Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordian

Okay, let's recap. Percy, Hazel and Frank have gone on the quest to Alaska. That's done. But the Prophecy of Seven is far from over. This one in particular is very deeply layered. We already know six of the seven heroes: the aforementioned three, plus Jason, Leo and Piper. It turns out that the last demigod plays a more vital part in this quest to stop Gaea from awakening thank even she knows.

But for now, Annabeth has almost been worried out of her mind looking for Percy for an entire half a year, and finally she is able to reunite with him after the Argo II (the Greek trireme/warship that travels by both air and sea, built by none other than Leo Valdez, which he doesn't get nearly enough credit for) descends on Camp Jupiter, with her and the original trio from the Lost Hero of Jason, Piper and Leo.

But even though they came in peace, Romans can be known for attacking anything dangerous-looking on sight, and the Argo II does not exactly look friendly, considering the Greek ballistae, a martial-arts-obsessed satyr with a violent streak (and a vicious baseball bat) on board, and a steaming, smoking dragon figurehead (none other than Festus) that can shoot fireballs at an opposing enemy. Even when a team of friendly demigods come off, including Jason Grace, the beloved son of Jupiter and camp praetor alongside Reyna, the Romans still have their doubts. Greeks and Romans have never met without bloodshed; even though, the success of stopping the Earth Mother's rise to power lies in the two groups becoming allies, and while distrust lingers on both sides, it's very likely this time will be no different.

Unfortunately, it isn't very long when everything goes downhill. The Argo II begins firing its ballistae on New Rome, and before you can say "gorgon" the power-hungry Oracle Octavian has the half-bloods of Camp Jupiter whipped up in a battle frenzy. It's all the original seven (including the Romans, which are contributing to the "sides getting along" part) can do to get back on the ship and escape before they get killed. Then they realize that it's now their job to start the next part of the quest: returning to Rome, the original Rome, and facing a greater danger than almost any demigods before them.


First, a little note to the author: this is Percy Jackson, not a romance novel! I could tolerate the first two books pretty well, but this time around Riordan is laying on the love aspect a little thick. As much as I like Annabeth, as she was awesome in the original series, her chapters (these books alternate viewpoints) are the worst. Yes, I know you and Percy, your newfound boyfriend, have been apart for six months. Okay, I get that. But it does not give you an excuse to talk about him every other paragraph. Combined with her and Jason/Piper, it's all I can do not to roll my eyes and sigh in exasperation every time they mention him. (Plus give myself a migraine via whacking myself in the head.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that Riordan is trying to write for the mid/older teen range, and in my view, he's doing pretty well. Love can be an essential part of these books. But if I wanted to read a romance novel (which, by the way, I almost never do), I'd read a romance novel. This is a little ridiculous.

And while some of the relationships just fall into place pretty well ("Percabeth", for example, despite the whole Annabeth problem), I have a feeling that Jason and Piper just won't work. It feels forced and artificial, not necessarily because of Piper talking about her boyfriend 24/7 (though this really doesn't help), but because of Jason. If there ever was an example of a "Mary Sue/Marty Stu" (a "perfect" character that does everything right and who everybody loves, either female or male, though they are commonly female) in this series, then he is it. He's the perfect son of the sky god; powerful, handsome, always making the right decisions, praetor of Camp Jupiter, respected by everyone on the Argo II and otherwise. He had a bit more of an excuse for being a flat character when he had amnesia, but this is going too far into the series. Besides, even Percy still acted like himself, even when his memory got stolen by Hera. Jason, on the other hand, has no excuse whatsoever.

Overall, the plot was really, really good and well thought-out (as usual), but from those previous paragraphs, I think you get my drift. In my opinion (hey, that's what this blog is all about!) the love needs to be toned down, BIG TIME. Good writing (really, really good), and even more good jokes than the last two books (Team Leo and iguanas; need I say more?), but it's getting suffocated a bit by the romance. I'm really hoping Riordan's gotten ahold of himself for the fourth installment of the House of Hades.

4 and a half stars

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