Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus #3)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good character development; great climax
Cons: Formula leaves the middle very weak; could be shorter
The Bottom Line
Good start and finish
Hampered by the formula
Fans will still enjoy




Mr. Riordan, Your Formula is Showing

While I have enjoyed the books in the Percy Jackson series, I have felt they were very formulaic.  That became very painfully obvious in The Mark of Athena, the third in the Heroes of Olympus series.

At this point, if you are new to this universe and premise, do not jump in here.  After the five books about Percy Jackson and his fellow Greek demigods at Camp Half-Blood, author Rick Riordan started a new series called Heroes of Olympus.  It expanded the universe to include Roman demigods and several new characters.  Those new characters were introduced in the last couple of books.  While enough information is given here to remind you who everyone is, it’s still going to be a struggle.  Heck, I had a bit of a struggle myself, and I just read the last one six months ago.  Do yourself a favor and head back to the beginning.  You’ll enjoy this book so much more.

It has finally happened – demigods from Camp Half-Blood have arrived at the Roman demigod camp in San Francisco.  They are there to reunite Percy with Annabeth and pick up Hazel and Frank so they can begin the quest of the seven to the ancient lands.  The peace between the two camps is fragile at best, but that’s better than it’s been in all of history.

But that peace is shattered when Leo fires on the camp from the ship he’s built – an action he can not explain.  The seven hastily set off, but as always gods and monsters are waiting to block their path.  And all the time, Hazel’s brother Nico is trapped in Rome dying.  Will they reach him in time?  Will they rescue him without falling into a trap themselves?  And will Annabeth succeed in a solo quest where so many of her siblings have failed?

See what I mean?  If you followed all of that, you’re ready to read this book.  And if you didn’t, jumping in here will be pretty confusing.

It took about 100 pages or so for me to remember the back story on all the characters, which god was their parent, histories, that kind of thing.  Once I did, I again found the development on them to be top notch.  I felt like they stayed in character and their growth was believable based on what was happening.  This is especially true for our four viewpoint characters, Annabeth, Leo, Piper, and Percy, but it’s just as true for Jason, Hazel, and Frank.  Only their chaperon stays a bit flat, but he’s very funny, so I didn’t really mind.

The problem lies with the plot.  All of these books have had the same formula.  The problem is by book eight with the same formula, it’s getting too familiar.  I got bored in the middle waiting for these side dangers to be dealt with so we could move on to the final confrontation that really matters.  The side stories did help develop the characters, but they did so little in the way of forwarding the story that I felt there were at least 100 pages that could be chopped from the novel without really changing anything.

Once we get to the final battles (our heroes face multiple dangers), things picked up again, and I had a hard time putting it down.  Plus there’s the cliffhanger ending that has me counting down the days until the next book comes out. (Not until next October!)

While these books have always had some humor, I found this one had more than most.  I enjoyed that aspect of it, especially in the climax.

All told, The Mark of Athena isn’t a bad book, but it’s not as good as some of the ones that came before it.  Hopefully, Rick Riordan will change things up in the next book to make it more interesting again.

Here is a listing of both series in the complete Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus sagas in order.

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