Welcome to the first post in a brand new series, started by Kira Farooqui, sports editor, where she analyzes her favorite (and least favorite) books. This edition features the popular Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, and why it’s worth the read.
If you were one of the millions of middle-schoolers that was obsessed with either Greek mythology (for some odd reason… I don’t know why that was such a common occurrence) or the Percy Jackson series, I have the perfect series for your high-schooler heart that’s longing for that sense of childhood again.
It’s been a little over a year since Rick Riordan, author of the bestselling Percy Jackson middle-grade novel series, finished up his final book set in Percy’s world, riddled with Greek mythology: The Trials of Apollo: The Tower of Nero. The Trials of Apollo series was the epic finale to Percy’s story, and received overall praise, but what I believe should be talked about is the series that Riordan sandwiched in between Percy Jackson and The Olympians and The Trials of Apollo, known as Heroes of Olympus.
Heroes of Olympus takes place just two weeks after Percy Jackson and The Olympians and the story doesn’t actually open with Percy.
Instead, the series revolves around seven main heroes, chosen through, of course, a prophecy. The seven are tasked to travel to various locations across the U.S. and defeat various villains—some of which will return from the original Percy Jackson series. There are intense “boss battles” at the end of each novel, and the last one in the series ends with an epic conclusion battle that will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time. There are twists and turns, hardships, loss, but ultimately, a happy ending.
What I liked
To put it simply: this series is incredible. The worldbuilding is absolutely amazing, and it’s just complex enough but not too complex for a middle-grade series. The way that real-world locations, such as San Francisco and Chicago, are incorporated into the fantastical Riordanverse was done so well. Your favorite U.S. landmarks might have a magic spell on them, or have a dragon perched atop it.
All of the characters in this series each have their own unique motives and personalities, and I love that! No two characters are the same.
Adding on to this, the diversity in Heroes of Olympus is groundbreaking. Five out of the nine main characters are either people of color or gay or bisexual—five are people of color, and one of them is gay, and another is bisexual. There is Cherokee, Black, Asian, Latino, and queer representation. For young kids to read these books and see people just like them saving the world in this universe is monumental.
The scenes that touch on this representation are done incredibly well. The representation is not forced, and it teaches kids to treat everyone equally. I think that’s what resonated the most with me with these books, as a mixed-race person. It was refreshing and inspiring to see characters that “looked like me” saving the world.
The series also features crazy powerful female leads. In literature, it’s nearly impossible to find a book written by a man that doesn’t objectify its female characters. Heroes of Olympus does the exact opposite of that. Each and every female character in the series has her own unique abilities and doesn’t need the “knight in shining armor.” As lead character Annabeth Chase once said, “I’m nobody’s sidekick.” And Heroes of Olympus really cherishes that mindset.
This series is also great with how it portrays its villains. It calls to lesser-known Greek myths and puts its own twist on these characters, making each of them eccentric in their own ways. For example, the mythological enchantress Medea, who had the gift of prophecy, is portrayed as a department-store-obsessed enchantress who has a way with words.
As for more complex details, the pacing in these books was great. I never once found myself groaning for a scene to just hurry up and finish, and the action scenes don’t waste time on witty banter. They’re fast-paced, exciting, and you’ll find yourself cheering on the heroes all the while.
What I didn’t like
There’s really not much about this series that I didn’t like. I felt as if everything in this series was executed perfectly.
I know it’s a middle-grade series, but I think killing off one of the main characters, like Percy or Annabeth, would be a good twist, rather than my favorite in one of Riordan’s later series… *glares at Trials of Apollo.* Heroes of Olympus is slightly less quirky and lively than Percy Jackson and the Olympians, so it would make sense for some more mature topics to be dealt with, like a major character death.
However, on the topic of Percy: Percy was so secondary in Heroes of Olympus it was unbelievable. Even though the series mentions the “heroes” and not “Percy Jackson,” it’s still assumed that Percy would play more of a role than he did. Don’t get me wrong: in The House of Hades, he had an amazingly powerful and dark moment that really showcased his true potential—fans have even made jokes about it, saying how much shorter the series would have been if Percy had utilized this ability earlier, but since this review is spoiler-free, I won’t say exactly what they were.
Unfortunately, what came after the use of Percy’s newfound ability was… absolutely nothing. He does it once, then the rest of his time in the series feels like a waste of potential. He’s portrayed as clumsy and unintelligent, making Jason feel like more of the hero than him, much to the disappointment of many fans.
Overall, this series is incredible. It’s such a comfort read for me, being so fun, fast-paced, and easy to read. The diversity and inclusivity is heartwarming, and being able to get to know my favorite characters and go on quests with them is always a blast.
I’d recommend this series to any middle-grade or older reader, no matter their favorite genre.
Age rating based on readability: 13+
Age rating based on content: 13+ (very mild romance and violence)
Trigger warnings: Death, violence, loss of a loved one, outing, mild racism
Overall rating: 5/5 stars