Ottawa Citizen

Percy battles again

Second book in new Riordan series even richer in thrills, mythology

- SILAS LATCHEM Silas Latchem is a student at Westwood Jr. High School, near Montreal.

THE SON OF NEPTUNE By Rick Riordan Disney-hyperion, $21.99

I’ ve been reading about myths and epic quests my whole life, from such picture books as Mythical Monsters and Gilgamesh the King, to D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths and Homer’s The Odyssey. And then I read The Lightning Thief and its four companions. I must confess that even though I loved

all of the Percy Jackson & the

Olympians stories, I was dreading another series.

Not because author Rick Riordan was running out of ideas — how could anyone run out of material based on Greek mythology? But I did worry that a spinoff of the Olympians would somehow tarnish the original stories. For Percy Jackson fans with similar worries, fear not: with The Son of Neptune, Riordan has once again managed to create a thrilling book. And far from running dry of ideas, the story just gets richer as he weaves in tales from ancient Rome and China.

We met Percy Jackson in the first set of stories. He is a demigod — his father is Poseidon and his mother is mortal — who lives at modern-day Camp Half-blood with the half-blood children of other gods. In the Olympians series, Percy and his friends Annabeth and Grover are on a quest with the other demigods to defeat the Titan Kronos.

The spinoff series is called The Heroes of Olympus. Percy is mentioned in Book One, The

Lost Hero, but that story is really about Jason. There are many signs that Percy’s and Jason’s lives are more connected than we might think. And many clues are dropped along the way: “Over the past few years he’d seen a lot of things: destiny, prophecy, magic, monsters, fate. But he’s never yet run across a coincidenc­e.”

The Son of Neptune, Riordan’s latest story and Book Two in the spinoff, starts with Percy stumbling through the San Francisco Bay Area dazed and confused, able to remember only one thing about his life: the name Annabeth. Unluckily for him, there are also two monsters on his tail: gorgons! Not only that, but it seems that it is impossible to kill the gorgons — something that goes against the laws of nature. In this case, in fact, Mother Nature. And so we are launched into another monster-strewn adventure. Death has been kidnapped, monsters are escaping from the underworld and a cruel force, long buried, is rousing and bringing frightful creatures from the deep with her.

Percy manages to find a safe haven, but first he has to deal with an old lady asking him to perform a good deed. Of course, she is a goddess in disguise, with her own plans for Percy. With gorgons in hot pursuit, she persuades him to carry her across the “Little Tiber,” all the while warning ominously that the act will cost him dearly. Percy accepts the risk, and so arrives at Camp Jupiter. It’s a Roman version of Camp Half-blood, where he makes two new friends, Hazel and Frank, and not a few enemies.

Riordan has a lot of fun tossing in literary and historical references and modern world crossovers: in this book, the Amazon online company is really a front for the all-female nation of warriors.

He also has a lot of fun with language: “Pluto’s cool,” Frank says when Hazel reveals who her father is. “It’s not his fault he runs the Underworld. He just got bad luck when the gods were dividing up the world, you know? Jupiter got the sky, Neptune got the sea, and Pluto got the shaft.”

While Percy is the star of this story, Hazel and Frank each have an important role. They have unique, and especially in the case of Frank, surprising powers. In the end, they all get to be heroes.

And in an added bonus for Canadian readers, Frank is from Vancouver, and Canada plays a deciding role in a crucial battle.

Somehow, the fates will bring together Camp Jupiter and Camp Half-blood, Greeks and Romans, mortals and gods, all driven by the Prophecy of Seven: “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.”

The next book in the Heroes of Olympus is due out in the fall. I can hardly wait.

READ an interview with Rick Riordan at /BOOKS

 ?? HANDOUT ?? Author Rick Riordan has once again managed to create a thrilling book for Percy Jackson fans in his latest offering, The Son of Neptune, which richly weaves in tales from ancient China and Rome.
HANDOUT Author Rick Riordan has once again managed to create a thrilling book for Percy Jackson fans in his latest offering, The Son of Neptune, which richly weaves in tales from ancient China and Rome.

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