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The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune - Rick Riordan How I Would Explain This Book to Someone Outside the Percy Jackson Fandom

Three teens descended from Greek/Roman gods—Percy, Hazel, and Frank—go on a quest to free the death god Thanatos from his prison in Alaska, a land beyond the gods. The main quest zips through San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and the Alaskan version of quicksand; expect giants to be destroyed and some weird (but fun) relationships to form. Along the way, the questers unravel more of the Prophecy of Seven, which foretells gods and demigods uniting to defeat Gaea, the evil Earth Mother. The moral of the story is that Gaea still has contingency plans.

In Short

This is definitely a sequel that doesn’t suck.

Characters

When I read The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1), I was lukewarm about Jason, Leo, and Piper. Aside from Leo, Piper and Jason seemed too perfect to be really interesting. Son of Neptune does a character 180 with the addition of Hazel and Frank. These two are typical underdogs: Hazel is young and relatively inexperienced, and Frank is big, clumsy, and clueless about his demigod abilities. Both are ostracized by their peers because of their ineptitude and hard luck. It’s hard not to be on their side just because they don’t have much going for them.

Hazel Levesque was a delightful surprise. I expected her to be another girl with a guilt complex (coughPipercough), but she turns out to be quite plucky, witty, courageous, and vulnerable by turns. She starts out as someone who can barely make friends because of secrets she’s keeping—she grows into a heroine who takes responsibility by charging her past mistakes on horseback (no, really, this happens). To top it all off, she’s only 13 years old. In Latin, Hazel’s name is spelled w-h-o-a.

My assessment of Frank Zhang is personal because I’m writing as an fifth-generation Asian-American and he’s a fourth- or fifth-generation Asian-Canadian. Before I read this book, I hadn’t realized how nice it would be to read about a hero who was kind of like me, at least in terms of ethnicity. Frank manages to be Chinese, but because he’s so removed from his first-generation ancestors, he thinks of himself as mosty Canadian. Toss in some godly heritage, and Frank is a young man with extreme identity issues. The weird thing is I totally get that (minus, of course, the whole godly parent thing). Frank’s real-world ethnic tensions mirror the tensions with his godly heritage, which, overall, is a brilliant move on Riordan’s part and well executed. I’m jealous I didn’t think to invent Frank myself.

Percy hasn’t changed much since his younger days, though he sounds a bit older now. It was nice to see him making new friends and even nicer to see him being saved by them. I’m really looking forward to seeing his development as a leader in the next book.

Writing Quality

Can I just take a moment to lift my glass of OJ and give a “Hail Rick Riordan”? He is such a treat to read. I’ve spent long hours filled with anguish over writers who rely on heavy sarcasm to carry the book to its end. Riordan doesn’t do that. His humor is as fresh and unassuming as it was in the original series. When it’s funny, the book generally reads like this:

… what unnerved him more was that sleeping woman’s face in the hills. You will be my pawn. Percy didn’t play chess, but he was pretty sure that being a pawn was bad. They died a lot.

“Um… is that thing tame?” Frank said.
The horse whinnied angrily.
“I don’t think so,” Percy guessed. “He just said, ‘I will trample you to death, silly Chinese Canadian baby man.’”


I’d also like to excerpt a startling line of imagery that I had to read several times for its loveliness:

Frank stared up at the northern lights, still cooking across the stars on low heat.

Despite my love for Riordan’s writing, the prose flags around page 400. It starts with Percy getting unusually sappy and thinking how Person A should definitely get together with Person B (clearly obvious that A and B should get together, but is it in character for Percy to ruminate on it?). Characters also became overly concerned with personal hygiene. I kept thinking Okay guys, we’re on a four day deadline here, you have giants to kill, there are cannibals outside, and you’re taking a shower…?

Four Star Reservations

If it weren’t for the last 100 pages, this book would have gotten 5/5 from me. Son of Neptune spends too many pages building up to a confrontation that ends with more spit and fizzle than fire and smoke. The buildup simply outweighed the payoff. Fortunately, the reader is in good company for all 500-something pages, and this book definitely gets a Best Fictional Cast award. Even better, it flings wide the doors of the franchise and screams “THE JACKSON IS BACK IN THE HOUSE!” Bring it on, Mark of Athena—I’m ready >:D

Read this and other book reviews at The Matchbook blog.