It’s been a rough couple of months with very little reading so I thought I’d dive back into Rick Riordan’s world with The Heroes of Olympus – The Lost Hero. As expected, his work is wonderfully interwoven with mythology and makes for a fun and character focused adventure. But its hard to ignore certain imperfections that prevent it from being flawless.
In a similar vein as the first series, The Lost Hero follows the story of three teenage heroes: Jason, Leo and Piper. All three of the heroes have their own fleshed out backstory and their own character arcs. It was great to see each of them have their own story arcs fulfilled and fleshed out rather than solely complimenting Jason’s journey. However it’s impossible to miss the fact that all three characters feel very similar to Percy, Annabeth and Grover. Jason being the leading character, Piper being the smart and strong love interest, and Leo being the comical relief who has his moments of depth. Jason feels like the central character of the story but how The Lost Hero is written, each of the three characters do receive their fair share of chapter perspectives. I think the book may almost be perfectly divided amongst the three.
Leo is a unique character with a tragic backstory. At times his personality comes off as a bit too much of a clown archetype with dialogue that feels out of place for what is happening. But he does have moments of real character development where he shines. Unfortunately, these moments feel as though they happen quickly, almost as though they were rushed compared to Piper or Jason. Naturally I think when it’s a trio of characters one of those characters are often less developed than the other two. In this case, Leo isn’t as strong as Piper or Jason but he is still a well developed character with a decent story arc.
Piper’s story arc has me a bit perplexed. On the one hand it subverts a stereotype about a specific Olympian parent which was refreshing. On the other hand, it felt a bit like she was too focused on her relationship with Jason. Right from the beginning of the story it’s one of her primary focuses throughout the entire story. The thing is she is still a very strong and well-developed character that comes into her own as the story progresses. It’s just that compared to everything she’s dealing with, it’s hard to accept how focused she is on her relationship with Jason.
Jason’s a character suffering from Amnesia and, as expected, slowly remembering his past as the story progresses. Amnesia can be a dangerous trope to use but personally I think it’s a great way to introduce the world, establish the setting, and lend itself to a mystery to be unfolded. Thankfully the amnesia is used to further both the plot and the character development of Jason in a way that feels satisfying. I actually found Jason’s personality refreshing and preferred it over Percy. Jason comes off as a bit more mature, focused and stoic which fits pretty well with how his story unfolds and his origin.
The Lost Hero has a pace filled with hills and valleys in a sense. There are a lot of action scenes interspersed with slower scenes to allow for discussion and introspection. These slow scenes have quite a bit of that teenage angst we all come to expect from YA novels but I think it helps to develop the characters better. Angst for characters is often perceived as a detriment but when used correctly it can make for a far better and more interesting character focused story. As long as it’s used appropriately and not the predominant quality of the character (unless appropriate) it’s great and well done.
However the slower parts of the story have an unfortunate pitfall. It’s in these slower parts of the story where the characters talk and try to figure out the situation. However, unlike the Percy Jackson series, our cast of heroes are often just told where to go by others rather than figuring out where to go and what to do. The majority of the story has our heroes going to find someone, being told something about the overall plot, and then being told where to go next. At one point there’s even a golden trail that magically appears and leads them. I can’t recall if it was ever explained where it came from, it just kind of appeared which threw me off unfortunately.
As to be expected, Riordan further builds upon the world established in the Percy Jackson series referencing Greek mythology as well as another mythology heavily connected to Greece’s. I don’t want to say what it is exactly as how it unfolds is really well done and interwoven with the both the plot and the character development of Jason so well. I really enjoyed it as a mythology lover and it answered questions I had during Percy’s adventure. My only issue, however, is that there are some retroactive story additions to the original series that almost feels like soft retconning of events. It’s nothing egregious but there are so many connections established that feel a bit forced.
As to be expected, Riordan’s writing style is fantastic. It is easy to follow and never feels bloated with useless information. However there is an unfortunate lack of personality that I’ve come to expect from Riordan’s work. In the Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase series, every chapter had a fun and interesting title that served as a bit of a preview to what was to be expected. At first I saw this as a bit annoying but eventually grew to enjoy figuring out the relation to the content of the chapter. In The Lost Hero the chapters follow the convention of just stating whose character perspective we’re following. It feels a bit bland which is unfortunate as the former is a fun and unique style to Riordan’s works.
What Writers can Learn
Riordan does a really great job at equally dividing time amongst the main trio. Each of the characters has their unique character arcs and development that feels almost perfectly divided. If it wasn’t for the fact that everyone talks and acts like Jason is the main character it wouldn’t necessarily be obvious that Jason was the protagonist (they actually just say it at one point which is kind of odd).
One thing that’s hard not to ignore though is the fact that how the book is written doesn’t exactly feel like a Rick Riordan novel. The Lost Hero feels a lot more serious and mature than the other novels and, while that isn’t a bad thing, it feels like a loss of the charm that we associate with Riordan’s writing. Often he can toe the line between a comical attitude and a serious story but in The Lost Hero it felt tilted far more towards serious which I didn’t expect for the first of the series. While I did love the book, it felt very different from what I came to expect from Riordan.