophocles and the rest.

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: Young Adult
Interest: Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology, Fantasy, Adventure

Review: Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Topic: Book Review
Date: 06/03/2010

With The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1), Rick Riordan takes his readers along on another fantastic journey through ancient myth; though, unlike his Greek mythology series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, this series (The Kane Chronicles) deals with ancient Egyptian mythology. Like his first series, The Kane Chronicles centers on “special” youths who discover they are the unwitting heirs, by blood, of great, primeval power. A teenage boy, Carter, and his younger sister, Sadie, are thrust together after spending a lifetime apart. They are tasked not only with finding their father and saving his life, but also with saving all of humankind in the meantime. On their journey, they learn the history and secrets of their budding powers, and meet ancient characters, reborn, such as Anubis, Nut, Bast, and many other gods, goddesses, and magicians alike. Some are helpful, some are indifferent, and many are out to destroy them.

The Good: 
The Red Pyramid is more reminiscent to me of Book 5 in the Percy Jackson series, The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 5). It seems much more developed, and is much longer, than most of the books in the Percy Jackson series and like the Greek storyline, this first book in the Egyptian tales seems well-researched and creatively developed. The pace is fast enough to make you want to churn the pages, but not so fast that you get lost in the thick of it. Characters are distinguishable from one another (a criticism of mine in the Percy series) and, though the tale is fantasy, the majority of plot developments and story movements seem somehow feasible. I had not encountered ancient Egyptian mythology in some time (since the 6th grade) so this was a pleasant surprise – many of the names and stories I did remember, but this book helped remind me of the timeline, the rise and fall of the civilization itself, and the many myths that went with it. As someone who enjoys learning while being entertained in my reading, Rick Riordan never seems to fail me. After finishing the novel and being delighted by the story, you begin to realize that you actually picked up quite a bit of informative, educational substance along the way.

The Bad:
One major complaint is the recycling of a certain plot device throughout the novel. Two or three times, a major scene was driven by one mechanism which, while typically a welcome cliché in any action/fantasy novel, gets to be a bit tiresome when overused within the same story. I also find that Riordan’s novels always seem to take place over a period of days; the heroes are given 72-hours or a week to accomplish some extraordinary task, having at the time only just discovered their powers, and yet somehow they manage. Yes, this is fantasy, but a certain amount of realism, even in young adult fiction, would certainly serve to strengthen the overall story. I find no reason why, for instance, this first novel, being 500+ pages in length, could not have spanned at least a few weeks, or a few months. Why not separate the “Chronicles” into seasons, for instance, or years? As readers of fantasy should be well aware, after the recent and historic successes of Rowling’s Harry Potter series, when characters and stories develop over longer periods of time, the series tends to work well. So, what’s the rush?

The Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5.0
Overall, I found this novel exhilarating and educational. I was a huge fan of Riordan’s first series, and I think I may even have enjoyed this first of the Kane Chronicles even more. I was not expecting so much from Egyptian mythology, probably because I was less familiar with it. If, like in the Percy Jackson series, each book improves upon the last, then I have very high expectations for this series as a whole.

Published by Hyperion, 2010
Edition: 1st Ed.
ISBN-13: 978-1423113386
Challenges: N/A
YTD: 28
Source: Owned Copy
Rating: 4.5/5.0