I am really liking this whole Roman aspect of the gods… but mostly, I love that Percy’s back! I missed him. Another thing I loved: his entire memory is wiped, but he remembers Annabeth’s name… and that is enough. Rick Riordan knows how to show some appreciation for Percy’s adoring fans.
Percy is at his most impressive in The Son of Neptune. The story begins as he battles two comical gorgons in Bargain Mart greeter vests, who carry some poisonous discount snacks — I must admit, I developed a soft spot for Stheno. He carries “old hippy-lady / Juno” across a highway — where he meets my new favorite demigods, Hazel Levesque (daughter of Hades) and Frank Zhang (… with quite the extraordinary heritage, even for a demigod) — across the Tiber River, and into Camp Jupiter. Here he is able to show off his vast power over water, crushing the gorgons, and saving Frank’s life. Finally, Juno reveals that horrible things are about to happen, and so they will need Percy. During the camp’s version of capture-the-flag, the 5th cohort (Percy’s new group and laughingstock of the camp) pulls off a tremendous win, causing Ares — I mean, Mars — to show himself and present the plucky trio with a prophecy and a quest. Granted, his prophesy is not as mysterious and rhyme-y as we are accustomed, but it gets the job done: “Go to Alaska. Find Thanatos. Come back by sundown on June twenty-fourth or die.” Did I mention Thanatos/Death has been captured… thus, the bad guys just won’t die?
This is one of the best adventures for Percy so far! There is humor, heart, action, all kinds of monsters, Roman myths, and suspense through the entire quest. Each character has such a rich backstory — it’s great to see some characters resurfacing, like Hylla as Queen of the Amazons. As a reader, I felt so invested in Hazel and Frank’s need to prove themselves, to help the camp, to defeat and conquer all challenges thrown their way because of their inner turmoil, troubled history, as well as sense of integrity and loyalty toward their friends — after all, these friends are the only family they have left. Even the most dislikable gods seem more reasonable and personable throughout this quest. I think we can all agree that Hera is truly the unfriendliest deity when it comes to demigods — as the goddess of marriage, I suppose we can understand why she loathes the mortal children of the gods… but it’s not like it’s their fault! Yet, as Juno, she is the only Olympian making a real effort to ensure the safety and longevity of her family: gods and demigods alike. I remember Ares quite vividly in The Lightning Thief… and I can understand why Percy hated him so much. Yet as Mars, he has much more depth — he reads The Art of War, he has a sense of duty, he foretells succinct prophecies, he doesn’t believe in senseless wars — he may not be my favorite Olympian, but I wouldn’t call him the worst either.
After seeing Percy demonstrate his daunting battle skills, reliving Hazel’s past in New Orleans and Alaska, and experiencing Frank’s doubts about being able to pull his own weight as a member of this monumental expedition, I couldn’t keep my hopes from going beyond the completion of the quest and wishing for the best possible outcome for all heroes involved. But prophecies never end well… I have so many questions, concerns, and suspicions: I don’t trust Octavian… I worry he’s so much more than a lame augur who enjoys disemboweling teddy bears and beanie babies. I wonder about Reyna and Jason… and Piper. I fear whatever it is Juno hints at about Annabeth…
It’s enough to keep me reading for a good while longer.