Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus Book 2)
by Rick Riordan
October 4, 2011
Bought in Hardcover
In the first pages of this standalone sequel to The Lost Hero, Percy Jackson remembers only his name and the name of Annabeth, a mysterious woman he associates somehow with the city of San Francisco. From those sparse clues, he must somehow complete a mission for the leader of the Roman camp even as he is being pursued by the two sisters of Medusa, who possess an apparently unquenchable thirst for vengeance: Even when killed, they spring back to life. Rick Riordan's second Heroes of Olympus promises even more excitement than the first.
Rick Riordan has a very simple formula for his books. There’s some camp life, a demigod receives a quest, the chosen teen and his friends go off into Incredible Danger. run into gods and monsters to help or hinder them, complete the quest against all odds, and come back to camp victorious. Knowing that, I probably shouldn’t enjoy them as much as I do, but the books are also a great example of ‘it’s not the destination; it’s the journey.’
Son of Neptune is no different, but I still waited breathlessly for a year after reading The Lost Hero, and I totally expect to wait on the edge of my seat for the next twelve months until The Mark of Athena is released. Actually I’m pretty sure I’m going to be even more desperate to read book 3 because the set up for it at the end of this book is so incredibly cool!
The eponymous Son of Neptune is, of course, everyone’s favourite Son of Poseidon Percy Jackson (well, okay, if Tyson’s your favourite, I can get behind that). He begins the book remembering nothing about his past except a name – Annabeth. Even though Percy only slowly regains his memory, he’s still the badass but dorky guy who’s completely and inexorably loyal to his friends. The mystery that made Jason so intriguing in The Lost Hero is nowhere to be found since the reader already knows the truth about Percy, but it’s still interesting to watch the character we know so well interact with a entirely new society in the Roman demigod camp.
And the Roman camp is very cool. The contrast with Camp Half-Blood is instant and major as the Romans run their camp as (what else) a Roman legion. Each demigod serves 10 years in the Legion before being released with an option to live in the small city protected by the legion. While Greek demigods assume they’ll die young, the Romans have figured out a way for generations of demigods to exist. I loved the legion and cohorts and Reyna as the ultimate badass Praetor. The Romans have the same rivalries and politics as the Greek camp; they’re just oriented differently - between cohorts rather than between children of different gods. And like the ancient Romans, the Roman establishment is aware of - and completely distrusting of - the Greeks. I completely cracked up at one point when a Roman demigod busts out the old “don’t trust Greeks bearing gifts!”
The two demigods who accompany Percy on the inevitable quest both have the typical Riordan ‘horrible secret’ that must never be told to their friends. I was happy that that particular plot point was resolved earlier than the similar one in The Lost Hero, and both demigods - Hazel, daughter of Pluto and Frank, son of ...well, that’s a bit of a plot point - are interesting and endearing. I especially enjoyed Hazel who’s the complete opposite of what one would expect from a child of Pluto/Hades. She’s a little bit younger than the other demigods but probably way more responsible than most, and she’s the excellent contradiction of a sweet badass. I loved Frank in all his ineptness and growing confidence, but he was on the more typical ‘I need to learn to trust myself’ journey, and while the specifics of the journey were interesting, it mostly felt like we’d already traveled that road more than a few times in this series.
So yeah, I enjoyed Son of Neptune, but the seams of Riordan’s writing show more in this book. Much of it felt like action that simply had to be slogged through before the possible (hopeful!) gamechanging of the third book. I liked Percy, Hazel, and the Roman camp, but the specifics of the quest weren’t entirely enjoyable this time. I’ll definitely stick with the series because book 3 looks really cool, but if I were trying to get people to read the books, I wouldn’t start with this one! (Other than, you know, it’s book two.)