Book Reviews: Percy Jackson Series 4 and 5

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

***There are no spoilers for Book 4 or 5, but my reviews assume you’ve read the first 3 books.

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Book 4)
by Rick Riordan

As the fourth book opens, Kronos is still out to destroy Mt. Olympus with the help of the half-blood Luke. Percy and his friends, Grover, Annabeth and Tyson, go on a quest to find the inventor Daedelus in the infamous Labyrinth.

This book felt longer and more creative than the rest of the series. I think that’s because it touched on so many different locations and plots. Percy spends time on Calypso’s island, Camp Half-Blood and Mount St. Helena. He struggles with his feelings for both Annabeth and the Rachel, a human who like his mom, can see through the “mist.” We also see Daedelus’ history unfold through Percy’s dreams.

The book wraps up many of the open plots. Grover’s search for the lost god Pan reaches its conclusion. Nico, Hades son, must come to terms with his sister’s death and decide which side he will fight on. This is a solid addition to the series, adding just as many complications as it eliminates.

The Last Olympian (Book 5)
by Rick Riordan

As with all of the books in the series, we’re thrown into the midst of the action in the first chapter. The Olympians and Camp Half-Blood residents are at war with the Titans and danger is everywhere. When characters are dying, no matter if it’s friend or foe, it lends a somber tone to the story.

Percy really embraces his role as a leader in this book. The half-bloods must band together if they want to save Olympia and the gods. Percy takes and reigns and tries to organize the ranks. He also makes a trip to the Underworld in order to increase their chances.

A lot happens in this final installment and the action is nonstop. I was glad Percy finally got a chance to see his father’s (Poseidon) kingdom. My favorite part about this book was learning more about Luke’s character. I loved that Percy is forced to see his opponent as a fellow half-blood with his own struggles and not just as the enemy. I also loved that Riordan fleshed out the subplot of the gods claiming or not claiming their half-blood children. To me that was the real heart of the series. The kids, whether they are half-bloods or not, just want to be acknowledged and loved by their parents. The lack of attention from the gods was the source for much of the strife throughout the books.

A Few Things I Don’t Love About the Series

1) All of the books are more action driven than character driven. When this is the case it’s hard for me to become attached to the characters.

2) A lot of characters, a little depth. This is a similar complaint to #1. There are so many people/creatures introduced in each book, but very few are given solid back stories. I don’t expect that for every character, but I feel like we could have had a bit more with the main few.

3) Almost a whole year passes between each book. The plots take place mainly over the summer, while the school year passes unseen between books. That seems strange to me, because the characters barely change. Each book feels like a week has past, not nine months or so. The characters show some increase in maturity, but the difference between age 12 and 16 is huge and I don’t think that was shown. I feel like the entire series could have taken place over the course of 1 or 2 years.

A Few of My Favorite Things About the Series

1) The chapter titles, they never fail to make me laugh. They’re always absurd summaries of what is about to happen. For example “I accidentally vaporized my pre-algebra teacher” and “I Drive My Dog Into a Tree.”

2) Percy’s mom, she’s not a central character, but I still love her. She’s supportive and kind and was even willing to marry a truly awful man in order to protect her son. I was happy that she seemed to have ended up with a good guy in the end (we learn this in the 4th book).

3) Being re-educated in Greek mythology in a really fun way. I’ve also been fascinated by the Greek gods and all of the legends that surround them. In college I was one class away from earning a minor in Classical Studies (but really, what would I have done with that?). These books have been a great refresher course, a Who’s Who of Greek mythology.

All-in-all I think this is the perfect series for teenage boys. The action, occasional references to crushes, desire undertake quests and emphasis on loyalty and friendship are all reasons for that conclusion. If you know a 10 to 15-year-old looking for a new book, this is a great choice. Even though I liked some of the books more than others, I rated them all 4 stars. They are solid books, but predictable, fun reads, but nothing I would feel compelled to revisit.


Jeanne said...

My son has loved these as they came out--he was about 11, I think, for the first one, and so unperturbed by the way Percy and his friends don't really seem to age much! And yes, the chapter titles are just about the best part...

Kristi said...

I read the first book of the series in May, but I haven't picked up the second one yet. It's sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I'm glad you've enjoyed all of them. It's always hard to tell with series. Sometimes they start off great then start to peter out.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've read the first one only thus far and really enjoyed it - it brings back wonderful memories of learning Greek mythology when I was a kid, and how much I enjoyed it. Dare I say it, but I may be even motivated to re-read some of the stories again so that I can enjoy reading the remaining books in the series. Coincidentally, I just saw the film this past Friday and thought it wasn't great, but okay.

Alyce said...

I think I should get these on audiobook to listen with my boys in the car. I think they would really like the series.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jeanne - I wish I'd read these as a teen. I think I would have liked them more.

Kristi - I'd say these books keep up their momentum. They don't really improve with each book, but they maintain a steady pace.

Coffee - I agree about the film, it was just ok. The mythology is definitely the best part. I think I'm going to read more Greek mythology books.

Alyce - I bet they would. I think they would be perfect for boys.