The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan – Review

Book Jacket:

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem – when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery – although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely – enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes od Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven

You can read an excerpt here.


I really, really wanted to love this series. I think the Percy Jackson series is phenomenal, and Rick Riordan is just about one of the nicest guys alive, so I was pulling for The Son of Neptune in a major way – but sadly once again I find myself disappointed with The Heroes of Olympus series. While The Son of Neptune does have non-stop adventure and plenty of wisecracking, all in all it still doesn’t come close to the level of the Percy Jackson series, and that just frustrates the heck out of me.

My disappointment this time around is more bitter, in a way, because there were so many positive indicators for The Son of Neptune: finally we would get to see the Roman camp, explore Roman mythology, and Percy Jackson would once again claim the spotlight – bring on the series upswing! Instead, sadly, the same issues that plagued the first book are very much in evidence once again – the story is too rushed, too scattered, and too impersonal. It’s diluted by too many narrators and hamstrung by a severe lack of character development. Sure, there’s action a-plenty, but I just didn’t connect with the new characters. Frank and Hazel had some interesting backstory vignettes, but I never really got a sense of who they were, and I certainly didn’t buy the insta-bonding between them and Percy, or the love connection between the two of them. The frantic narrative hopping back and forth meant we never really got to spend quality time with anyone, and frankly I felt like I wasn’t given the time to vest in anything, from the characters to the Roman way of life, and lacking that I just didn’t feel the stakes of the Impending Doom. Even Percy, a character that I love, wasn’t up to snuff – while he did have some great one liners, the emotional impact of seeing him lost and alone just wasn’t there. This story may be action packed, but it felt hollow to me.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t fun stuff to be found in the melee – Riordan’s humor is always a treat, and I chuckled more than once at his modern-mythological plays. Having the Amazons headquartered at and bent on world domination I though was downright hilarious, and I loved Hannibal the elephant and Ella the harpy. And Alaska certainly made for a fun scenic locale, especially when you have Hyperborean giants playing with live moose like they’re dolls in the background – but in the end, neither the humor nor the frenetic action was enough to overcome this story’s lack of an emotional arc.

More than anything this book drove me nuts because I LOVED its potential – I love the ideas and the pieces on the board, and I’m downright salivating at the chance to explore the Roman facet of the gods – but these stories keep running past all the things I want to see. What I wouldn’t give to be able to re-mix these two books: I would make this Roman story entirely Hazel’s POV, and the first book of the series. I would have started with Percy’s arrival at the camp (which would have been SO FANTASTIC if we DIDN’T already know the entire story behind what was going on), and let Percy spend more time meeting everyone and learning the Roman ways – how awesome would it have been to see Percy inadvertently breaking school rules and having to take the Roman-style draconian punishments? – and I would have absolutely loved to see some hard core prejudice come into play, because Percy looks Greek. I think more camp time would have given this story the chance to earn the friendship between Frank, Hazel and Percy and I would also have liked the chance to really feel and see the 5th Cohort’s shame before they went a-questing, such that I actually cared about if they found the missing Eagle or not (and a tiny part of me wonders if the quest should just have been about the missing Eagle, instead of the larger picture). I also wish it could have been a lot harder for Percy to regain his memory – maybe have him not recover it at all before Annabeth and the Greeks show up. Can you imagine, if the Roman story was the first book in the series, and then the second book in the series, Jason’s story, ended with their ship arriving at Camp Jupiter, only to be attacked by the Romans with Percy leading the charge? Oh, this story has SO MUCH fantastic potential lurking within it – the fact that it’s not being tapped is sheer torture.

What it all boils down to is the fact that this series lacks an emotional anchor. Percy was the heart and soul of the first series, but as he’s relegated to an ensemble role this time around, my vestigial love for him isn’t enough to carry this series through – and frankly, the Fate Of The World quest is a story we’ve all seen before, in the first series. For me to vest in it a second time, I need to care about these new demigods as fiercly as I did about Percy, Annabeth, Tyson, and Grover in the Percy Jackson series, and so far I’m just not feeling it.

In short: ARGH. This Percy Jackson fan is going to go back and re-read the original series, because this spin-off is driving me nuts. My love of Percy will keep me reading The Heroes of Olympus until the very end, but so far I honestly have to say I’m 0 for 2 – and I really, really hate that I can’t love these books.

Byrt Grade: B/B+

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

Kirkus Reviews says:

After spinning his wheels in series opener The Lost Hero (2010), Riordan regains his traction with book two of The Heroes of Olympus.

Booklist says:

Though diverse in ethnicity, physical characteristics, and magical gifts, Percy’s friends in both series seem relatively interchangeable. Still, Riordan creates an original minor character in Ella, the lovable harpy…While the narrative includes lengthy explanations, flashbacks, and dreams, there is plenty of fast-paced action, including combat scenes with formidable enemies, as well as occasional comic relief.