Saturday, December 16, 2023

The flaws of Heroes of Olympus

 I originally read Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series as it came out. At the time, it struck me as the strongest young adult writing he had done. I decided to reread the series and found that I both agreed and disagreed with my younger self lol

I initially approached the series as a sharp contrast to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Since then, I have read a number of his other young adult books (because they were written afterward the Heroes of Olympus lol) and I now feel the series is a sharp contrast to all his young adult work. 

The big, obvious difference is going from first person to limited third person. There are still point of view characters, nine of them in fact. Which is a big jump from the Kane Chronicles having two narrators. (Still nothing compared to George RR Martin) Among other things, having it be third person, heightens the tension since you generally assume the narrator is going to survive. It also makes it easier to keep track of who the point of view character is.

In fact, the Heroes of Olympus is a constant study of contrasts. Every character has at least one other character that they are a foil to.  Percy Jackson and Jason Grace may be the most obvious but they are far from the only ones. Indeed, the Giants of the Gia are each assigned a Greek God that they are the nemesis of. (My personal favorite contrasts are the satyrs Grover and Coach Hedge)

Spoilers time







The Heroes of Olympus has an Empire Strikes Back problem. The House of Hades, which could be subtitled ‘Percy and Annabeth Go to Hell’ is one of Riordan’s strongest books. Arguably his strongest. 

And it’s the second to last book.

As I went into rereading the Blood of Olympus, I realized how little I remembered of it. The House of Hades completely overshadows it. It’s still a fun read. I particularly enjoyed the Nico and Reyna chapters, which I forgot existed. 

The Heroes of Olympus is the most epic of Riordan’s young adult world. Since the world ending is  usually the stake so that’s saying something. And that made the fact that Riordan didn’t stick the landing all the more rougher. 

(I noticed that Heroes actually is structured like The Lord of the Rings in that the heroes are gathered, the fellowship is formed and then broken apart. But the last book is like Frodo and Samwise for back and become supporting characters)

One telling. difference between the House of Hades and the Blood of Olympus is in their approach to heroic sacrifice. In the former, Bob and Damasen hold the line at the gates of death and we can only assume they die. (I believe that gets revisited in The Sun and the Star but I haven’t read that and there’s a big gap between books) In the Blood of Olympus, Leo’s sacrifice is immediately undone by a clever, Ocean’s Eleven-style cunning plan. There just isn’t any weight to it in comparison.

I do feel like The Trials of Apollo feels like a course correction by Riordan. Not only by going back to first person but in a more focused story with a stronger focus on character and character development.

I have revised my opinion of the Heroes of Olympus but the House of Hades totally justifies the series existence.

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