The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan – Review

Book Jacket:

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and his best friend is a guy named Leo. They’re all students at the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids,” as Leo puts it. What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly? Jason doesn’t know anything – except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father, a famous actor, has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nighmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out, whether she wants to or not.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too – like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them – including Leo – is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?

Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first book in The Heroes of Olympus series.

You can read an excerpt here.


There is a lot about this story that is clever and fun  – plenty of action and snark, three likable new faces, and an interesting expansion of the mythology to include the Roman myths. But while The Lost Hero is a solid entry and enjoyable romp  – and I like it far better than The Red Pyramid – it still doesn’t quite live up to Percy Jackson standards.

I think the reason for that is simple – The Lost Hero isn’t as personal a story as The Lightening Thief. Percy’s story was very much HIS story, despite the world-ending consequences, while this feels more like a Grand Design. Outside in instead of inside out. Granted it’s hard to match the emotional resonance of the story of a boy trying to save his mother, and the narrative split between the three characters in The Lost Hero also reduces our time with each overall, but ultimately I lay the blame on the lack of character work in The Lost Hero. Percy had a distinct personality – Jason, Piper, and Leo don’t. Oh, the trio is likable enough and have interesting backgrounds, but they’re too broadly realized, too stereotypical. The character detail and originality of The Lightening Thief is missing in this story, and it was those little touches that made the first series so special: Grover’s love of enchiladas and nervous habit of chewing on tin cans; Annabeth standing aside when Clarisse picks on Percy for the first time and Annabeth’s nickname for Percy (seaweed brain); Percy’s bad rep and love of blue food – that’s what made us love them, and that is what’s missing from this book. Hence the emotional distance.

One example of that lack of character is how Riordan dealt with the secrets all three heroes were keeping from each other. There was so much potential in the set up – you could see the specter of betrayal and how it could lead to moments of conflict, questions of trust, tests of their friendship – but instead nothing ever really happened. Everyone fessed up within a reasonable amount of time and there was no major unpleasantness, just immediate acceptance. It was all very blasé and frustrating.

I do like how Riordan focused on the children of different gods this time around, and what he had to say about Aphrodite’s mythos was fantastic. And I loved the Roman additions.

Plot-wise, I think Riordan was a tad hamstrung at the opening of this story, as he faced the inevitable slog of reintroducing the world to a new set of heroes without making it seem boring to returning fans – imagine if J.K. Rowling was writing a story about a different student in his first year at Hogwarts (i.e. the Hogwarts express, the sorting hat, the first time you see the ghosts…). There was a certain amount that had to be reiterated, and most Riordan fans will inevitably feel a tad restless rehashing it, but Riordan didn’t really have a choice, and he handled it in a reasonable fashion. It does take about 100 pages for the quest to rev up, though.

The plot was as action packed as one could wish, but it was too rushed. Everything fell into the heroes’ path far too easily, and a fair number of elements felt too familiar, like the evil voice of the unknown enemy influencing the gods, and the beautiful but evil woman who has taken over a retail business. I also got the sense that Riordan hit so many high points with his first series, he was digging into the more obscure Greek myths to populate this tale – it felt a little second string. But even rushed, too convenient and a whisper repetative, there is still a lot of fun to be had watching Riordan sow the Greek myths into the modern world. (The entrance to the Underworld being in Los Angeles is still my all-time favorite.)

The plot of this quest might be a bit scattered, but the larger arc of the series winds up nicely. As you would expect, by the end of this first book each hero gets their moment to save the day and there is the inevitable big battle at the end, but whatever disappointments I had in the execution of this book, the set up for the larger series arc has me completely hooked. At the core of The Lost Hero is the question of why Jason lost his memory, and I LOVE the answer to that question. There is a tremendous set up for book #2 that has me gleefully rubbing my hands in anticipation of Fall 2011. I really like the potential of this series, going forward.

Despite all of the above, this story did entertain me – I just want Riordan to take the time to do this series right, to make it as special as Percy Jackson. If that means a longer wait until the next book, I’ll happily make that trade. And while The Lost Hero may not be as good as The Lightening Thief, Rick Riordan’s Camp Half-Blood is still a lot of fun and downright impossible to resist.

Byrt grade: B/B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews says:

There are high points…Between these moments, however, are far too many pages of stretched-out action, telling not showing and awkward dialogue. Riordan has set himself an ambitious schedule of two books per year, alternating between The Kane Family Chronicles in the spring and The Heroes of Olympus in the fall, and the compressed timetable shows in an overall flabbiness of construction…Die-hard fans will probably be happy with this for a time, but unless Riordan tightens things up considerably by number five, they may find themselves hoping that it does not end with a third Great Prophecy.

Lesa’s Book Critiques says:

The three new demi-gods have fascinating backgrounds, different from characters in the earlier books.  To tell anymore would be to ruin the excitement of this series.  My only disappointment?  It will be a year before the next book in the series.  But,The Lost Hero successfully launches an exciting follow-up series combining fantasy and mythology.  It’s a must-read for those of us who loved Percy Jackson.