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Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

percy jackson and the last olympian rick riordan Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson series appears in our list of young adult fiction drawing on Greek mythology

We last left Percy Jackson, the young demigod hero of Rick Riordan's inordinately popular middle grade series, celebrating his birthday whilst preparing to fight a battle whose outcome will result in either the restoration of Mount Olympus and all things god and godly or, well, the end of the world. Percy, the unlucky subject of a rather morbid Prophecy thrust upon him as a young lad, is, of course, going to play a significant role in this whole unpleasant scenario. But though many would find it difficult to chow down on a cupcake or two whilst contemplating the death and destruction to come, Percy's quite cool about the whole thing. In fact, when we first encounter the young son of Poseidon in this, the last book in the series, he's not spending his days lost in tactics and strategies and similarly odious things'rather, he's out and about joyriding in his stepfather's car. As you do.

But given that this is a Riordan book, we know that Percy's idyllic summer is soon to come to an end, and within a few pages poor Percy finds himself flying headlong into battle in an effort to head off the approaching forces of Kronos, the titan time-lord who is intent on having his time in the sun, or in the smoke and rubble, as the case may be. Kronos, rather the more diligent student when it comes to all this battle-related, has spent the summer steadily massing his thoroughly unpleasant army ready to take down Percy, the Camp Half-Blood crew, and not a few fairly well-regarded gods. While Percy is fortunate enough to escape, the gravity of the whole shebang slowly dawns upon him, and he begins to position his own army in preparation for the invasion. Percy, though rather pleased with himself at all of this, is perhaps more than mildly chagrined to find that Kronos is only one (albeit a significant one) of his worries. Upping the stakes somewhat further again is the terrifying titan Typhon, a rather nasty beast who, according to Greek mythology, can lay claim to being the father of all monsters. Given Typhons rather chequered pastthe odd effort to slay Zeus, and similar infelicitiesand his vast, well, vastness, its perhaps no surprise that most of the big league gods are directing their efforts towards putting down the titan rather than stepping in for a little deus ex machina goodness with regard to the Kronos situation.

Percy and the campers soon find themselves all but overwhelmed: despite their training and preparation at the camp over the years, they lack the power and skill to be able to overcome such a significant threat. As the casualties rise, Percy realises that urgent action needs to be taken in order to defeat Kronos, and so ventures down into the Underworld to give himself over to the River Styx, an act that will make him invinciblesave for one potentially crippling weakness.

While Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian has a lot to recommend it, I cant help but feeling a little disappointed with the novel as a whole. Riordan works to bring together the various storylines and characters from the previous novels, and given the fairly disparate nature of some of these, he does a good job of integrating them fairly seamlessly into the narrative. There are occasions, however, where the character cameos feel a little forced, and its rather as though were viewing the credits at the end of an 80s teen movie, watching the actors smile and wave as the camera pans over them. While some of these walk-on characters do play a role in the novel, its difficult not to feel as though their insertion is purely for the point of squeezing a nostalgic tear from the reader. There are other slightly jarring moments, toomotivations that seem odd or baseless, such as Clarisses refusal to fight alongside the campers, and the sudden introduction of items, such as Pandoras Box, which were told will play an important role, but never really does. Similarly, the identity and role of the last Olympian seems rather slight given the books title, and one cant help but wonder whether things could not have been reworked to allow for a smoother narrative.

The book similarly struggles with another problem typical of those that end a series: that of the final resolution. In my experience, final books frequently stumble under the responsibility of having to tie up loose ends and provide a satisfying culmination to the overarching plot of the series, as well as those plot points raised within the more finite boundaries of the volume. While'The Last Olympian does''quite a good job of walking the tight-rope between the two, it does rather fall victim to the winding up syndrome, and introduces very little in the way of new conflicts or challenges (save perhaps in the final chapter). The unfortunate result of this is that much of the novel feels inevitablewe know how it will play out, and in the end theres very little that surprises.

The emphasis on closure and conclusion also means that less attention is given to character building. While some of the characters do seem to develop of their own accord as a result of their actions in the battle, for the large part character growth is quite literally bestowed upon the characters by the various gods at the end of the book. Highlighting the key points of particular characters actions in such a way almost seems to weaken the veracity of them, and Riordans other characterisation/backstory trick, ie relaying information via dreams, is used to such a degree in this last book that it becomes quite frustratingone longs for the characters to actually do something to solve a problem rather than simply dream it.

This isnt to say that The Last Olympian is a weak novel. Riordan is a strong writer, and builds his narrative upon an equally strong framework. There are particular elements here that do stand out a little from the previous books, and Riordan has done well to elucidate them. The usually free-wheeling and giddy Percy becomes a little more introspective, and his conceptions of good and bad become more nuanced, allowing him to examine his and others motivations in a more subtle and interesting way than he might have previously. Similarly, Riordan opens a thread of dialogue with regard to the true instigating factor(s) of Kronos war against the gods that challenges conceptions of power and perceptions of egalitarianism. There is the notion of oppression and exclusion, and how these issues affect otherstopics that could easily be transplanted into myriad situations in todays world. While it is difficult to explore such issues to any great depth within such a fast-paced narrative, its commendable that Riordan manages to integrate such themes without doing so overtly or in a didactic manner.

In all, The Last Olympian is a welcome conclusion to the Percy Jackson series, and does a fine job of tying up the various plot and character arcs that have carried through the earlier novels. Percys wry sense of humour and typically anecdotal manner is in evidence throughout, helping to lift and expand the narrative, in particular in the later scenes, where he turns his astute gaze to more complex and challenging manners. Its true that the battle scenes do at times feel never-ending, slowing somewhat the breakneck pacing were used to, and do feel rather predictable, but theres no denying that this final volume is a fitting farewell to Camp Half-Blood.

Rating: star Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordanstar Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordanstar Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordanhalfstar Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordanblankstar Review: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

With thanks to'Simple Schooling Classroom for the review copy.

Purchase Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian

See our reviews of Percy Jackson and the Titans Curse, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, and Percy Jackson and Battle of the Labyrinth

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  1. Wow! This was an amazing review. I love the lighthearted way in which you summarize the plot its really fitting to the tone of the novel itself. Its great that you highlight the deeper complexities of the plot that may appeal to more mature readers, making this a fun-for-all-ages kind of read (a la Harry Potter) rather than a middle grade one hit wonder. Stellar review! You have a great style.

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks for your kind words, Casey! I think this series really does have quite wide-ranging appeal, but its often just characterised as a shallow boy book series, which I think is unwarranted. Riordan really does a good job of fitting in some deep themes and some fabulous nods at Greek mythology whilst throwing a never ending stream of monsters at the reader.

      Definitely a guilty pleasure for me (and for my BF, who was up until 2:30 last night reading this one!)